In many instances, when people are sick and sorry there is no organic reason at all. They are suffering from " monotonitis" - the business man's ailment, the domestic woman's complaint, the disease which comes to everyone who has not sufficient of that variety which is the "salt of life."
It is easier to be happy and well in countries where the sun shines nearly all the time. But if we have to live and move and have our being in crowded cities, under depressing climatic conditions, we need all the more to try the cure of cheerfulness and enjoyment.
Have you never observed the influence of pleasure on ill health of mind and body ? If you are a woman you must have experienced it sometimes. Have you never felt elated to the extent of forgetting your ailments over the arrival of a new hat or the interest of a pretty frock ?
There is a vast field of philanthropic enterprise to the society whose one and only aim will be to provide pleasure for the women who have to live dull lives, far from the world of dainty clothes and artistic personal possessions. It is the people who suffer from depression without any apparent cause who would benefit most from the pleasure cure. Let them try the theatre.
where a good play or cheerful music will entertain them, and take their minds away from the contemplation of their own despondency.
The real truth about many people's ailments is that they do not know how to enjoy themselves. They spend money on drugs and tonics that ought to be spent upon some form of " treat " which would be a far better stimulant. Have you ever noticed how an interesting conversation on a train or boat will ward off the sickness and headache which victimise you in travelling ? Have you not observed that an unexpected pleasure has made you forget a toothache or heartache which under other circumstances would have dominated you for hours ?
Pleasure is not a Luxury
Try the treatment on a husband who comes home inclined to flop into a chair, with a pipe, and whose conversation consists of depressing accounts of the state of his liver or the last attack of gout. Suggest quietly and carefully that he should try a round of golf twice a week, and you will be delighted with the result. Even if the conversation tends to concentrate on golf it is less depressing for the wife than constant grumbling over real or imaginary ill health.
As for the housewife who has got into a groove, she must regard it as a duty to herself and her family to supply herself regularly with treats. The question of money need not be an insurmountable obstacle. There are few women so mindless that they cannot appreciate beauty in art or music, only they have never opened the door to these higher worlds. Let them visit occasionally the National Gallery or one of the museums. Let them go to a concert, where one can hear almost as well in the cheaper seats as in the most expensive. Let them cultivate a small circle of cheerful and interesting friends, and not drop out of social life as so many women are apt to do.
Different types of pleasure appeal to different people. Most of us know what we like, and should try to get it, and not consider our desire a selfish and sinful tendency, as do so many people. Occasional pleasure is a necessity, not a luxury, and there is such a thing as foolish economy from the point of view of health. If an occasional pleasure keeps us well in mind and body we are less likely to spend money in medicines and doctors' bills.
But many people make economy the excuse for laziness. They say they cannot afford the expense of going to a dance simply because it is less exertion to sit in an armchair than to dress and go out for the evening. But a good dance is often a tonic of the very best kind. When we are fagged out with the continual round of duty and work, when we are stale in mind and body, and suffering from an attack of acute "monoton-itis," let us try the effect of a dance. Instead of being more tired and fagged next morning, if. we have come away at a reasonably early hour, we shall be a hundredfold better for our exertion.
A little diversion and physical activity is exactly what a great many so-called hard workers require. We all tend to get into a groove, and pleasure of the right sort takes us out of our groove, and keeps us young. Pleasure is not necessarily nerve-racking and exhausting. The people who feverishly devote their lives to enjoyment are not having pleasure at all, but a toilsome round of drudgery which they call by the wrong name.
Pleasure, in the right sense of the word, is something which makes us feel better, happier, healthier, whether it is a walk through exquisite country lanes, an evening at a musical comedy, or a little dinner with some congenial friends. Perhaps its greatest value is that it is occasional, that one must make some effort to get it, and thus one appreciates it more.
Most people allow themselves to be too much at the mercy of their temperaments. They say they were not born cheerful, but they forget that the faculty of laughter can be cultivated or discouraged. We can get into the habit of enjoying ourselves if we like, and it is well worth while from the health point of view. Life is never so hard on the individual who can find enjoyment in little things, who knows the efficacy of a good time, and the simple pleasures of life in general. The individual who can laugh is not only healthier and happier for it, but radiates good-fellowship all around. The physiological effect of laughter is quite evident.
It increases the circulation and improves the vitality. It will cure dyspepsia, because enjoyment aids digestion and stimulates the secretions, just in the way that appetising odours and delightful music are known to do.
Better to hunt in fields for health unbought Than fee a doctor for a nauseous draught.
Everybody has experienced the depressing effect upon the digestion of ill humour, angry arguments, and quarrelling at a family dinner-table. The people who get out of the habit of enjoyment and laughter must suffer in health. And they certainly age sooner as a result. When we are happy we are much more likely to laugh.
When we laugh the diaphragm descends, the chest expands, air rushes into the lungs, the body gets more oxygen, the blood is healthier, and every tissue and every organ is stimulated and refreshed.
We are apt to take life too seriously, and to forget that we shall be happier, healthier, and certainly much nicer, if we can get a little enjoyment into our daily lives.
One secret of success in life is to work hard and get one's measure of pleasure at the same time. Life that is all pleasure is worthless and unsatisfying. Life that is all drudgery is just as big a mistake.
Even if obesity does not attract you, enjoy yourself and grow healthy, because the pleasure cure will physiologically improve the nutrition of mind and body. This is what the drug tonic is taken for; and we might throw most of our medicines out of the window if we systematically tried the cure of being happy.
You may imagine that your opportunities for pleasure are few and far between, but the faculty of enjoyment has nothing to do with the material effects of environment. The poorest woman has as great a chance of getting the best sort of happiness ; and the happiness we have earned as a result of our labour is far more satisfying than any other. The reason why so many rich, idle women are unhappy is because they do no useful work. Human beings cannot be really happy unless they do their share of work in the world. And sometimes the best pleasure we can provide for anyone is some satisfying work for the benefit of others.
Again, many people treat their pleasures much too seriously, so seriously, in fact, that they cease immediately either to be beneficial or enjoyable. Elaborate and unnecessary preparations, for example, deprive an evening of its pleasures long before that evening arrives. And it is ridiculous to try to do more in a given time than can be done. This presumably is what one does when working. In leisure hours one must have time to feel the influence of enjoyment.
The truth is that the majority of people - women undoubtedly are the worst offenders - regard pleasure as a luxury or an extravagance, and accordingly feel that they must get full value for their money. But surely they do if they are happy ? There is no need for them to tire themselves. This is false economy, and very silly. Happiness consists not in doing all you can do, but in doing just exactly what you want to do, in doing it comfortably, and in enjoying it.
The point is that, whatever our sphere, whatever our lives may be, we can get pleasure if we like. We can make up our minds to earn the treats we prescribe for ourselves, and to derive full benefit from them.
It is so easy to get into a habit of being always rather depressed in spirits, a little pessimistic, somewhat dull. But this attitude of mind should be regarded as a vice to be overcome, a trend of thought to be resisted. We ought to enjoy ourselves unless there is any serious, tragical reason for unhappiness. Even in such cases a little pleasure will help to tide over the period of unhappiness. The weak nature broods over the inevitable. A strong personality rises above difficulties and worries.
Let us be " Children of the Sun," and cultivate happiness of the right sort.