This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
It has been truly said that we may religiously observe all the laws of hygiene in relation to air, light, drink, food, temperature, exercise, clothing, sleep, bathing, and the excretions, and yet lack one thing -- one grand essential to human health and happiness. Yes, if our passions are our master and not our slaves, they will rule and ruin us instead of obeying and serving our behests. There is therefore, no single hygienic influence more conducive to health, happiness, and long life, than a cheerful, equitable temper of mind; and there is nothing that will more surely disorder the bodily functions, exhaust the vital energies, and stamp premature infirmities on the constitution, and hurry us on to an early grave, than an uneven, irritable, fretful, or passionate mental habit.
Medical men, at least, well know that a violent fit of passion will suddenly arrest, alter, or modify the various organic secretions. Excessive mental emotion will deprave and vitiate the secretions as readily as a deadly poison taken into the stomach. A paroxysm of anger will render the bile as acid and irritating as a full dose of calomel; excessive fear will relax the bowels equal to a strong infusion of tobacco; intense grief will arrest the secretions of gastric juice as effectually as belladonna; and violent rage will make the saliva as poisonous as will a mercurial salivation. There are many persons whose rage, either thoroughly real or exaggerated, is so violent that they froth at the mouth, and are thrown into spasms or violent convulsions. These fits of anger are often assumed, however, by designing parties for the purpose of frightening stern parents and guardians and others into the support of their own views and wishes. Such persons, finding their displays copied from nature of no avail, will suddenly become tame as lambs, but the effect upon their general health is found in the appearance of many nervous disorganizations, which, if the cause be often repeated, become permanent.
Thousands of facts of the above kind could be mentioned, but enough has been presented to demonstrate the law that a sound body cannot exist unless connected with a well-balanced mind. A vigorous exercise of the higher mental powers, a lively cultivation of the intellectual faculties and the moral affections, will never fail to sustain and elevate the human character, while, on the other hand, the violent indulgence of the animal propensities and the lower order of the passions, will wear out the mental machinery and enervate all the physiological powers. Will not the inspiration of love exalt the soul to the realms of "bliss, exquisite bliss?" Will not the influence of hatred depress the soul, and sink it to the nethermost depth of misery and despair? Contrast the emotions of benevolence, or gratitude, or generation, or conscientiousness, or mirthfulness, or faith, or hope, with that of envy, revenge, jealousy, fear, grief, remorse, or despair! The first are as refreshing to the soul as the gentle dews of morn to the tender blades of grass; the other as withering as the fiery blasts of a crater to the verdant vales. The one energizes the mind and reanimates the body--the other sinks, chills, and enfeebles both; one manufactures, creates as it were, vital power -- the other wastes and destroys body and soul.
Those who would maintain permanent and uniform health and live to an old age, will perceive the necessity for cultivating all the nobler impulses of our nature with unremitting care and judgment. When we "nourish wrath to keep it warm," we only add to the venom of a malicious heart. That anger which "dwells only in the bosom of fools," should have no inheritance in the bosom of the wise and thoughtful of our race. The "evils of life," whatever they may be, are often "blessing in disguise," and therefore should be met with a brave fortitude and courage, instead of wailing, complaining and lamentation. Fretting, scolding, and fault-finding, not only aggravate all the necessary evils of life, but greatly multiply them. When we indulge in these faults, we but sow the dragon's teeth to reap a harvest of greater sorrows. More than this, we dissipate unwisely our best talents and energies, and render life a curse instead of a blessing. The grand essential, therefore, of a cheerful mind is self-control. This is the great law of mental hygiene. Before any one can acquire self-government, he must learn to govern the animal propensities, and make them subservient to the intellectual faculties and moral sentiments. It may require long, patient, and thorough discipline; it may cost much self-denial, and appear to demand great temporary sacrifices, but it is worth all it may cost. Occasionally it is acquired through long years of bitter experience; and sometimes the greater part of a life is spent in suffering disappointments, troubles, and crosses, ere the mind is found at peace with itself, and in right relations to all surrounding nature. Happy are they who can, even in such expensive schools, learn the art of adapting themselves to the invariable laws of the universe, which they cannot successfully oppose or in any respect alter! Indeed, the only guarantee a man can have for a long life of health and happiness is to constantly cherish and maintain an even, cheerful, and hopeful spirit.