site logo

Physical Care

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: As A Matter Of Course

REST, fresh air, exercise, and nourishment, enough of each in

proportion to the work done, are the material essentials to a

healthy physique. Indeed, so simple is the whole process of physical

care, it would seem absurd to write about it at all. The only excuse

for such writing is the constant disobedience to natural laws which

has resulted from the useless complexity of our civilization.

There is a curre
t of physical order which, if one once gets into

it, gives an instinct as to what to do and what to leave undone, as

true as the instinct which leads a man to wash his hands when they

need it, and to wash them often enough so that they never remain

soiled for any length of time, simply because that state is

uncomfortable to their owner. Soap and water are not unpleasant to

most of us in their process of cleansing; we have to deny ourselves

nothing through their use. To keep the digestion in order, it is

often necessary to deny ourselves certain sensations of the palate

which are pleasant at the time. So by a gradual process of not

denying we are swung out of the instinctive nourishment-current, and

life is complicated for us either by an amount of thought as to what

we should or should not eat, or by irritations which arise from

having eaten the wrong food. It is not uncommon to find a mind taken

up for some hours in wondering whether that last piece of cake will

digest. We can easily see how from this there might be developed a

nervous sensitiveness about eating which would prevent the

individual from eating even the food that is nourishing. This last

is a not unusual form of dyspepsia,--a dyspepsia which keeps itself

alive on the patient's want of nourishment.

Fortunately the process of getting back into the true food-current

is not difficult if one will adopt it The trouble is in making the

bold plunge. If anything is eaten that is afterwards deemed to have

been imprudent, let it disagree. Take the full consequences and bear

them like a man, with whatever remedies are found to lighten the

painful result. Having made sure through bitter experience that a

particular food disagrees, simply do not take it again, and think

nothing about it. It does not exist for you. A nervous resistance to

any sort of indigestion prolongs the attack and leaves, a

brain-impression which not only makes the same trouble more liable

to recur, but increases the temptation to eat forbidden fruit. Of

course this is always preceded by a full persuasion that the food is

not likely to disagree with us now simply because it did before. And

to some extent, this is true. Food that will bring pain and

suffering when taken by a tired stomach, may prove entirely

nourishing when the stomach is rested and ready for it. In that

case, the owner of the stomach has learned once for all never to

give his digestive apparatus work to do when it is tired. Send a

warm drink as a messenger to say that food is coming later, give

yourself a little rest, and then eat your dinner. The fundamental

laws of health in eating are very simple; their variations for

individual needs must be discovered by each for himself.

"But," it may be objected, "why make all this fuss, why take so much

thought about what I eat or what I do not eat?" The special thought

is simply to be taken at first to get into the normal habit, and as

a means of forgetting our digestion just as we forget the washing of

our hands until we are reminded by some discomfort; whereupon we

wash them and forget again. Nature will not allow us to forget. When

we are not obeying her laws, she is constantly irritating us in one

way or another. It is when we obey, and obey as a matter of course,

that she shows herself to be a tender mother, and helps us to a real

companionship with her.

Nothing is more amusing, nothing could appeal more to Mother

Nature's sense of humor, than the various devices for exercise which

give us a complicated self-consciousness rather than a natural

development of our physical powers. Certain simple exercises are

most useful, and if the weather is so inclement that they cannot be

taken in the open air, it is good to have a well-ventilated hall.

Exercise with others, too, is stimulating, and more invigorating

when there is air enough and to spare. But there is nothing that

shows the subjective, self-conscious state of this generation more

than the subjective form which exercise takes. Instead of games and

play or a good vigorous walk in the country, there are endless

varieties of physical culture, most of it good and helpful if taken

as a means to an end, but almost useless as it is taken as an end in

itself; for it draws the attention to one's self and one's own

muscles in a way to make the owner serve the muscle instead of the

muscle being made to serve the owner. The more physical exercise can

be simplified and made objective, the more it serves its end. To

climb a high mountain is admirable exercise, for we have the summit

as an end, and the work of climbing is steadily objective, while we

get the delicious effect of a freer circulation and all that it

means. There might be similar exercises in gymnasiums, and there

are, indeed, many exercises where some objective achievement is the

end, and the training of a muscle follows as a matter of course.

There is the exercise-instinct; we all have it the more perfectly as

we obey it. If we have suffered from a series of disobediences, it

is a comparatively easy process to work back into obedience.

The fresh-air-instinct is abnormally developed with some of us, but

only with some. The popular fear of draughts is one cause of its

loss. The fear of a draught will cause a contraction, the

contraction will interfere with the circulation, and a cold is the

natural result.

The effect of vitiated air is well known. The necessity, not only

for breathing fresh air when we are quiet, but for exercising in the

open, grows upon us as we see the result. To feel the need is to

take the remedy, as a matter of course.

The rest-instinct is most generally disobeyed, most widely needed,

and obedience to it would bring the most effective results. A

restful state of mind and body prepares one for the best effects

from exercise, fresh air, and nourishment. This instinct is the more

disobeyed because with the need for rest there seems to come an

inability to take it, so that not only is every impediment

magnified, but imaginary impediments are erected, and only a decided

and insistent use of the will in dropping everything that

interferes, whether real or imaginary, will bring a whiff of a

breeze from the true rest-current. Rest is not always silence, but

silence is always rest; and a real silence of the mind is known by

very few. Having gained that, or even approached it, we are taken by

the rest-wind itself, and it is strong enough to bear our full

weight as it swings us along to renewed life and new strength for

work to come.

The secret is to turn to silence at the first hint from nature; and

sleep should be the very essence of silence itself.

All this would be very well if we were free to take the right amount

of rest, fresh air, exercise, and nourishment; but many of us are

not. It will not be difficult for any one to call to mind half a

dozen persons who impede the good which might result from the use of

these four necessities simply by complaining that they cannot have

their full share of either. Indeed, some of us may find in ourselves

various stones of this sort stopping the way. To take what we can

and be thankful, not only enables us to gain more from every source

of health, but opens the way for us to see clearly how to get more.

This complaint, however, is less of an impediment than the whining

and fussing which come from those who are free to take all four in

abundance, and who have the necessity of their own especial physical

health so much at heart that there is room to think of little else.

These people crowd into the various schools of physical culture by

the hundred, pervade the rest-cures, and are ready for any new

physiological fad which may arise, with no result but more physical

culture, more rest-cure, and more fads. Nay, there is sometimes one

other result,--disease. That gives them something tangible to work

for or to work about. But all their eating and breathing and

exercising and resting does not bring lasting vigorous health,

simply because they work at it as an end, of which self is the

centre and circumference.

The sooner our health-instinct is developed, and then taken as a

matter of course, the sooner can the body become a perfect servant,

to be treated with true courtesy, and then forgotten. Here is an

instinct of our barbarous ancestry which may be kept and refined

through all future phases of civilization. This instinct is natural,

and the obedience to it enables us to gain more rapidly in other,

higher instincts which, if our ancestors had at all, were so

embryonic as not to have attained expression.

Nourishment, fresh air, exercise, rest,--so far as these are not

taken simply and in obedience to the natural instinct, there arise

physical stones in the way, stones that form themselves into an

apparently insurmountable wall. There is a stile over that wall,

however, if we will but open our eyes to see it. This stile,

carefully climbed, will enable us to step over the few stones on the

other side, and follow the physical path quite clearly.