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The Inside Story

There’s more to a healthy lifestyle than simply getting diet and exercise right. In fact, there’s nothing simple about life in general. Feeling good is what everyone wishes for and is much easier in a body that is as fit and durable as it needs to be. But, despite being the most important asset a human has, the mind tends to be forgotten and is left to its own devices. It works away, quietly monitoring every part and activity of the body, frequently sending messages about the well-being of organs, muscles, about varying states of tiredness and hunger, invasion by disease, and so on. And it converts needs and desires into actions that will help satisfy them. We have to walk from A to B – leg muscles flex, feet tramp, arms swing, all because it was what we had in mind.

There is, however, more in the top paddock than just a control centre for bodily functions. Whereas the brain takes care of the basics, the mind is far more sophisticated. Even medical science is in the dark about many aspects of it, but we all know the effect it has on the way we approach life and how we feel about it.

That Certain Feeling

A lecturer once advised a class I was attending not to express an opinion using the word “feel”. To begin a statement with: “I feel that...,” she claimed, made nonsense of whatever came after because it wasn’t literally true. At the time, I accepted this pearl of wisdom, but then I got to thinking and realised the advice was flawed. Physical sensation plays a huge role in the way all living things respond to situations. “That certain feeling” is a very real indication not only of where we stand on a subject, but also points clearly to the effect that the possible outcome is likely to have on us.

Imagine a simple scenario. The day has been a hard one and all you want to do is unwind. The phone rings and the caller asks if it is okay for them to come round. You will “feel” something, a sudden physical change. It may be a tightening of the stomach because the prospective visitor is the last person you want to see and to put them off might instigate resentment on their part, damaging your relationship with them. Conversely, it could be someone who always cheers you up and you experience sensations of relief and elation at the thought of pleasant company. However you respond to the request will, in turn, cause a further reaction which will evolve in a good or bad way, dependent on your final decision.

By taking more notice of our feelings, we ought to be the happiest creatures on earth, always assuming a sensation is interpreted correctly and acted on selfishly. We would do and say the right thing for ourselves every time. But we don’t, not always. Frequently, decisions are shaped to satisfy external parameters and long-term, rather than immediate, outcomes. So, we accept the feeling is telling us to do one thing, but still do something quite different because that’s what is required of us.

By whom, though? An antagonist threatening us with a big stick? Convention with promises of social disapproval for a wrong move? The latter is often the case. We tend to do what is expected, what everyone else does, or should do, because that’s the way civilisation works best. As individuals, we may not like it, but we toe the line. I believe this point is where many lose sight of true happiness and compromise good health into the bargain. The more personal feelings have to be side-lined in favour of some higher ideal, the deeper the dissatisfaction. Left unchecked, it can easily change a positive, normally cheerful person into a gloomy cynic. They then trudge snapping and snarling through life, affecting and infecting others with their bad attitude. And this particular aspect of personality tends to be worn like a suit of armour, too rigid to adjust properly for comfort and getting harder by the minute to climb out of.

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