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21 days to becoming a nudist

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Occasionally readers email with questions or comments making it evident that not everyone who reads Dallas Nudist Culture Examiner is a nudist. Some are considering trying nudism but are still trying to decide whether it is something that really fits them. Others are pretty sure they would like to try it but just aren't quite certain where to start. Hearing from readers like that sparked the idea for "21 days to becoming a nudist."

Why 21 days? In his book "Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life," surgeon Maxwell Maltz wrote that based on his experience, it usually requires about 21 days for a plastic surgery patient to get accustomed to the surgical changes in physical appearance and when a patient must have an arm or leg amputated it requires about 21 days before the "phantom limb" feeling disappears. That along with some other common behavioral observations led Dr. Maltz to speculate that it takes a minimum of about three weeks for a perceptible change in mental image before a significant change in behavior occurs.

Assuming Dr. Maltz is correct, it seems logical to believe that the average person thinking about taking a crack at social nudity for the first time must also affect a change in self-image. After all, most Americans whether they grew up here in Dallas or elsewhere, were conditioned to believe from an early age that being naked is something shameful and that it nudity is sexual. Most never question that and can never truly differentiate between mere nudity and erotic nudity. Clearly that is a mental obstacle that a person thinking about taking up nudism must get past. Body image, a key component of self-image, is another area where a person must undergo a change of perspective. Americans receive a steady diet of advertisements that depict super-thin, busty fashion models and men with bulging muscles and six-pack abs as the standard to be emulated by those who wish to be considered attractive. For those who have instead have average bodies like most do, that makes the thought of baring it all for the first time more than a little intimidating.

[More from Dallas Nudist Culture Examiner: Unlearning body shame]

21 days, given Dr. Marltz's theory, seems like a reasonable amount of time to affect the necessary changes in self-image and so that a person is ready to take the next step and make the change in behavior, trying nudism. Of course changing self-image is an active process. It isn't just a question of spending three weeks passively thinking about and trying to decide if you want to do something new. So here are 21 challenges, one for each day. Meeting them one by one can help you productively use those 21days.

#1 Re-evaluate your long held beliefs about nudity

A person raised by parents who over-emphasized modesty and made them feel that nudity was something to be ashamed of and something sexual may grow into an adult who believes that without ever questioning it. Spend some time thinking about what you believe about nudity. Is being naked something to be ashamed of? Is it immoral to be naked in the presence of others? If you believe something, it's healthy to ask yourself why. If you feel there is something wrong with practicing nudism can you defend your beliefs or have you simply accepted a belief someone else gave you?

#2 Keep a journal

Keeping a journal is simple. You just write down any information now that may be useful or relevant in the future. In a real sense you build your own personal knowledge base as you write things down. This is something you should start early on, during your 21-day experiment. Write about the things you think about and meditate on. List the benefits you discover about living the nudist lifestyle. Use a journal as a place to copy down notes when you research possibilities like what clubs you might wish to visit. It can become a valuable resource in its own write plus you can look back in three weeks to see what has changes with respect to your views and perspectives.

#3 Get comfortable in your own skin

If you feel awkward about being nude except when you are taking a shower or being intimate with a partner, the best way to learn to feel comfortable in your own skin is to simply spend some time nude just for the sake of spending time nude. Make a habit of spending time nude doing normal things. Relax, watch some television or read a book. Start small and gradually increase the amount of time.

#4 List the benefits

Nudists recognize that there are lots of benefits from participating in nude recreation. Are you aware of those benefits? If not, spend some time researching it. The American Association for Nude Recreation website is a good place to start. Think about what you learn and make a list of the benefits. Adopting nudism or any new lifestyle should make your life better. Otherwise what's the point? Are the benefits of the nudist lifestyle things you feel might improve your quality of life?

#5 Decide what you want

If you think you would like to become a nudist, decide what you want from it. Do you simply want to feel comfortable being nude at home or in the privacy of your own backyard? Are you a person who enjoys socializing and perhaps see social nudity as something you might find appealing? Perhaps you are more of the naturist bent and would rather just enjoy the quiet solitude of interacting with nature while naked, the most natural state.

#6 Set some goals

Once you have decided what you want out of nudism, decide how you plan to get there. If social nudity appeals to you, start researching the local Dallas area clubs. You have four landed clubs and two non-landed clubs to choose from. No two clubs are alike. Each has its own unique flavor and atmosphere so you need to do the research to determine which club or clubs best suit your own individual style. Call or email clubs and get answers to any questions you may have. Finally, once you have narrowed down the choices, make a plan, choose a firm date in the future when you plan on making that first visit.

#7 Visualize it

Start to think of yourself as a nudist. When you visualize something in your head first, it often makes doing the action part much easier. Think about what it means adopting the nudist mentality, separating erotic nudity from simple, mere nudity.

#8 Read a chapter each day

Becoming a nudist isn't as simple as just showing up at a club and taking off your clothes. There is etiquette to be observed and if you expect a positive experience you have to spend time learning about what other nudists will expect from you. There is a good bit of information on the web about nudism but there are also some great books available. Go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble or your own favorite online bookseller and just enter "nudist" as a search term. Choose a book, but it and then commit to reading at least a chapter each day to acquaint yourself with what to expect on a first visit to a local club.

#9 Talk with a friend

It can be tough to muster up the motivation you need to make a major lifestyle change. Consult a friend. It's what they're there for. To serve as a sounding board and help you gain perspective. Ask them their opinion. Most of us have at least one person we can talk to about most anything. Even if the person isn't a nudist or interested in becoming one, as long as you can trust them not to be negative or judgmental you might be surprised how much it can help just talking to someone about nudism.

#10 Talk to a stranger

If you simply can't think of a single person you know to talk about nudism with, talk to someone you may not know but who is living the nudist lifestyle. With the Internet, it isn't at all difficult to find someone like that. True Nudists, a site that bills itself as "the largest social network for nudists" is one place to get acquainted with other nudists and signing up is free. You can search, view profiles and contact other nudists for free and the site offers free naturist friendly video chat. If you are a young adult, Young Naturists America is another great place to meet like-minded people in your age group.

#11 Read a new article on nudism each day

As mentioned, in addition to books there are lots of nudist/naturist sites on the web where you can find articles about the lifestyle. There are weblogs like Diary of a Nudist where you will find articles, photos and links to other quality nudist blogs. The Naturist Society is another great online article resource and you can also sign up for a subscription to the society's first-rate quarterly magazine, "Nude and Natural." Reading daily articles is a great way to keep inspired, to come up with new ideas and to stay motivated to get the best out of nude living!

#12 Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Reading news articles related to nudism and naturism is another good practice. I intentionally did not include that with the read an article a day suggestion because in the news you will find a different perspective on things. Finding articles like this is fast and easy by using online news aggregators like Google and Yahoo News. Just enter "nudist OR naturist" as your search terms (omitting the quotation marks which are only used here for clarity). You will find some positive, balanced news coverage on nudist living and nude recreation, but you will find a fair amount of negative reporting as well. That's a good thing however because it will give you a feel for how society in general views nudists and all things having to do with the naked human body. Most of the conclusions drawn in negative articles are so lacking in support that it makes it rather easy to see just how misinformed John Q. Public is about nudism. It helps you understand what you will be up against if you do decide to become a nudist.

#13 Take one picture a day

Take a nude selfie each day then use the photos to create a photo diary to review regularly. The point here is that photos give you a more accurate perspective on how others will view you in social nudity settings than say simply looking at yourself in a mirror. What you should learn from this over the course of the 21 days is that regardless of your body type, everyone looks pretty much the same naked. This exercise should build your confidence and help you to become at least a little less hyper-critical of your body and appearance. This one gets harder nearing the end of the challenge because at some point you will run out of the easy shots.

#14 Mirror, mirror on the wall

As noted in Psychology Today article from 2011, men and women today are flocking to plastic surgeons for surgical procedures like face-lifts, eyelid operations, liposuction, breast reductions, forehead lifts, breast lifts and breast augmentations. Just about everyone have something about their body that they are unhappy with. There are lots of reasons behind the epidemic proportions of negative body image today, but one thing psychologists say is prevalent is that people often have an unrealistic view of what they look like to others and exaggerate perceived shortcomings. Look at your body in a mirror each day and practice a little self love. Don't beat yourself up over your appearance. Chances are if you are honest and compare yourself against your neighbors and the people at work, you will admit your body doesn't really look much different from that of anyone you know. The media sets unrealistic standards for attractiveness that are all but possible for anyone to achieve and so we form a habit of thinking we are not attractive enough. Learn to accept your body, even the parts you don't like very much. Learning self acceptance is crucial to accepting others as well, a big part of what nudist culture is all about.

#15 Watch a documentary

Ever wondered why so many people are so uncomfortable with nudity in this country? It's possibly the most natural thing in the world, but for many the naked human body remains a taboo. You're in luck, it’s the digital age! There is an excellent documentary online that was created by National Geographic. You can view the documentary free on YouTube, Taboo Series Episode: Nudity.

#16 Find some inspiration each day

Studies have shown that people who are inspired are happier, more positive and will not stray away from a chosen path even when the going gets difficult. Find inspiring quotes about nudity like this one from Body Freedom.org; "Don't let those who have body negative values define what is and what is not acceptable. Seize your freedom and restore your dignity!" Print a new quote daily and tape it to the mirror. In short, get a dose of inspiration each day!

#17 Study nudism and become an expert

You may never aspire to become an apologist for nudism, defending the lifestyle from attacks from a misinformed society, but becoming a subject matter expert will help you sort out your own feelings about it. Spend an hour one day reading K. Bacher's scholarly compilation, "205 Arguments and Observations in Support of Naturism." It is quite an eye opener.

#18 Practice a random nudist etiquette point everyday

Like any culture, nudists have a system of social etiquette that everyone is expected to observe during social nudity gatherings. Take a look at "Nudist social etiquette and common rules." Many of the points of etiquette are common sense and are just as applicable to everyday social encounters in clothed society as they are to nudist clubs. Choose one from the list in the related article and practice it daily so that when you visit a club for the first time, it will already be an ingrained positive habit.

#19 Combine challenges

You could fit more than a single challenge into a day and to get the most out of your time you should. Some challenges are by nature things you should do on an ongoing basis rather than doing them once and forgetting about them. Keeping a journal, reading nudist related articles and spending time nude at home are a few of those kinds of things.

#20 I never promised you a rose garden

There are lots of positives and tangible benefits associated with adopting the nudist lifestyle but before making that decision, it is equally important to understand that there can be some negatives. Nudism is a subculture. It hasn't yet become widely accepted enough to be considered part of the wider culture. There are many who find open nudity offensive and are intolerant of nudists. Some are actively hostile to the notion of people going about naked. What this means is a prospective nudist must decide how to manage this. Some find it best to be discrete about their nudist lifestyle and discriminating about who they choose to take into their confidences about it. Decide if it is wise to be open about it with your family and friends are something best kept separate from your regular everyday life.

#21 Make a decision

The final challenge is making your decision. There are a lot of factors that go into the decision. if you worked through the challenges day by day, you should have all the information you need to make an informed decision. You have learned to enjoy that special kind of freedom that nudity alone provides. You hopefully discovered and listed the many physical and mental benefits that nudism offers and can see how those things could make your life better. While researching the lifestyle you may have found that the core principles really resonated with you. For some it's an easy call. For others, maybe the answer isn't no, but not yet. Perhaps you are at a place in your life where it just doesn't make sense to launch into a new lifestyle and that's okay. Even if you ultimately decide that nudism isn't for you, completing these 21 days will make you far more knowledgeable than the average non-nudist about nudism and could very well leave you a more favorable opinion of the lifestyle and those who live it.

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