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.