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Listening to your heart - literally - corresponds with better body image


"Tune in to your body" isn't just vague advice appropriate for those with eating disorders.

A new study shows that the ability to literally listen to and monitor one's heartbeat corresponds with a healthier body image.

Resisting objectification

Study author Vivien Ainley, a doctoral candidate in neuroscience at Royal Holloway, University of London, had 50 female students sit quietly while they counted their heartbeats for three intervals of 25, 35 and 45 seconds. Afterward, they were asked to answer questions about which parts of themselves they valued the most: their strength, their health or their attractiveness.

Results showed that women who could count their heartbeats accurately were more likely to value their health and strength over their physical attractiveness. Ainley explained:

If people are able to stand inside their bodies and feel their body, they have a good sense of what's happening inside themselves, and they're less likely to objectify themselves.

Tuning in = better confidence?

Ainley says that scientists have long speculated that women are less "inside" their bodies than men - a state of being that is cultivated and influenced by societies that value women based on appearance, not internal attributes such as personality or kindness.

"They tend to stand outside themselves and think that the most important view comes from outside the body," Ainley told LiveScience.

But women who can count their own heartbeats - and thus tune in to their own physical responses - are better at "sensing their own nervousness and arousal," Ainley said.

The findings suggest that eating disorder treatment focused on cultivating internal awareness, through quiet sitting or meditation, may be helpful for those who are poor at sensing or monitoring internal cues like heartbeats.

Source: Fox News