When we think of our basic hygiene practices, we rarely think of the impact it has on human dignity. For many of us, maintaining personal hygiene is something done mindlessly. The act of brushing teeth or showering is often seen as a chore; nothing more, nothing less. And because many of us are fortunate to have access to clean water to ensure proper hygiene, it’s often taken for granted.
Hygiene’s Relation To Dignity
No one likes going days without cleaning themselves as it makes one feel dirty, tired, and uncomfortable in social situations. Maintaining good personal hygiene is part of maintaining dignity. While the act of cleaning is symbolic for a fresh start, feeling clean provides a sense of self-respect, self-worth, and ultimately gives a sense of dignity.
Being clean helps provide dignity as it enables people to feel more confident, valued, and worthy of honor. It changes their countenance, the way they carry themselves, and helps them to better engage with others.
Hygiene Around The World
Initially, we tend to think that every person around the globe uses the same hygiene practices as us. This is not true as different countries and societies have their own hygienic practices. However, despite the various perspectives of hygiene practices, its relation to dignity is transcendent around the world.
In Japan, hygiene practices are rooted in the Shinto religion. While these days, many Japanese don’t consider themselves as religious, the original belief that bathing cleans both the body and spirit has led the Japanese to carefully uphold the practice of cleanliness. Customs such as visiting onsens, hand-washing, and bathing contribute to their cultural identity. It’s doing these practices that make them feel refreshed, self-respected, and dignified.
In other places such as India, however, hygiene’s relation to dignity results in different practices. Instead of using toilets at home, many people would rather do it openly, far from home, and in secrecy. This is due to the belief that defecation is a shameful act. While many might think that it’s cleaner and safer to use a toilet at home, even if a family had a home toilet, being seen using it causes shame as they consider it a shameful and polluted act. So instead, many decide to go far away from their home to relieve themselves.
Western countries such as the United States, maintaining hygiene helps maintain dignity. Keeping up with hygiene shows others that you take care of yourself and have self-respect as it often reflects on a person’s status. It also shows that you are worthy of respect, value, and dignity by others.
Hygiene and Wellness
While the perception of and resources for maintaining good hygiene differ around the world, proven benefits of the practice are widespread. Those benefits include reducing anxiety, increasing productivity and confidence, and ultimately providing a sense of self-worth.
To begin, showers can help reduce anxiety and promote calmness. Hot temperatures can help relax tense muscles as well as open nasal passages allowing you to breathe better and unwind.
When concerning productivity, studies have shown that spending time showering is “thinking time.” However, putting issues and problems in the back of your mind while focusing on the task of cleaning doesn’t seem productive as it appears to look like procrastination. Nonetheless, studies show that when engaging in mindless activities such as cleaning, your conscious mind takes a break. This helps allow your mind to think other thoughts as well as help find solutions to the initial problem.
Showering can help boost one’s confidence. According to Wellness Workdays, while showering in general helps boost confidence, morning showers are more beneficia. This is because it sets the tone for the day. The act of being and feeling clean increases levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, happy-hormones. This helps provide a sense of self-worth which helps increase your value in the eyes of others because they see you value yourself
Providing Dignity Through Hygiene
With so much mention of hygiene and dignity, it begs the question, what about those who can’t maintain personal hygiene?
Unfortunately, the largest group of people in western countries without access to resources to maintain hygiene are the unhoused. Because the majority of the unhoused communities are unable to maintain good personal hygiene, it results in increased anxiety, depression, the decrease of productivity, and decline in confidence. Other effects include feelings of worthlessness which negatively affects social interactions.
Fortunately, there are organizations striving to meet the need for personal hygiene. Our partners at Business Connect are attempting to remedy the lack of supplies by connecting with organizations such as LoveOne in Oregon. LoveOne is a nonprofit organization in Oregon dedicated to helping communities in need of food, clean laundry, and showers.
Don’t Take It For Granted
Hygiene is often an overlooked or forgotten part of the water space. But it is key to improving the quality of life for many around the world. If you are fortunate enough to have easy access to clean water, we encourage you to not take it for granted.
In addition, if you know an organization or homeless community in need of hygiene products, we ask you to consider reaching out to our partners at Business Connect.
If you share a heart for clean water for all life, we invite you to connect with us and follow our social media. Lastly, we encourage you to help educate those in your community about the importance of clean and accessible water!
Anyone who’s consumed bad food has experienced unfortunate and miserable outcomes. It’s a lesson learned that putting bad substances in your body results in bodily harm. Same goes with water. Studies show that the human body is 70% water—that’s a lot of water! Fortunately for us, we need it as it’s the fuel that makes everything run as it should, including our brains. Like bad food, bad water can cause issues that affect mental health.
I remember growing up traveling the world; mother would always tell me whether or not I could drink the water. I never understood this, wasn’t water, water? Of course I understood that when water didn’t run clear, it meant that it wasn’t drinkable, or rather, consumable. But there were places where the water ran clear and my mother told me not to drink it.
It wasn’t until years later in a chemistry class that I fully comprehended why being careful about water, no matter its transparency, mattered.
Contaminators & Effects
“Get out your periodic tables,” my teacher said. “We must look at contaminators to understand why drinking contaminated water is bad for mental health.”
One by one he listed different elements—“Inorganic arsenic, PCE (organic solvent tetrachloroethylene), lead, mercury…”—before diving into their negative effects.
“All of these things,” he continued, “affect our mental wellbeing. They can cause depression, a deep sadness that steals joy and interests away. A result can be anxiety. Anxiety is when someone is constantly worried. Another is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. Symptoms are triggers, usually sense-induced, that brought back to painful memories. Some people even experience bipolar disorder. This disorder causes intense mood swings that range from depression to a manic state.”
As I sat in my chair taking notes, it occurred to me how important drinking clean water is not only for your body but your mind.
Mental Health’s Effect On The Brain
Mental illnesses, as many of us know, causes a wide range of problems. Some effects include severe emotional, behavioral, and physical issues including brain damage.
According to Stone Ridge, when anxiety disorder is left untreated:
The brain doesn't return to a sense of normalcy when the stress, threat, or danger is gone. Instead, anxiety disorders can trigger your brain's fight or flight mode even when there's no perceived danger.
This can lead to becoming hypoactive to non-existent threats that over time, make it hard for the brain to reason rationally.
Depression can lead to brain shrinkage and inflammation. When the brain shrinks, memory loss, stress, rational thinking, emotions, and an irregular sleep pattern can occur. And when brain inflammation occurs, it can lead to severe symptoms and chronic issues such as confusion, seizures, speech or hearing problems, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The effects of bi-polar disorder, however, can reduce the amount of gray matter in the brain. Gray matter helps process information such as thoughts and feelings, controls impulses, and helps with motor skills.
When concerning Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to a Very Well Mind, can cause damage to the amygdala. This area assesses threats, the formation of emotional memories, and memories. It also affects the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for emotional regulation, decision making, and regulating attention. Other effects of this disorder result in the damage of the mid-anterior cingulate cortex that regulates emotions, registering physical pain, and autonomic functions.
Perception of Mental Health
After my new found knowledge on clean water’s benefits for mental health, I thought everyone should drink clean water. Who doesn’t want good mental health? But then I realized that many countries and cultures, however, perceive mental health differently. For instance, in the western world, it is more acceptable to talk about mental health. But in other places, it’s still considered to be stigmatized, shameful, and wrong. This could be the result of a lack of awareness and mental health professionals. In many areas, religious beliefs are what fills in the holes for science.
Clean Water Is No Where
Another misconception I believed when I was younger was that clear water meant clean. I also believed that developing countries faced water contamination and the water crisis. I was wrong. Technologically advance counties also struggle with these issues.
The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis is the perfect current-event example of the clean water crisis in the United States. During 2014 to 2019, the city of Flint faced a clean water crisis that its residents without clean water. As read in the Detroit Free Press, while the crisis has ended, the contaminated water and crisis itself contributes to the decline of the residents’ mental health.
But the issue doesn’t stop at Flint. In 2020, Vox covered how the COVD-19 pandemic highlighted water contamination and crisis in the U.S. The news website writes of the multiple rejected claims for clean water as bottled water was being bought out everywhere. This event, I learned, left thousands of people in a water crisis.
What We Can Do
If you’re like me who can get overwhelmed by thinking about the mental health and the water crisis, fortunately there are things we can do.
1.) First and foremost is to educate ourselves and others around us on contaminated water’s effect on mental health. I strongly believe that in order to find a solution, identifying the problem is crucial.
2.) Invest in a water purifying product to help ensure safe drinking water for our mental health. Our partners at Business Connect offer various water treatment and filter systems to ensure safer drinking water.
3.) Be an advocate for those without safe drinking water. Whether it be for a far off community in a developing nation or in your own community, adding to the noise to demand for basic human rights helps make the voiceless heard.
Earth Day reminds some of us making a chocolate layered dirt and worms dessert in school as children. Some are reminded of the phrase, “Ok, Boomer,” echoing in their ear. And for others, memories of the very first Earth Day come flooding back. Whatever the memory the annual day brings, it’s a reminder of our responsibility to create a sustainable life and future.
On Earth Day, many organizations and companies make their voice known about one particular environmental issue that is close to their heart. Some might be deforestation, climate change, or the genocide of animal species. At Connect For Water, our Earth Day Focus is what we know best: water. Because our company ethos is to fight the water crisis, we thought it appropriate for our Earth Day focus to be on water scarcity. But before we dive right in, we must define what it is -what is water scarcity?
To put it simply, it means that mankind is using up more water than the earth has time to give.
Different Numbers, Same Problem
Before we go any further, we recognize that there are different ways to calculate water scarcity. However, understanding that the problem remains the same is crucial.
It’s ironic that the earth is facing a water scarcity with 71% of its surface area being in water. It makes the nickname “Blue Planet” appropriate. The unfortunate truth, however, is that while only 3% of that water is fresh and consumable, less than 0.5% of consumable water is accessible.
So what does 0.5% look like? If measured in galons, the earth has 326 trillions gallons of water. 3% of that is 9.7 trillion gallons, 0.5% is 1.6 trillion gallons, and according to the Bureau of Reclamation, that equates to 2.2 million gallons for each person.
Humanity’s Water Consumption
At first glance, 8.5 million liters (2.2 million gallons) for each person on earth doesn’t seem to be too much, but when you add up the water usage of each person, things get a little tricky. Human water usage goes beyond drinking water, showering, and flushing the toilet – it involves productions and infrastructures with agriculture at the top of the list. High Tide Technologies states that on average:
Farms around the world account for 70% of all water that is consumed annually. Of that 70% used by farmers, 40% is lost to the environment due to poor irrigation systems, evaporation, and overall poor water management.
That’s a lot of water and unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. The garment and textile industry takes second place using 79 billion cubic meters of water per year to produce garments and textiles. The list continues with meat production in third place, the beverage industry in fourth, and automotive manufacturing in fifth.
Global Warming’s Effect On The Water Cycle & Water Scarcity
Unfortunately, another reason for water scarcity is global warming with its effect on the water cycle. The water cycle, as we all have learned, is essential to life on earth. It affects our weather, ecosystem, water levels, and much more. But due to higher temperatures, massive deforestation, and pollutants, the cycle is changing for the worse, in a way that will greatly affect our water supply.
The Water Cycle As We Know It
Step 1: Evaporation Water evaporates from bodies of water such as the ocean, sea, lakes, and rivers. Transpiration, which is when water evaporates from trees and other vegetation, also happens during this stage.
Step 2: Condensation Evaporated water turns into water vapor that rises up into the atmosphere and its particles condense together to form clouds. It then changes into the form of ice before falling in the form of rain or snow.
Step 3: Precipitation Rain comes down due to temperature change, and if the temperature is below 0 degrees, the rain becomes snow. In some instances, it comes down as sleet or hail.
Step 4: Surface Runoff As water pours down in either rain or melted snow, the liquid covers the surface of the earth, filling bodies of water and hydrating vegetation.
Step 5: Infiltration The leftover water infiltrates deep below the topsoil, filling aquifers that help replenish different bodies of water. It is the top soil that allows for the moisture to be trapped. This water is drinkable and is considered to be the earth’s backup water supply.
What Is To Come
Step 1: Evaporation Due to higher temperatures, evaporation quickens, adding moisture to the air which sucks up water from bodies of water and vegetation even faster.
Step 2: Condensation The evaporated water rises into the atmosphere and its particles condense together to form clouds. Due to temperature and wind changes, condensation will be heavy in some places and lighter (and sometimes next to none) in others.
Step 3: Precipitation Because of the change air in temperatures, the areas where precipitation will occur will be drastic, leaving some areas too wet and others too dry. When precipitation occurs, heavier and warmer rain will increase as well as heavier snow falls.
Step 4: Surface Runoff Because the water will be warmer, heavier runoffs will be experienced causing landslides that, aside from too much rain, will destroy crops, animals, and infrastructure. Topsoil will also be stripped away. The runoff will carry pollutants that will contaminate bodies of water including humanity’s drinking water. The temperatures of oceans, lakes, and rivers will increase resulting in an overgrowth of algae that will suffocate fish and destroy marine ecosystems. The ocean will increase in acidity causing major changes in ocean currents that can alter weather patterns across the globe.
Step 5: Infiltration Because topsoil will be stripped away, the ground will not be able to retain moisture for vegetation, and the aquifers will no longer be able to hold water to help replenish bodies of water. This will lead to droughts. We are then left with a cycle of flooding and drought. Every time it floods, more soil will be stripped away, causing evaporation to quicken each time, leaving the ground worse than before.
Consequences of Water Scarcity
Consequences of water scarcity are as vast as they are disastrous.
We know that water scarcity combined with climate change results in a disastrous cycle of extreme drought and downpour. It can also result in severe weather changes such as heat waves,wildfires, hurricanes, and tornados.
However, the consequences of water scarcity itself can result in much, much more. The lack of drinking water is obvious. As a result, a drastic change in the economy follows suit as prices in water and food increase. This will cause third world countries to suffer first. Poverty and hunger will also increase at an alarming rate. There will be destruction of habitats as well as mass migration, forcing everyone to move to a water supply. Other issues consist of sanitation issues and the spread of disease. The United Nations International Children’s emergency Fund (UNICEF) states that “When water is scarce, sewage systems can fail and the threat of contracting disease like cholera surges. Scare water also becomes more expensive.”
Living in an inhabitable world is worst case scenario.
Be The Solution
Luckly, we have a chance to stop water scarcity before it’s too late, but we must act quickly.
First and foremost, we must educate ourselves and those around us on water scarcity. We must know its causes and effects to understand how to fix it. We then must change our lifestyles to become water conservationists – doing everything in our ability to conserve water. One of our authors, Julia Hall, wrote an article titled article titled 4 Hidden Ways to Conserve Water. There, among other sources, people can get conservation ideas. Other solutions include being innovative and part of teams that create new conservation technologies, being vocal in community organizations and political powers.
If you want to learn more about water conservation, we encourage you to follow us on our social media sites and stay informed by signing up for our newsletter!