Show interest in wellness
Showing interest in the well-being of the people we write about is the main way to show that we care about them. Anthropology must improve in this regard. The patches and cultural idiosyncrasies of anthropology are shamefully evident in our weak commitment to the study of well-being. Although we all know that it is a primary concern of all human beings, the main anthropological disposition towards well-being has been to say nothing directly about it, and certainly not to develop it as an analytical or normative topic. Explicit anthropological attention to well-being has tended to polarize into naive, anti-modern celebrations of non-Western well-being on the one hand, or a gloomy and perhaps voyeuristic immersion in evil.
2. Disposition towards others
Each of these three types of arrangement(ignoring it, celebrating it without criticism, or exploring only its absence) is a distinctive type of empathy failure. Without explicit, balanced, and plausible scrutiny of well-being, the anthropological “other” is, by default, insensitive, and its life is not evaluated. When discussing feelings or values, anthropologists have tended to describe people as either exceptionally well (in “paradise lost” accounts) or exceptionally ill (in the now much more common explorations of suffering, poverty, and helplessness). Careful and balanced research on well-being in anthropology has yet to emerge, although three unprecedented anthropological collections on well-being are beginning to point the way (Corsin Jimenez 2007; Gough and McGregor 2007; and Mathews and Izquierdo 2008).
3. Employing wellness
Well-being refers to the goodness of a person’s life,or to some aspect of it like health, happiness, relationships or spirituality. Unlike virtue or status, well-being refers only to prudential value, how well things go for the judged person. This goodness can be judged “objectively” through some commonly agreed criteria. Someone who has a ‘good life’ does not necessarily enjoy it. Well-being can be usefully seen has three types of meaning: a hedonic sense of enjoyment, a subjective-evaluative sense of life satisfaction (relative to some personally salient criteria and aspirations), and an objective-evaluative sense of goodness according to some agreed normative criteria. The “being” part is also interestingly complex: it does not necessarily refer to an individual human body and the psyche in the here and now. The ancient Greek term for well-being, eudaimo-nia (which literally means “to have a good spirit”) and the concept of South Asian karma (the cumulative effects of actions on well-being over several lives), remind us that the A person whose well-being is assessed may have porous limits and be distributed through other people, other species, and other lives.