Inspiration is the key!
I’m in London. The capital ciy of rain, perhaps. That’s all I’ve seen in the last few days anyway! To live here means facing the world with a brave smile upon your face and a perseverance in trying to cast those dark clouds away. Luckily (or unfortunately, in some cases), we’re now surrounded by many different things which can help our mood in case of constant bad weather. I’ve never really had this problem, until a couple of years ago, when I realised weather had started to influence my better judgment. What about the past? In 1820 Sydney Smith sent a letter to Lady Georgiana Morpeth. He listed 20 tips to help her avoid suffering from ‘low spirits’, which is what we call ‘melancholy’, I’m guessing. Curiously, no mention of the great British weather, but there are a few eference on keeping oneself warm! So, here’s the list as it was compiled, followed by my opinion on each point.
1st. Live as well as you dare.
Well, this is an all-time classic, really. But one also needs to be wise!
2nd. Go into the showerbath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75º or 80º.
I totally missed this point. I understand how cool water can have an awakening purpose, but one should feel comfortable and cosy in a bathtub full of warm water and bubbles. Am i right?
3rd. Amusing books.
Amen to that!
4th. Short views of human life – not further than dinner or tea.
And why is that? It’s kind of a vague suggestion. I would rather say one needs to see the good and the bad that people can give to you. And choose to be in the company of those who only give you positive vibes. That is when you’re the one who feels low. If you have positive thoughts to share you may use them to help others!
5th. Be as busy as you can.
Fine, but do not get stressed, I would add.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who like and respect you.
Indeed. Also, you can send them an e-mail or text just to keep in touch!
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
Same as above. In modern times, sounds like Facebook!
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely – they are always worse for dignified concealment.
True, and if you feel like it does not help, contact a psychologist. I don’t think they were as popular back then as they are now.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
Agree, but never depend on those. And do not rely on food to make you happier. It’s one thing to delight yourself from time to time, it’s another to obsess over food or drinks.
10th. Don’t expect too much from human life – a sorry business at the best.
Not completely true. How is this supposed to help someone who suffers from ‘low spirits’, dear Mr. Smith? I would have said that human life can be disappointing but one size does not fit all. Generalisation is almost never the right way to deal with things.
11th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
Especially those who have less. You must think positively, and once you’re better you might even help them!
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.
So, is suppressing emotions the right way to feel less melancholic? I don’t think melancholy is the product of emotions, it is an emotion itself. The debate should be on whether one has to suppress emotions or go through them in order to feel better. I tend to be in favour of the latter.
13th. DO GOOD, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
Whatever the best intentions are at play, one can only help others by helping oneself first. But yes, definitely agree on this one.
14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.
Which means you should redecorate your room as you please, in case you haven’t paid much attention to it. In this age, one might also suggest to change something in the looks, be it the hairstyle or clothes. So, go buy yourself a new pair of shoes/trousers/shirts might also apply here. It’s proven to be a boost for one’s confidence.
16th. Struggle little by little against idleness.
And think about how much you could achieve every day.
17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
Also, if you feel stressed, it probably means you’ve put yourself through too many things at once.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
Not sure I understand this point. However, if it’sit is essential to keep faith
20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana, Very truly yours, Sydney Smith.
(Source: link. Also taken from: Hesketh Pearson, The Smith of Smiths, Hogarth Press, London, 1984. p.164)