Importance Of Health And Vigor Of The Nervous System
Parallel with opportunities for proper stimuli and response the nervous
system must possess good tonicity, or vigor. This depends in large
degree on general health and nutrition, with freedom from overfatigue.
No favorableness of environment nor excellence of training can result in
an efficient brain if the nerve energy has run low from depleted health,
want of proper nourishment, or exhaustion.
THE INFLUENCE OF FATIGUE.--Histologists find that the nuclei of nerve
cells are shrunk as much as fifty per cent by extreme fatigue.
Reasonable fatigue followed by proper recuperation is not harmful, but
even necessary if the best development is to be attained; but fatigue
without proper nourishment and rest is fatal to all mental operations,
and indeed finally to the nervous system itself, leaving it permanently
in a condition of low tone, and incapable of rallying to strong effort.
For rapid and complete recuperation the cells must have not only the
best of nourishment but opportunity for rest as well.
Extreme and long-continued fatigue is hostile to the development and
welfare of any nervous system, and especially to that of children. Not
only does overfatigue hinder growth, but it also results in the
formation of certain toxins, or poisons, in the organism, which are
particularly harmful to nervous tissue. It is these fatigue toxins that
account for many of the nervous and mental disorders which accompany
breakdowns from overwork. On the whole, the evil effects from mental
overstrain are more to be feared than from physical overstrain.
THE EFFECTS OF WORRY.--There is, perhaps, no greater foe to brain growth
and efficiency than the nervous and worn-out condition which comes from
loss of sleep or from worry. Experiments in the psychological
laboratories have shown that nerve cells shrivel up and lose their
vitality under loss of sleep. Let this go on for any considerable
length of time, and the loss is irreparable; for the cells can never
recuperate. This is especially true in the case of children or young
people. Many school boys and girls, indeed many college students, are
making slow progress in their studies not because they are mentally slow
or inefficient, not even chiefly because they lose time that should be
put on their lessons, but because they are incapacitating their brains
for good service through late hours and the consequent loss of sleep.
Add to this condition that of worry, which often accompanies it from the
fact of failure in lessons, and a naturally good and well-organized
nervous system is sure to fail. Worry, from whatever cause, should be
avoided as one would avoid poison, if we would bring ourselves to the
highest degree of efficiency. Not only does worry temporarily unfit the
mind for its best work, but its evil results are permanent, since the
mind is left with a poorly developed or undone nervous system through
which to work, even after the cause for worry has been removed and the
worry itself has ceased.
Not only should each individual seek to control the causes of worry in
his own life, but the home and the school should force upon childhood as
few causes for worry as may be. Children's worry over fears of the dark,
over sickness and death, over prospective but delayed punishment, over
the thousand and one real or imaginary troubles of childhood, should be
eliminated so far as possible. School examinations that prey on the
peace of mind, threats of failure of promotion, all nagging and sarcasm,
and whatever else may cause continued pain or worry to sensitive minds
should be barred from our schoolroom methods and practice. The price we
force the child to pay for results through their use is too great for
them to be tolerated. We must seek a better way.
THE FACTORS IN GOOD NUTRITION.--For the best nutrition there is
necessity first of all plenty of nourishing and healthful food. Science
and experience have both disproved the supposition that students should
be scantily fed. O'Shea claims that many brain workers are far short of
their highest grade of efficiency because of starving their brains from
poor diet. And not only must the food be of the right quality, but the
body must be in good health. Little good to eat the best of food unless
it is being properly digested and assimilated. And little good if all
the rest is as it should be, and the right amount of oxidation does not
go on in the brain so as to remove the worn-out cells and make place for
new ones. This warns us that pure air and a strong circulation are
indispensable to the best working of our brains. No doubt many students
who find their work too hard for them might locate the trouble in their
stomachs or their lungs or the food they eat, rather than in their
Next: Problems For Introspection And Observation
Previous: Education And The Training Of The Nervous System