There is such an intimate connection between the body and mind, that the health of one can not be preserved without a proper care of the other. And it is from a neglect of this principle that some of the most exemplary and conscientious persons in the world suffer a thousand mental agonies from a diseased state of body, while others ruin the health of the body by neglecting the proper care of the mind.
When the mind is excited by earnest intellectual effort, or by strong passions, the blood rushes to the head and the brain is excited. Sir Astley Cooper records that, in examining the brain of a young man who had lost a portion of his skull, whenever "he was agitated by some opposition to his wishes," "the blood was sent with increased force to his brain," and the pulsations "became frequent and violent." The same effect was produced by any intellectual effort; and the flushed countenance which attends earnest study or strong emotions of interest of any kind, is an external indication of the suffused state of the brain from such causes.
In exhibiting the causes which injure the health of the mind, we shall find them to be partly physical, partly intellectual, and partly moral.
The first cause of mental disease and suffering is not un-frequently in the want of a proper supply of duly oxygenized blood. It has been shown that the blood, in passing through the lungs, is purified by the oxygen of the air combining with the superabundant hydrogen and carbon of the venous blood, thus forming carbonic acid and water, which are expired into the atmosphere. Every pair of lungs is constantly withdrawing from the surrounding atmosphere its healthful principle, and returning one which is injurious to human life.
When, by confinement and this process, the air is deprived of its appropriate supply of oxygen, the purification of the blood is interrupted, and it passes, without being properly prepared, into the brain, producing languor, restlessness, and inability to exercise the intellect and feelings. Whenever, therefore, persons sleep in a close apartment, or remain for a length of time in a crowded or ill-ventilated room, a most pernicious influence is exerted on the brain, and, through this, on the mind. A person who is often exposed to such influences can never enjoy that elasticity and vigor of mind which is one of the chief indications of its health. This is the reason why all rooms for religious meetings, and all school-rooms and sleeping apartments, should be so contrived as to secure a constant supply of fresh air from without. The minister who preaches in a crowded and ill-ventilated apartment loses much of his power to feel and to speak, while the audience are equally reduced in their capability of attending. The teacher who confines children in a close apartment diminishes their ability to study, or to attend to instructions. And the person who habitually sleeps in a close room impairs mental energy in a similar degree. It is not unfrequently the case that depression of spirits and stupor of intellect are occasioned solely by inattention to this subject.
Another cause of mental disease is the excessive exercise of the intellect or feelings. If the eye is taxed beyond its strength by protracted use, its blood-vessels become gorged, and the bloodshot appearance warns of the excess and the need of rest. The brain is affected in a similar manner by excessive use, though the suffering and inflamed organ can not make its appeal to the eye. But there are some indications which ought never to be misunderstood or disregarded. In cases of pupils at school or at college, a diseased state, from over - action, is often manifested by increased clearness of mind, and temporary ease and vigor of mental action. In one instance, known to the writer, a most exemplary and industrious pupil, anxious to improve every hour, and ignorant or unmindful of the laws of health, first manifested the diseased state of her brain and mind by demands for more studies, and a sudden and earnest activity in planning modes of improvement for herself and others. When warned of her danger, she protested that she never was better in her life; that she took regular exercise in the open air, went to bed in season, slept soundly, and felt perfectly well; that her mind was never before so bright and clear, and study never so easy and delightful. And at this time she was on the verge of derangement, from which she was saved only by an entire cessation of all intellectual efforts.
A similar case occurred, under the eye of the writer, from overexcited feelings. It was during a time of unusual religious interest in the community, and the mental disease was first manifested by the pupil bringing her hymn-book or Bible to the class-room, and making it her constant resort in every interval of school duty. It finally became impossible to convince her that it was her duty to attend to any thing else; her conscience became morbidly sensitive, her perceptions indistinct, her deductions unreasonable; and nothing but entire change of scene and exercise, and occupation of her mind by amusement, saved her. When the health of the brain was restored, she found that she could attend to the "one thing needful," not only without interruption of duty or injury to health, but rather so as to promote both. Clergymen and teachers need most carefully to notice and guard against the dangers here alluded to.
Any such attention to religion as prevents the performance of daily duties and needful relaxation is dangerous, and tends to produce such a state of the brain as makes it impossible to feel or judge correctly. And when any morbid and unreasonable pertinacity appears, much exercise and engagement in other interesting pursuits should be urged, as the only mode of securing the religious benefits aimed at. And whenever any mind is oppressed with care, anxiety, or sorrow, the amount of active exercise in the fresh air should be greatly increased, that the action of the muscles may withdraw the blood which, in such seasons, is constantly tending too much to the brain. At the same time, innocent and healthful amusement should be urged as a duty.