=Practical Steps.= The first step, then, in acquiring normal habits is the conviction of the integrity of our physical machines and a determination not to interfere by thought, or by physical meddling, with the elemental functions of our bodies. After this all-important step, there are a few practical suggestions which it is well to follow. Most of them are nothing more than the common-sense habits of personal hygiene which are so obvious as to be almost axiomatic, but which are nevertheless often neglected:
1 Eat three square meals a day.
2 Drink when thirsty, having conveniently at hand the facilities for drinking.
3 Heed the call to stool as you heed the call of hunger. When the stool passes the little valve between the upper and lower portions of the rectum, it gives the signal that the time for evacuation has come. If this signal is always heeded, it will automatically start the machinery that leads to evacuation. If it is persistently ignored because one is too busy, or because the mind is filled with the idea of disability, the call very soon fails to rise to the level of consciousness. The feces remain in the rectum, and the bad habit is begun.
4 Choose a regular time and keep that appointment with yourself as regularly as possible. In all the activities of Nature, there is a rhythm which it is well to observe.
5 Take time to acquire the habit. Do not be in a hurry. Do not strain. No amount of effort will start the movement. Just let it come of itself.
6 Finally, should the unconscious suggestion of lack of power stubbornly remain in force, take a small enema on the third day. If the waste matter accumulates for three or more days, the bulk becomes so great that the circular muscles of the rectum are unable to handle it, just as the fingers cannot squeeze down to expel water from too large a mass of wet blankets. Take only a small enema—never over a quart at a time—and expel the water immediately. One or two such measures will bring away the mass in the rectum. The material farther up still contains food elements and is not yet ready for expulsion. Lessen the amount of water each time until no outside help is needed. Once you get the right idea, all enemas will be superfluous.
If you would have in a nutshell an epitome of the truth about constipation, indigestion, insomnia, and the other functional disturbances common to nervous folk, you can do, no better than to commit to memory and store away for future reference that choice limerick of the centipede, which so admirably sums up the whole matter of meddlesome interference:
A centipede was happy quite
Until a frog in fun
Said, “Pray, which leg comes after which?”
This raised her mind to such a pitch,
She lay distracted in the ditch,
Considering how to run.