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.