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Idealized body images less hurtful to females after brief meditation

19 Apr 2024 10:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Rates of adolescent and young adult depression and anxiety have risen since 2010 in many industrialized societies, especially for young women. Some experts attribute this increase to heightened exposure to social media. Research shows that such exposure can diminish women’s body satisfaction and self-esteem, likely stemming from the portrayal of idealized thinness and fitness standards in images and messages. Researchers are interested in developing practical strategies to mitigate the adverse impacts of social media on body image.

Mindfulness meditation, with its emphasis on acceptance, non-reactivity, non-judgment, and non-rumination, could serve to mitigate the negative impacts of social media. Hooper et al. [Body Image] investigated the effects of brief mindfulness meditation on women’s body appreciation, mood, and self-esteem after viewing idealized thinness and fitness images obtained from social media posts.

In this online study, researchers randomly assigned 162 English-speaking women (mean age = 26 years; 62% white) who typically spent an average of 2 to 3 hours daily on Instagram to either a brief mindfulness meditation or an audio control group.

All participants were exposed to 12 Instagram photos, each viewed for at least 20 seconds, featuring idealized images of female thinness or fitness. Following exposure to the images, participants listened to either a 10-minute guided mindfulness meditation or a 10-minute podcast providing general information about Brazilian jujitsu. The guided meditation emphasized attention to breathing and cultivation of concentration and calmness. 

Participants completed self-report measures at baseline, immediately after viewing the images, and immediately after listening to the meditation or podcast session. These measures assessed mood, self-esteem, and body appreciation, with the body appreciation measure including statements such as “At this moment I feel good about my body.”

The results revealed that viewing the idealized thinness and fitness images led to immediate and significant decreases in self-esteem (partial η2=0.69), body appreciation (η2=0.71) and positive mood  (η2=0.63) and increases in negative mood (η2 =0.58) for the total sample.

However, the mindfulness meditation group significantly increased self-esteem (η2=0.69), body appreciation (η2=0.66) and positive mood (η2=0.54) and reduced negative mood (η2=0.57) compared to the podcast control immediately following the audio exposure. Additionally, all of these self-report measures were significantly better after meditation than they were at baseline.

The study demonstrates that visual exposure to idealized thinness and fitness images obtained from Instagram posts worsens women’s mood, self-esteem, and body appreciation. These adverse effects can be mitigated, at least in the very short term, through brief mindfulness meditation as compared to listening to general information on a podcast not involving meditation.

The study's limitations include the use of a mundane control audio as opposed to a comparator like deep breathing or breath counting. The inclusion of such comparators could potentially alter reports of self-esteem, body appreciation, and mood following the image task.


Hooper, R., Guest, E., Ramsey-Wade, C., & Slater, A. (2024). A brief mindfulness meditation can ameliorate the effects of exposure to idealised social media images on self-esteem, mood, and body appreciation in young women: An online randomised controlled experiment. Body Image. 

Link to study

American Mindfulness Research Association, LLC. 

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