Researchers at the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology at the Universidad del País Vasco / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (UPV/EHU), also known as the University of the Basque Country, in northern Spain have designed a program called Mirate bien ("Take a good look at yourself"), which focuses on how people perceive themselves. While there have been similar programs in the past, Mirate bien is different in the sense that the participants are not asked to just perform physical activities. Instead, the program targets the cognitive side of their activities and experiences as well.
For example, telling someone that she has bulimia will not solve the problem of low self-esteem, which may be the underlying cause for the eating disorder. School programs that normally encourage a balanced diet and physical activity won’t matter either if no one is willing to listen. How then should such a situation be handled? In this case, the program encourages a more inward approach. Instead of further confusing the person with too many external influences, she needs to understand that aside from her own perspective of herself, everything else is relative. At each stage of the program, for example, participants are asked to read texts and reflect on questions that aim to slowly change their perception of themselves and eventually result in cognitive restructuring.
Participants in the pilot project have shown improvements in self-image, but at this point, more research needs to be done. And while it’s not always possible to remain unaffected by what other people have to say, researchers hope that, by training the mind to think a specific way, more people will be able to develop a more positive self-image.
(Photo by Jackal Chen via Flickr Creative Commons)