10 Aspects of Activists’ Wellbeing

Wellbeing, or health and happiness, covers many areas in our life. Backyard Politics works with women and LBTQ activists in Thailand on feminist collective wellbeing. Together with them, we have identified 10 aspects of wellbeing that matters to activists. They are: body, thinking, emotional, relationship, sexual, spiritual, nature, economic, socio-political, and surrounding wellbeing.

We can make individual or collective changes to care for our wellbeing. Some parts of wellbeing still need changes at the national and global policies.

Each aspects of wellbeing affect one another. Low wellbeing level in one aspect could reduce wellbeing in other aspects. Good wellbeing in an aspect can also help support the overall wellbeing. We can care for our wellbeing by paying attention to the aspects that have low wellbeing level as well as high wellbeing level.

1 | Body Wellbeing

To have a good body wellbeing means that we have:
Fresh and clean water and food, and a good digestive system and rest.
Signs that indicate that our body well-being is being compromised includes: physical pains or aches, headache, stomach acid, insomnia, allergy, rash, recurring cold, fatigue, feeling tired all the time, not wanting to wake up

2| Thinking well-being

We separate mental well-being into thinking and feeling well-being. This makes more sense to people who use Thai language; additionally, the term “mental health” may carry stigma. “Mental health” is a broad category of well-being, but referring to “thinking” and “feeling” well-being allows us to indicate more specifically what is directly relevant to the person. This allows us to better identify what the issue is and how to take care of ourself.

The signs that indicate that our thinking well-being is being compromised includes:

  • We start to think that things are hopeless. We feel we cannot do anything for the situation and we have no options.
  • Most of our thoughts are negative.
  • We start to feel bad about the things that used to make us feel good before.
  • We cannot trust anyone.
  • We feel bad about ourselves, thinking that we are bad or incapable.
  • Confused. Cannot make a decision. Forgetful about the things that we used to be able to remember.

To have healthy thinking well-being means that one:

  • is open-minded
  • appreciates their own self-worth
  • has a positive view of themselves and others but is also aware of qualities to improve.
  • able to exercise negative thinking and trust our intuition to assess harm
  • can think neutrally, can be rational and discerning
  • can communicate what they think
  • is aware that they have the ability to process and think, can trust in themself to make a decision.

3 | Emotional wellbeing

We separate mental well-being into thinking and feeling well-being. This makes more sense to people who use Thai language; additionally, the term “mental health” may carry stigma. “Mental health” is a broad category of well-being, but referring to “thinking” and “feeling” well-being allows us to indicate more specifically what is directly relevant to the person. This allows us to better identify what the issue is and how to take care of ourself.

Things that indicate that we have healthy emotional wellbeing:

  • We feel happy and stable.
  • When there are negative emotions, such as anger, sadness or jealousy, we allow ourselves to feel them.
  • We can communicate how we are feeling.
  • We can take care of our emotions so that they are healed.

The signs that indicate that our emotional wellbeing is being compromised include:

  • Feeling irritated. Many things offend us.
  • We want to react promptly to the slight feeling of irritation or offense.
  • We don’t want to tolerate anything anyone says.
  • We are depressed or have a sudden sweep of sadness without knowing the causes.
  • We suddenly just want to cry when we are alone.

4| Relationship Well-Being

Relationships contribute a great deal to a person’s wellbeing. Healthy relationships are those which make us feel safe. We can be ourselves. We feel safe to express what we think, feel and to express who we are. We can communicate with the person(s) in the relationship. No one is taken advantage of. All parties are respected. The relationship makes us grow, becoming confident, and more ourselves.

Signs that indicate that your wellbeing is being compromised by a relationship include:

  • You do not feel safe in the relationship.
  • You feel worried. You cannot trust.
  • You doubt yourself.
  • You do not feel proud about yourself being in that relationship or you are becoming less proud about yourself the longer you are in the relationship.
  • You cannot communicate your feelings and your needs.
  • You feel taken advantage of.
  • You feel that you are not respected.

5| Sexual wellbeing

We have good sexual wellbeing when we:

  • are comfortable and confident about our own body
  • understand and have a self-acceptance of our own gender. We are comfortable in our own skin.
  • can have affections and sexual passions the way that we do and when we express them, we are respected and accepted
  • can communicate our sexual needs. We can communicate when we do not want sex or intimacy. Our needs are accepted and respected.

Signs that indicate that our sexual wellbeing is being compromised include:

  • We have more or less sexual desire than we normally do without apparent sexual reasons
  • We are not comfortable about some parts of our body.
  • We are uncomfortable to express our sexual wants and what we don’t want the way we truly are
  • We are irritated, uncomfortable and unable to relax sexually.
  • We are worried about our gender and sexuality.

6| Nature Well-Being

Nature provides support to a person at many levels. Indigenous people in Asia and many parts of the world respect and integrate nature into their ways of life. However, capitalism, humanism, and resource-extracting industries have created a disconnection between human and nature. Reinforcing the sense of connection with nature has shown to provide much support for individuals who are experiencing the negative signs above. Just by allowing ourselves to reconnect with nature is an act of activism in taking a stance for the importance of nature to human society. We separate nature well-being and surrounding well-being so that here we can specifically focus on our relationship with nature and its capacity to heal.

To have a healthy wellbeing with nature means that we:

  • have positive attitudes towards things in nature, such as wildlife, earth and dirts, plants, wilderness, insects, etc.
  • can access and connect to things in nature. Then we receive positive feelings and energy when we are surrounded by nature. We feel connected.
  • We are aware of changes in nature, such as seasonal change, changes during the day, moon phases, etc., and we do not feel disconnected to them.
  • acknowledge that we are a part of nature. We don’t feel isolated from the rest of the non-human world.

Signs indicating that our nature wellbeing is compromised include:

  • We feel fatigue and barren. We don’t feel ‘fresh’. We lack energy.
  • We get sick often. We feel that our body and maybe the medicine that we are taking are all it takes to fight the sickness.
  • We feel alone in the world. We feel isolated. We have fears for our own uncertain future.
  • We lack creativity. We cannot see possibility. We feel confused and skeptical.
  • We fear things in nature or things that come fresh from nature. We are skeptical of them, in comparison to what comes by modern technologies.

7| Spiritual Well-Being

Spiritual welling is about inner sanctum and sense of inner peace and fulfillment. There are elements in religious teachings and practices that promote this. However, it can also be achieved through other practices.

Signs that one is having a good spiritual well-being are:

  • inner security
  • full of dreams and inspirations
  • hopeful
  • feeling assured that we are living the kind of life that is meaningful for us

Signs that indicate that our spiritual well-being is being compromised include:

  • We feel that life is void and worthless. We feel lifeless.
  • We lack inspiration.
  • We question our own life path or what we are doing. We doubt whether it is meaningful. We lack confidence to pursue.
  • We feel shaken inside, not stable, not able to find ground.

8| Economic Well-Being

  • What indicates that we have economic wellbeing is that we feel secure and that we have enough resources for living.
  • We know our rights to abundance.
  • We are supported by social structures so that we feel that we are secure economically.
  • This is not a matter of individual’s resourcefulness as much as the socio-political structures.

Signs that indicate that our economy is not well cared for include:

  • We feel worried about our expenses and income.
  • We are worried for our security.
  • We feel that we should not have abundance and feel financially. Or on the contrary, we feel the need to keep earning. We do not feel that what we have is sufficient.
  • We feel challenged to feed ourselves and those we care for.
  • We are conflicted with the need to earn a living and criticize ourselves for it.

9| Socio-political Well-Being

To have socio-political well-being means that:

  • We are aware of the injustice and inequality in society and how it affects us and the people around us, physically, socially and mentally.
  • We are aware of the influences of socialization on ourselves.
  • We understand that policies and social structures play roles in our attitudes about ourselves and different groups of people. If we are a member of marginalized communities, we understand the stigmatization and how resources are shared unfairly (versus thinking poorly about ourselves and thinking it is just about us).
  • We are open to unlearning our understanding about the ways hierarchy and power is structured in our society.
  • We live in society that allows us to participate in its socio-political matters. Our needs and opinions are respected. We access decision making processes.
  • There is no use of violence or oppressive forms of power to force policies down on people.

Signs that indicate that we are not enjoying a healthy level of socio-political wellbeing include:

  • We feel indifferent to political participation or we have negative attitudes about politics. This happens because the unjust socio-political systems make people feel hopeless and think that it is useless to participate.
  • We feel unheard and not respected as a member of our class or social group.
  • We lack hope on how things can get better for society.
  • We have negative ideas about certain groups of people
  • We fear powerful people in society.

10| Surrounding Well-Being

This means we can remain healthy in the places that we spend time in, such as our house, workplace, meeting venues, neighborhood, village, etc. Surrounding well-being is not about being poor or rich and the access to renovating your space, although it is embedded in this system and the more resources you have, the easier you can improve your surrounding. Instead, surrounding well-being believes that everyone has the right to choose what is healthy and what is unhealthy in their space, and that their space can be improved in whatever capacity the individual and collective has. It also refers to an individual’s sense of what is lacking in their surroundings and then feel empowered to demand change for better surroundings.
Things that could promote our health and things we have rights to in our

surrounding well-being in this aspect include:

  • We have a space to relax our mind and our body.
  • We have privacy.
  • The ability to sleep soundly in our space (Noise and lighting is managed accordingly)
  • Work/play and rest places are managed so that they do not become one at all times (otherwise it is difficult to rest).
  • The surroundings are clean.
  • The air and water is clean.
  • We are not exposed to harmful chemicals for extended hours. The chemicals include everyday tools inside our house and workplaces, such as processed fragrances, cleaning materials, certain types of plastic materials, agricultural chemicals, etc.
  • There is a low level of electromagnetic disturbances or there is a break in their exposure (such as those from electrical appliances, phones)
  • We have safe places to gather and play
  • We feel safe in the privacy of our homes, and also when we go out
  • We can access important facilities easily (shops, markets, toilets, healthcare units, public recreational services such as parks, sport fields and libraries)

Signs that indicate that we might be suffering from disturbances from our surroundings include:

  • We develop physical symptoms such as rash, bloating, sore throats, chest pain, dizziness, allergy, etc. due to the stress and environmental considerations when in the space
  • We feel irritated and in a bad mood without knowing the reason when we are in the place.
  • We feel inert in a place where it should promote creativity and productivity.
  • We cannot relax and feel sleepy in a place where we rest.
  • We are on edge. Our mind and body cannot function at a calm . We cannot focus.
  • We develop an addiction to something to distract ourselves whenever we are in the place.

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