BWSUSA Holistic & Wellness Council

From the Heart of the BWSUSAHWC Director

The Awareness of Welfare and Well-being

A human being always lives in some kind of environment. This environment has many parts. First, there is a physical environment, a landscape with its natural resources and its climate. Second, there is a cultural environment, a society with its laws and regulations, with its political system, its customs and other cultural expressions. Third, there is a psychological close environment consisting of relatives, friends and workmates. This environment influences our lives in many different ways, also when seen from a logical point of view. The environment is the platform for our actions, it gives us the opportunity to indulge in various activities. It is obvious that these opportunities vary enormously in different parts of the world. Greenland, for instance, provides the opportunity to go out hunting and fishing but it gives very little opportunity for doing agriculture. We can easily multiply this type of example within many sectors of human life. While being a platform for action the environment also sets the limits for our goals in life. We cannot want to achieve anything in every environment. We cannot create a fleet in Hungary, we cannot build a capital on the slopes of Mount Everest etc. We cannot change our fellow human beings unlimitedly. We can probably not make a Nobel Prize winner of our son or daughter.

The environment then is both a platform for action and a basis for our goal setting. These are two principal ways in which a human being can be influenced. His or her platform can be transformed, and upon realizing this he or she must change the goals previously set up. But the environment can also influence in a direct way. This is very obvious when we talk about the physical aspect of the environment. We are directly influenced by wetness and cold and by the chemicals of the water and the air. There is also a kind of direct influence from our cultural and psychic environment in terms of stimulation and stress.

This whole many-faceted environment influences us physically and mentally, both in the short and the long run. It affects in particular our well being. It is an extremely important, although not the only, condition of our degree of well-being or iII-being.

Thus I make a distinction between the external conditions of well being and the well being itself. A state of well-being is created, affected and annihilated by different combinations of external conditions. To the extent that such a combination of external states contributes positively to a person's well-being I call it a state of welfare. To the extent that it contributes negatively to the well-being of a person or even creates iII-being, I call it illfare. In the following I shall mostly refer to the positive in pact.

Now I must immediately make an addition to the characterization of welfare.

There is an important area between welfare and well being. There are not only external conditions of well being but also a series of internal conditions. It is not only the external world that affects our well being. We are also to a great degree influenced by our own physical and mental constitution, how we are constituted of physical and mental elements - by our physical and mental strength, our character, as well as our inclinations and interests. Our inner properties are certainly continuously affected by the external environment, but there is an important constitutional platform that the environment cannot affect in any other sense than that it can annihilate it.

Let us coin the expression inner welfare for that combination of inner properties which lead to or positively affect our well being. The opposite could then be called inner illfare.

Still this is not sufficient. There is an area which in a sense is a product of the outer and inner environment, and which to a great degree affects our well being. This is the human activity itself. If we reflect for a moment we can see that the most typical way in which the outer and inner environment influence us is through our activity.

In order to be affected by the environment we must normally act upon the environment. In order for economic resources to lead to well being they must be utilized. We must go out and cultivate the earth in order to be able to grow plants. In order for a tool to be appreciated it must be used. In short we must work in order to get food, and in today's monetarian society we must work in order to get hold of almost all kinds of objects. In all these cases the external world influences us through our utilizing it. It is only in rather special cases that the external world affects our well-being directly, for instance through the purely physical influence on our senses, in terms of wetness, coldness or chemicals.

One can perhaps also say that the external world can affect us simply by our realizing that it is there. One can simply be happy about the fact that one has $100,000. One can feel grief at the famine in Africa. Neither of these facts need directly or physically influence us. In spite of this we can feel both happiness and grief because of them. Perhaps it can also here be said that this is a case of influence without the involvement of human activity.

This, however, is a qualified truth. In order for some influence to occur in this case it is needed that the subject reflects upon certain facts. It is as a result of this kind of reflection that one feels happiness or sorrow.

I can sum up in the following way. To human welfare belongs both the external environment of a human being, and his or her inner constitution, and the person's activities. All these things can affect his or her well-being or ill-being.

BWSUSA Holistic & Wellness Council

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