A Doctor from the 1800’s view on Health

100_0499-11I recently read a book by a Scottish born MD that was originally published in 1886 – Gordon Stables “The Cruise of the Land-Yacht Wanderer” or “Thirteen Hundred Miles in my Caravan”. Though the book itself made enjoyable and interesting reading, it was the appendix on health that really caught my attention. How did a doctor in the 1800’s view health and wellness!

The following are some exerts from the appendix on Health.

“ I know there are many people who suffer from debility of nerves, from indigestion, and from that disease of modern times we call ennui ( feeling listless and discontented, tired and bored), which so often precedes a thorough break-up and a speedy march to the grave.  Seeing that ennui does not weaken any one organ more than another, but that its evil effects are manifested in a deterioration of every organ and portion of the body and tissues at once, let us consider for a moment what health really is.

To put it in my own homely way: if a young man, or a middle-aged one either, while spending a day in the country, with the fresh breezes of heaven blowing on his brow, with the larks a-quiver with song in the bright sunshine, and all nature rejoicing,—I tell you that if such an individual, not being a cripple, can pass a five-barred gate without an inclination to vault over it, he cannot be in good health.

Nay, but to be more serious, let me quote the words of that prince of medical writers, the late lamented Sir Thomas Watson, Bart:—

“Health is represented in the natural or standard condition of the living body.   It is sufficient for our purpose to say that it implies freedom from pain and sickness; freedom also from all those changes in the natural fabric of the body, that endanger life or impede the easy and effectual exercise of the vital functions. It is plain that health does not signify any fixed and immutable condition of the body. If we can form and fix in our minds a clear conception of the state of health, we shall have little difficulty in comprehending what is meant by disease, which consists in some deviation from that state—some uneasy or unnatural sensation of which the patient is aware; some embarrassment of function, perceptible by himself or by others; or some unsafe though hidden condition of which he may be unconscious; some mode, in short, of being, or of action, or of feeling different from those which are proper to health.”

Can medicine restore the health of those who are threatened with a break-up, whose nerves are shaken, whose strength has been failing for some time past, when it seems to the sufferer—to quote the beautiful words of the Preacher—the days have already come when you find no pleasure in them; when you feel as if the light of the sun and the moon and the stars are darkened, that the silver cord is loosed, the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher broken at the fountain?

No, no, no! a thousand times no. Medicine, tonic or otherwise, never, alone, did, or could, cure the deadly ailment called ennui. You want newness of life, you want perfect obedience for a time to the rules of hygiene, and exercise above all.

Good habits, I say, may be formed as well as bad ones; not so easily, I grant you, but, being formed, or for a time enforced, they, too, become a kind of second nature. Let me simply enumerate, by way of reminding you, some of the ordinary rules for the maintenance of health.

Diet.—Errors in diet produce dyspepsia, and dyspepsia may be the forerunner of almost any fatal illness. It not only induces disease itself, but the body of the sufferer from this complaint, being at the best but poorly nourished, no matter how fat and fresh he may appear, is more liable to be attacked by any ailment which may be in the air. Dyspepsia really leaves the front door open, so that trouble may walk in.

The chief errors in diet which are apt to bring on chronic indigestion are:

  1. Over-rich or over-nutritious diet.
  2. Over-eating, from which more die than from over-drinking.
  3. Eating too quickly, as one is apt to do when alone, the solvent saliva having thus no time to get properly mingled with the food.
  4. The evil habit of taking “nips” before meals, by which means the blood is heated, the salivary glands rendered partially inert, the mucous membrane of the mouth rendered incapable for a time of absorption, and the gastric juices thrown out and wasted before their proper time, that is meal-time.
  5. Drinking too much fluid with the meals, and thereby diluting the gastric juices and delaying digestion.
  6. Want of daily or tri-weekly change of diet.
  7. Irregularity in times of eating.


Drink.—I do not intend discussing the question of temperance.

  1. But if stimulants are taken at all, it should never be on an empty stomach.
  2. They ought not to be taken at all, if they can be done without.
  3. What are called “nightcaps” may induce sleep, but it is by narcotic action, and the sleep is neither sound nor refreshing. The best nightcap is a warm bath and a bottle of soda water, with ten to fifteen grains of pure bicarbonate of soda in it.

Cream of tartar drink. This should be more popular than it is in summer. A pint of boiling water is poured over a dram and a half of cream of tartar, in which is the juice of a lemon and some of the rind; when cold, especially if iced, it is truly excellent in summer weather. It cools the system, prevents constipation, and assuages thirst.

Fresh air.—The more of this one has the better, whether by day or by night. Many chronic ailments will yield entirely to a course of ozone-laden fresh air, such as one gets at the seaside, or on the mountain’s brow. Have a proper and scientific plan of ventilating your bedrooms. Without air one dies speedily; in bad air he languishes and dies more slowly; in the ordinary air of rooms one exists, but he cannot be said to live; but in pure air one can be as happy and light-hearted as a lark.

Exercise.—This must be pleasurable, or at all events it must be interesting—mind and body must go hand in hand—if exercise is to do any good. It must not be over-fatiguing, and intervals of rest must not be forgotten.

Work, is not exercise. This may seem strange, but it is true. I tell my patients, “I do not care how much you run about all day at your business, you must take the exercise I prescribe quite independently of your work.”


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Happiness and Contentment Living Better on Less

SunflowercloseLess can be more, even in art. During the 1960′s and 1970′s, stripping art down to its fundamental features began showing up in many art forms.

We can Be Happy with who we are and what we have. We can grow into ourselves, and become content with who we are and what we have. Then we no longer need brand name clothing, or more money, to define ourselves. Enough just looks different when we are happy within ourselves. Happiness doesn’t come from wealth, perfect looks or even a perfect relationship. Happiness is a choice that comes from within.

We can re-define how much is enough. It was quite interesting when I was sailing up the Queensland coast in company with two other boats; each ‘boat’ had a different idea of how much was enough. The people off one boat would start talking about needing a job and some more money when they had a few coins left in their pockets. We started talking about needing to stop for awhile and work when we were down to our last hundred dollars and the third boat load of people started to become concerned when they still had quite a few hundred dollars of cash left in their pockets. Everyone’s idea of what is enough or necessary is different, and can change as our attitude changes.

We can stop trying to keep up. The truth is, there will always be someone who makes more money, or has a bigger car, or better label clothes, more friends, more stuff. . . . It is an un-winnable race, that ties us and our lives up. We are each unique, and have our own special talents and skills to share. Measure success based on personal progress alone, not that of others. We don’t need others to dictate how we live. Everything in life is not going to be perfect, and that’s perfectly all right!

We can re-define what is necessary. Clutter has a way of sucking the life energy out of us and replacing it with feelings of chaos and of being weighed down. Clutter is often an unrecognized source of stress that promotes overwhelm, frustration, distraction and even guilt. De-clutter now. Remember, if it hasn’t been used in the past 6 – 12 months or you don’t absolutely love it, then re-purpose it, give it away or sell it and turn it into cash.

We can Eat Real, Nutritious Food by re-learning some of the old skills, researching food sources and eating more home prepared food. Learn what grows seasonally and locally. We can grow as much food as possible ourselves. Don’t be limited by the size of outdoor space available; container gardening has become very popular. Simple, sustainable living is about reducing dependence on someone else to supply our needs.
Food used to be something we ate to nourish and heal ourselves. Now food is produced for profit rather than the health and well-being of people. The evidence of this is showing up more and more with each passing year. Begin eating less from prepackaged, processed ‘foods’. Eat foods as Nature intended, not as man has manipulated, in greed for profits.
What we eat directly impacts our mood and energy levels, both to our advantage and disadvantage. Present day research and experience is proving without a doubt that there is a connection between what we consume and how we think, feel and act.

Practice  Gratitude. The more aware we become of the beauty in our lives, the more beautiful our lives will become. Contrary to popular belief, happiness and contentment doesn’t come from fame, fortune, other people, or material possessions. It comes from within us. We will have a deeper sense of contentment if we count our blessings instead of yearning for what we don’t have. There’s a popular saying that, “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.”

Happiness and contentment is a feeling, an attitude, a state of mind, and as such can not be purchased or given. It must be chosen. We can choose to be Happy and Content Living Better on Less, or not, the choice is ours.

What would you do differently if you thought you were enough and had enough right now?

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Why Learn to Live Better on Less

B0000651We can continually consume resources.  We can continually accumulate material possessions (and debt).  But what do we have? . . . . an epidemic of over-consumption, pollution and waste.  This has been defined as a condition where we are confused about what it takes to feel good and live a worthwhile life.

We often define ourselves by external acquisitions and activities we think will create internal states of contentment, happiness and self-esteem. We are often driven by the need to gain external recognition and approval, competing with and measuring ourselves against others.  But rather than create the contentment, self-esteem and happiness we hope for, these cultural patterns cultivate stress and dysfunction.

It is time to wake up to the uncomfortableness of who we have become.

So many of us keep ourselves busy and keep driving ourselves in order to avoid our deepest feelings and needs.  We become afraid to feel how we actually feel about ourselves and our lives, because then we may have to leave the all-consuming treadmill of our lives and take responsibility for creating something more personally authentic and meaningful.  After years of being told who we are and who we should be, it seems easier to keep consuming (money, time, resources, . . .) to fill the void where our true selves   were when we were small children.

Is advertising helping to brainwash our thinking?

We are continually being bombarded by advertising telling us what to buy, where to buy it and how wonderful we’ll look or feel when we have it, or use it.  Advertising encourages us to look outside ourselves and our homes to find what fulfills us and gives our lives meaning. It teaches us that money, purchasing and consuming will make everything better or ‘right’. It never teaches us to look in or to ourselves.  The concept that happiness, health and security comes from material possessions, and the ability to continually consume, is a myth, encouraged by advertising.

Starting to Learn to Live Better on Less

The key words here are Better on Less.  We don’t see this advertised because there is no money to be made from ‘Less’. But there is more life to be gained from ‘Less’ for anyone choosing to live this way. More quality time; more self esteem; more choices doing what we want, how we want; more personal power. . . . .

The important thing is to start. Where or how we start is not so important. Life is just better, less stressful and more enjoyable when we focus on living simply, being with people we love and leaving behind (as much as possible) the externally imposed expectations of the commercial world.  The commercial world needs us for its survival, but we can survive and thrive very well without it.  We need to get honest and real, looking to ourselves for what fulfills us and gives our lives true value and meaning.

‘Spend Less and Start Enjoying Life More’.

Get off the Consumer Treadmill. Stop! Take a first step towards a simpler, more natural and sustainable life.

The beauty of ‘Learning to Live Better on Less’ is that you just don’t need lots of stuff.

Spending wisely rather than impulsively, saves money and the less we spend the more we have. No matter how much we earn, if more is being spent than earned, we are becoming more and more shackled in a prison of our own making.  It is often easier to spend less money than to keep earning more.

I am Happier Living Better on Less, than having everything I thought I wanted and still wanting more. . . .

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