We’re all familiar with a thousand variations of the same scene in which movie characters suffer major disappointments and start to let themselves go. You can tell that dude just got fired and broke up with his girlfriend because he clearly isn’t showering or changing clothes or doing anything about the mess piling up on the coffee table between the couch and the TV. We’re trained to recognize poor personal hygiene as a signal of unhappiness.
Maybe it’s because it would not translate as well to the screen, but we are less apt to recognize a plot built around someone who has a setback to their personal hygiene which gradually eats away at their personal happiness and sense of well-being. But that script happens all the time in real life. It’s just not quite as dramatic as not being able to find that acne body wash that actually treats your skin right and splitting with your significant other the next day as a result. Maybe there should be more Hollywood screenplays about the man who was unhappy because he was looking for his hygienic lifestyle in all the wrong places, only to realize it was right in front of him all along. Here are some of the attributes of the right kind of personal hygiene routine.
Promotes Good Health
Like the love interest in a rom-com who always rushes on the scene at the first sign of serious injury, good personal hygiene always shows proper concern for your health. It’s no accident that the Greek goddess Hygieia, from which the word hygiene originates, is the daughter of the god of medicine. No cuts are getting infected because of neglect on Hygieia’s watch. That involves everything from making sure surgical tools are clean to keeping that razor bump cream handy to eliminate the bacteria that collects when hair curls back into the skin (ouch). Just because you are hurt doesn’t mean you can’t be happy, but it is certainly easy to be irritable when you are scratching at an ingrown hair.
Hygienic practices extend beyond nicks and cuts. Countless lives would be saved every year if everyone routinely washed their hands. When it comes to cholera and pneumonia, cleanliness can literally be a matter of life and death.
Provides a Reset Button
A lot of stress comes from trying to solve complicated problems with uncontrollable variables. A routine of any sort can be a way to simplify those problems by crossing off the items you can control. If you are working through five or six reasons why you might feel rotten, but you are sure that you feel uncomfortable in your own body, why not sort that out first and see how much that helps? Even the knowledge that you are solving at least one problem can have a calming effect.
It makes sense that cleanliness would be a good starter routine since it helps wipe the slate so that you can begin anew. If you aren’t the kind of person who clears up their desk to begin a new project, hopefully, you wash that pan before you use it again – if only so that your pancakes don’t have a hint of the fried sardines you made last night.
Wiping the slate should ideally return you to your natural state. You don’t want to cause accidental damage from improper or overenthusiastic cleaning, like that time you scrubbed a hole in that dress shirt trying to get a bit of ketchup out. Restoring the balance of your face’s ecosystem might require a different approach than your neighbor’s. The need for that kind of specialization is what explains the evolution of the gel moisturizer for oily skin.
Another advantage of the reset provided by personal hygiene is that it helps you get a closer look at your body in its optimal condition. That can be an enormous self-confidence boost. There’s a reason that makeover segments are such popular television staples – a little self-care can have a transformative effect.
Improves Social Status
You’re just more pleasant to be around if you have good personal hygiene. People hesitate to sit next to the guy who smells or shake hands with the guy who just picked his nose. It’s worth noting that some seeming manifestations of poor hygiene are actually the result of a medical condition, so it’s unwise to jump to conclusions if you are the one ostentatiously and judgmentally wrinkling your nose. For the most part, however, engaging in personal hygiene is an act of courtesy to the people around you. And as anyone who got food poisoning from improperly handled food can attest, personal hygiene can be a matter of civic responsibility.
Personal hygiene can improve your romantic prospects as well. That doesn’t mean that washing your hands and brushing your teeth entitles you to date. Picture that tiny table from your last date, though. The one that seemed smaller than the final bill the waiter brought out for your meal. Imagine being at that table when your date notices that you’ve got a lot of sauce on your cheek. And the meal hasn’t started yet, which means that this is lunch sauce. There’s some chance that she finds it endearing because you are a charmingly absent-minded professor and she reaches up and wipes it off and it breaks the tension and that’s when you knew you’d found the one. It just might be a likelier scenario that you become that guy who showed up to dinner with his lunch still on his face as part of the cast of characters from her awkward date story collection. Things might not have worked out anyway, but you hate to be the victim of your own lunch sauce.