Providing Dignity Through Hygiene

Providing Dignity Through Hygiene

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.

Human dignity is the recognition that human beings possess a special value intrinsic to their humanity and as such are worthy of respect simply because they are human beings.

The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity, Trinity International University 

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. 

There’s a significant difference when folks show up to one of our events. Say they’re dirty, cold, wet, and they get to go take a hot shower… They come out completely different. Their countenance is completely different.… They come out of that shower like different people, they make eye contact, they engage.


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!