Mental health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is “a condition of care wellbeing in which a person realizes his or her abilities, can cope with everyday stressors, can work productively, and can contribute to his or her community.”
The WHO emphasizes in its definition the value of environment and community for mental health and welfare and the need to promote and safeguard them. However, it is still true that mental health and well-being are frequently viewed as personal characteristics.
Another point of view can be founded on the idea that social relationships are essential for people’s welfare. But it also entails acknowledging the structural influence of social structures and organizations on health and pain. For instance, institutionalized racism and sexism cause pain both directly and indirectly.
Health and disease are at once intensely personal and influenced by the sufferer’s social circumstances. In other words, some people are disadvantaged as a result of their circumstances or their position in society. For instance, being impoverished endangers people’s health in a variety of ways.
In my work, I examine the idea of well-being in many global cultural contexts. In my most recent research, I examined writings by anthropologists who take into account the value of sociability and tenderness in the societies they investigate.
Community and friendliness
Conviviality is the practice of harmonious coexistence. When state institutions and other organizations have a somewhat remote presence in people’s lives, researchers believe that understanding how those people try to live well is very crucial.
For instance, several Amazonian tribes work to cultivate specific emotional states like tranquility to live healthily. They also share resources and care for those in their society. By sharing meals or dining apart, two people might develop close, intimate relationships.
Until a few decades ago, there were a lot of neighborhood community baths in Japan because many homes lacked a bathroom. Even today, taking a bath with friends or family is commonplace since the public bathhouse provides a much-needed setting for mingling and reuniting.
In contemporary cities, getting along with others involves skillful effort, possibly more so where neighborhoods are made up of residents from many racial and ethnic origins. It also requires learning how to coexist with other species, including those found in our gut microorganisms as well as other animals and plants.
Care defines who we are.
Although taking care of elder
ly relatives is still a fundamental family value, I found in my research with older Japanese people in the city of Osaka that many older individuals were concerned about becoming more and more dependent on their children.
They took an active role in providing care for one another and watching out for one another in a variety of ways, such as setting up a trip to the dentist or recommending a hairstylist. It became apparent how different types of care interacted with one another: taking care of mothers, who frequently provided care for both children and elders, was necessary to take care of elders and children. I concluded that care is at its greatest when it is shared and continuously “paid forward” amongst individuals in a variety of continuing connections.
Our attention is drawn to the fact that wellbeing is not just social but also profoundly relational by conviviality and care. It goes beyond a person’s feelings about their life that are somehow contained within a body. It manifests through one’s interactions with the objects, tools, and other living things in their environment, as well as with other people and non-human animals.
Others’ happiness and health are impacted by the way we see these interactions, which in turn has an impact on ourselves. For example, experiencing other people’s misery or being in a depreciating environment are likely to hurt us.
Our current mental health problem may be connected to the widespread misery and disregard we see inflicted on people, animals, and the environment. For dealing with these kinds of problems, treating mental health as internal or as relating entirely to the individual may not be sufficient.
I’m not we
So how should we conceptualize wellbeing in light of the environmental crisis and rising inequality? We must begin to view happiness as a means of social interaction, if not as a kind of “commons.”
Commons are collectively used and shared resources, such as water. Similar to this, the “affective” or emotional resources that support wellness (such as resiliency, friendship, or care) are not only found in individuals but also in relationships, environments, and communities. Contrary to limited resources like trees or metropolitan areas, well-being and the characteristics that support it are not finite. They thrive in circulation, much like the care given between generations in Japanese families.
Hope is a prime instance. It can be difficult to feel hopeless, but being among hopeful individuals might help us feel more hopeful. In this way, contagious emotional states like optimism are possible. It concerns who we surround ourselves with. It might be time to start thinking of happiness as a common that we must all work to maintain since the more it thrives for others, the more it helps all of us.