The way we look at ourselves, the motivation we have for losing weight and gaining a nice figure, the satisfaction with our own lives are all factors that are influenced by what we see around us. Social media, others people's opinions, our own education, successful role models promoted by TV and cinema, everyday physical activity, our diet and body weight. Then, it comes the question that some researchers have been trying to answer, namely: are we satisfied with our lived because we are satisfied with our bodies, or our bodies are just a part of our satisfaction with our lives?

Are illusions useful or not?

Psychologists have been thoroughly researching to which extent a specific illusion or a focused illusion changes our behavior and helps us obtain what we want. In the case of focused illusion, human judgment is subjective because an object (life) in its whole is evaluated through the attention given to a subcategory (for example, money, or in our case, our body). The body as a subcategory is overrated, which causes misleading beliefs on its importance in everyday life. We all agree that a nice figure, and moreover, a healthy body, helps us feel better in life, but is it really the most important criterion? 

Any experience that captures our attention and towards which we focus our attention becomes important. But nothing is important unless we offer it our attention. Which makes us ask ourselves the following question: how would it be if we established our first three criteria which would satisfy us in our lives, and just focus on them? Would a nice figure be one of them, or rather a healthy body? How would this fact change our lives?

Body satisfaction, a more pressing issue for women

The results published in the Journal of Happiness Studies show that the satisfaction induced by the thought of their own bodies differ between men and women. Among women, dissatisfaction grows starting with body weight, overweight men wish they were thinner, and underweight men wish they were more imposing. Moreover, body dissatisfaction is common for both men and women and it is especially important for women, who find themselves under family and society pressure to have "perfect" bodies.  

The image that we have of our bodies is a significant aspect of our well-being, as it can influence interpersonal relationships. Studies have shown a clear connection between the way a woman sees her body and her life satisfaction in general. That being said, those people who are moderately satisfied or unsatisfied with their bodies have several daily experiences which have no connection with their physical looks. Once they stop focusing on their bodies, they tend to think about other day-to-day problems as well and find satisfaction in other areas of life. 

A nice figure = happiness? 

Just like when it comes to money bringing happiness, we can also rightfully wonder to what extent the relationship between physical looks and life in general is improved when individuals are explicitly focused on body satisfaction. Once again, scientists give us the right answer. Those who are unhappy with their own bodies can perceive most of their daily experiences as not being related to their physical looks. They do not evaluate their daily routines in relation to body satisfaction, unless something specific draws their attention to their bodies.

However, this relationship is stronger for those people who are focused on their bodies. This hypothesis is based on the theory of illusion concentration, which states that the people who concentrate on a sole area of life tend to overrate its impact on general life satisfaction. The results have indicated that those individuals who were happier with their bodies were also happier with their lives. 

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Text: Mihaela Moldoveanu