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Walt Whitman's Complete Guide to Wellness in 21 Tips

Hulton Archive/Getty Images, iStock
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Walt Whitman was more than just one of America’s greatest poets; he was a health guru, too. In a series of columns he wrote under a pseudonym in the New York Atlas in 1958, Whitman expounded on the topic of “manly health,” covering subjects like diet, proper forms of exercise, and the benefits of fresh air. The essays by “Mose Velsor” were rediscovered by a graduate student in 2015 and subsequently republished in a scholarly journal [PDF]. Now, they’re available to readers in the slim, newly released compendium Walt Whitman’s Guide to Manly Health and Training. Here are 21 pieces of (sometimes) timeless advice he had for living a happy, healthy life:

1. RUN MARATHONS, NOT SPRINTS.

Whitman emphasized endurance, not speed. He wrote (the italics are his), “In robust training for this life, which is itself a continual fight with some form of adversary or other, the aim should be to form that solid and adamantine fiber which will endure long and serious attacks upon it, and come out unharmed from them, rather than the ability to perform sudden and brilliant feats, which often exhaust the powers in show, without doing any substantial good.” Marathons? Awesome. Pole-vaulting? Not so much.

2. YOU’RE NEVER TOO BUSY TO GET FIT.

Then, as now, it was easy for students to sacrifice hitting the gym for another hour spent hitting the books. Whitman was a fan of well-rounded scholars, though. “If you are a student, be also a student of the body, a practiser of manly exercises,” he wrote, “realizing that a broad chest, a muscular pair of arms, and two sinewy legs will be just as much credit to you, and stand you in hand through your future life, equally with your geometry, your history, your classics, your law, medicine, or divinity. Let nothing divert you from your duty to your body.”

His wisdom has been borne out by recent studies, which have shown that exercise can boost memory and influence brain growth.

3. WALKING IS THE BEST FORM OF EXERCISE …

As might be expected from the author of poems like “Song of the Open Road” and “As I Walk, Solitary, Unattended,” Whitman was a huge fan of long walks, which no doubt helped him get his creative juices flowing. “Walking, or some form of it, is nature’s great exercise—so far ahead of all others as to make them of no account in comparison,” he wrote. Some modern doctors agree, saying that a brisk walk is one of the healthiest exercise methods around, even in the age of CrossFit. However, Whitman also recommended rowing, boxing, swimming, and tossing rocks into the air as great workouts.

Blue line drawing of two man in shorts boxing
Reprinted from WALT WHITMAN’S GUIDE TO MANLY HEALTH AND TRAINING Copyright © 2017 by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Art copyright © 2017 by Matthew Allen.

4. … AND IT WILL CURE YOUR DEPRESSION.

Whitman lived in a time before anti-depressants and mental health awareness campaigns, so his advice on curing the blues—or “the horrors,” as he dubbed it—is understandably a little simplistic. Essentially, he advises extreme exfoliation and taking a walk. He wrote: “If the victim of ‘the horrors’ could but pluck up energy enough, after turning the key of his door-lock, to strip off all his clothes and give his whole body a stinging rub-down with a flesh brush till the skin becomes all red and aglow—then, donning his clothes again, take a long and brisk walk in the open air, expanding the chest and inhaling plentiful supplies of the health-giving element—ten to one but he would be thoroughly cured of his depression, by this alone.”

5. HITTING THE GYM WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY.

Though Whitman’s exfoliation advice might not have been super helpful, recent research has shown that exercise can significantly boost moods, even among the clinically depressed. “The observance of the laws of manly training, duly followed, can utterly rout and do away with the curse of a depressed mind, melancholy, 'ennui,' which now, in more than half the men of America, blights a large portion of the days of their existence.” It would be a stretch to say that taking his training regimen could “utterly rout and do away with” depression, but he was right to think that it could help.

6. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

Whitman was an early proponent of #selfcare. “Guard your manly power, your health and strength, from all hurts and violations—this is the most sacred charge you will ever have in your keeping,” he declared.

7. STAND UP STRAIGHT.

Good posture can improve your breathing and guard against back pain, as Whitman intuited. “Always go with the head erect and breast expanded,” he wrote, “always throwing open the play of the great vital organs, inhaling the good air into the throat, lungs, and stomach, and giving tone to the whole system thereby.”

8. GET SOME SLEEP.

“The healthy sleep—the breathing deep and regular—the unbroken and profound repose—the night as it passes soothing and renewing the whole frame,” Whitman mused. (He never let things like “complete sentences” get in the way of his writing.) “Yes, nature surely keeps her choicest blessings for the slumber of health—and nothing short of that can ever know what true sleep is.” He was on to something—recent research has shown that sleep is, in fact, vital to our health and happiness. The poet recommended going to bed at 10 p.m. every night. (Arianna Huffington would approve.)

9. WORK OUT IN THE MORNING.

Whitman was definitely a morning person—he advised waking up at dawn or even before—and the preference extended to his workouts, too. “[A man] who is devoting his attention … to the establishment of health and a manly physique,” he wrote, “will do well to spend an hour of the forenoon (say from 10 to 11 o’clock) in some good exercises for the arms, hands, breast, spine, shoulders, and waist; the dumb-bells, sparring, or a vigorous attack on the sand-bags (a large bag, filled with sand, and suspended in such a position that it can be conveniently struck with the fists). This should be done systematically, and gradually increased upon making the exertion harder and harder.”

10. TAKE A BREATH OF FRESH AIR.

“Few know what virtue there is in the open air,” Whitman observed. He, of course, was well aware of the benefits. “Beyond all charms or medications, it is what renews vitality, and, as much as the nightly sleep, keeps the system from wearing out and stagnating upon itself.” Still, he probably wouldn’t be a fan of the modern “breatharianism” movement, whose adherents say they can survive on only air. (Whitman believed that a manly diet should include meat, preferably beef, and a lot of it.)

11. DITCH THE GYM MEMBERSHIP.

Whitman’s obsession with the outdoors extended beyond just taking the occasional walk. He believed you should never exercise indoors, especially not in a basement or anywhere with low ceilings. “Places of training, and all for gymnastic exercises, should be in the open air—upon the turf or sand is best,” he advised.

Blue line drawing of numbered dancing steps
Reprinted from WALT WHITMAN’S GUIDE TO MANLY HEALTH AND TRAINING Copyright © 2017 by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Art copyright © 2017 by Matthew Allen.

12. CUT A RUG TO GET CUT.

Dancing wasn’t just fun and games for old Walt. “We recommend dancing, as worthy of attention, in a different manner from what use is generally made of that amusement,” he wrote, “namely, as capable of being made a great help to develop the flexibility and strength of the hips, knees, muscles of the calf, ankles, and feet.” Unfortunately, he doesn’t say which steps are best to cultivate awesome calves.

13. TAKE A LOT OF BATHS.

“The tonic and sanitary effects of cold water are too precious to be foregone in some of their forms,” Whitman wrote. Weirdly, he seemed to believe that a cold bath would open your pores. “You cannot have a manly soundness, unless the pores of the skin are kept open, and encouragement given to the insensible perspiration, which in a live man is thrown off in great quantities, and the free egress of which is of the utmost importance,” he declared.

Though contemporary wisdom holds that warm water opens pores and cold water closes them, pores don’t actually change size depending on the temperature. Still, a little cold water can be healthy. One 2016 study found that people who took cold showers took fewer sick days from work, and a 2014 study suggested that cold water can activate calorie-burning brown fat stores.

14. DON’T FORGET TO WASH YOUR SOCKS.

Laundry day can play a role in staying fit and manly, according to Whitman. “The clothing of the feet is of importance; clean cotton socks in summer, and woolen in winter, carefully selected as to the size,” he advised. “These are little things, but on such little things much depends—yes, even the greatest results depend. And it is, perhaps, to be noted, that many a man who is mighty careful of his outside apparel—his visible coat, vest, neckcloth, jewelry, etc., is habitually careless of the fixings and condition of his feet.”

15. DON’T GO TO DOCTORS.

Whitman was not a huge fan of the medical profession, such as it was in his lifetime. “Occasionally the advice of an intelligent and conscientious physician may be necessary—and such men are to be found yet,” he conceded. “But, generally speaking, the benefit of medicine, or medical advice is very much overrated. Nature’s medicines are simple food, nursing, air, rest, cheerful encouragement, and the like. The art of the surgeon is certain and determined—that of the physician is vague, and affords an easy cover to ignorance and quackery. The land is too full of poisonous medicines and incompetent doctors—the less you have to do with them the better.” Considering that the practice of bloodletting continued well into Whitman’s time, his wariness wasn’t that unfounded. But today, having a good relationship with your general physician has been shown to improve longevity.

16. GROW A BEARD.

Whitman’s mistrust of doctors didn’t stop him from doling out his own form of quackery, of course. His method of warding off colds? Growing a beard. “The beard is a great sanitary protection to the throat—for purposes of health it should always be worn, just as much as the hair of the head should be,” he advised. “Think of what would be the result if the hair of the head should be carefully scraped off three or four times a week with the razor! Of course, the additional aches, neuralgias, colds, etc., would be immense.”

Blue line drawing of Walt Whitman walking
Reprinted from WALT WHITMAN’S GUIDE TO MANLY HEALTH AND TRAINING Copyright © 2017 by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Art copyright © 2017 by Matthew Allen.

17. INVEST IN GOOD SHOES.

In addition to his passion for clean socks, Whitman strongly believed in investing in quality shoes, preferably custom-made. “Probably there is no way to have good and easy boots or shoes, except to have lasts modeled exactly to the shape of the feet,” he thought. “This is well worth doing. Hundreds of times the cost of it are yearly spent in idle gratifications—while this, rightly looked upon, is indispensable to the comfort and health.”

18. BOIL YOUR POTATOES.

Long before the Atkins diet or the Paleo craze, Whitman took a stand against carbs. He did, however, allow for the use of potatoes, provided they were boiled and eaten for breakfast. “We have spoken against the use of the potato,” he reminded his readers. “It still remains to be said that if it agrees with you, and you are fond it of, it may be used; it is best properly boiled, at the morning meal. Do not partake of it, however, except in moderation.”

19. HAVE A DRINK EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE.

Whitman was a proponent of temperance, but he allowed that the occasional drink could be healthy. “A gentle and moderate refreshment at night is admissible enough; and indeed, if accompanied with the convivial pleasure of friends, the cheerful song, or the excitement of company, and the wholesome stimulus of surrounding good fellowship, is every way to be commended.”

20. HANG OUT WITH YOUR PALS.

Whitman knew that socializing was an important part of staying healthy. In fact, he recommended hanging out with friends every night. “The evenings ought to be devoted, to some extent at least, to friendly and social recreation (not dissipation, remember),” he wrote. “Friends may be visited, or some amusement, or a stroll in company—or any other means that will soothe and gratify the mind and the affections, friendship, etc.—for every man should pride himself on having such affection, and satisfying them, too.”

21. TAKE A VACATION.

In Whitman’s time, paid vacations and jet-setting travel bargains didn’t exist, but he still advised hitting the road every so often. “Often, a complete change of scene, associations, companionship, habits, etc., is the best thing that can be done for a man’s health (and the change is perhaps beneficial to a further extent in his morals, knowledge, etc.),” as he wrote. Studies have found that people who take vacations are less likely to have heart attacks and use fewer anti-depressants than those who slave away 365 days of the year.

Read more of Whitman’s manly tips here. The book is $11 on Amazon.

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This AI Tool Will Help You Write a Winning Resume
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For job seekers, crafting that perfect resume can be an exercise in frustration. Should you try to be a little conversational? Is your list of past jobs too long? Are there keywords that employers embrace—or resist? Like most human-based tasks, it could probably benefit from a little AI consultation.

Fast Company reports that a new start-up called Leap is prepared to offer exactly that. The project—started by two former Google engineers—promises to provide both potential minions and their bosses better ways to communicate and match job needs to skills. Upload a resume and Leap will begin to make suggestions (via highlighted boxes) on where to snip text, where to emphasize specific skills, and roughly 100 other ways to create a resume that stands out from the pile.

If Leap stopped there, it would be a valuable addition to a professional's toolbox. But the company is taking it a step further, offering to distribute the resume to employers who are looking for the skills and traits specific to that individual. They'll even elaborate on why that person is a good fit for the position being solicited. If the company hires their endorsee, they'll take a recruiter's cut of their first year's wages. (It's free to job seekers.)

Although the service is new, Leap says it's had a 70 percent success rate landing its users an interview. The rest is up to you.

[h/t Fast Company]

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8 Tricks to Help Your Cat and Dog to Get Along
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When people aren’t debating whether cats or dogs are more intelligent, they’re equating them as mortal foes. That’s a stereotype that both cat expert Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, and certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor want to break.

Typically, cats are aloof and easily startled, while dogs are gregarious and territorial. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't share the same space—they're just going to need your help. “If cats and dogs are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends,” Galaxy tells Mental Floss. “Or at the very least, they’ll tolerate each other.”

The duo has teamed up to host a new Animal Planet series, Cat vs. Dog, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show chronicles their efforts to help pet owners establish long-lasting peace—if not perfect harmony—among cats and dogs. (Yes, it’s possible.) Gleaned from both TV and off-camera experiences, here are eight tips Galaxy and Sandor say will help improve household relations between Fido and Fluffy.

1. TAKE PERSONALITY—NOT BREED—INTO ACCOUNT.

Contrary to popular belief, certain breeds of cats and dogs don't typically get along better than others. According to Galaxy and Sandor, it’s more important to take their personalities and energy levels into account. If a dog is aggressive and territorial, it won’t be a good fit in a household with a skittish cat. In contrast, an aging dog would hate sharing his space with a rambunctious kitten.

If two animals don’t end up being a personality match, have a backup plan, or consider setting up a household arrangement that keeps them separated for the long term. And if you’re adopting a pet, do your homework and ask its previous owners or shelter if it’s lived with other animals before, or gets along with them.

2. TRAIN YOUR DOG.

To set your dog up for success with cats, teach it to control its impulses, Sandor says. Does it leap across the kitchen when someone drops a cookie, or go on high alert when it sees a squeaky toy? If so, it probably won’t be great with cats right off the bat, since it will likely jump up whenever it spots a feline.

Hold off Fido's face time with Fluffy until the former is trained to stay put. And even then, keep a leash handy during the first several cat-dog meetings.

3. GIVE A CAT ITS OWN TERRITORY BEFORE IT MEETS A DOG.

Cats need a protected space—a “base camp” of sorts—that’s just theirs, Galaxy says. Make this refuge off-limits to the dog, but create safe spaces around the house, too. This way, the cat can confidently navigate shared territory without trouble from its canine sibling.

Since cats are natural climbers, Galaxy recommends taking advantage of your home’s vertical space. Buy tall cat trees, install shelves, or place a cat bed atop a bookcase. This allows your cat to observe the dog from a safe distance, or cross a room without touching the floor.

And while you’re at it, keep dogs away from the litter box. Cats should feel safe while doing their business, plus dogs sometimes (ew) like to snack on cat feces, a bad habit that can cause your pooch to contract intestinal parasites. These worms can cause a slew of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Baby gates work in a pinch, but since some dogs are escape artists, prepare for worst-case scenarios by keeping the litter box uncovered and in an open space. That way, the cat won’t be cornered and trapped mid-squat.

4. EXERCISE YOUR DOG'S BODY AND MIND.

“People exercise their dogs probably 20 percent of what they should really be doing,” Sandor says. “It’s really important that their energy is released somewhere else so that they have the ability to slow down their brains and really control themselves when they’re around kitties.”

Dogs also need lots of stimulation. Receiving it in a controlled manner makes them less likely to satisfy it by, say, chasing a cat. For this, Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training.

“Instead of just taking a walk, stop and do a sit five times on every block,” she says. “And do direction changes three times on every block, or speed changes two times. It’s about unleashing their herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.”

If you don’t have time for any of these activities, Zoe recommends hiring a dog walker, or enrolling in doggy daycare.

5. LET CATS AND DOGS FOLLOW THEIR NOSES.

In Galaxy's new book, Total Cat Mojo, he says it’s a smart idea to let cats and dogs sniff each other’s bedding and toys before a face-to-face introduction. This way, they can satisfy their curiosity and avoid potential turf battles.

6. PLAN THE FIRST CAT/DOG MEETING CAREFULLY.

Just like humans, cats and dogs have just one good chance to make a great first impression. Luckily, they both love food, which might ultimately help them love each other.

Schedule the first cat-dog meeting during mealtime, but keep the dog on a leash and both animals on opposite sides of a closed door. They won’t see each other, but they will smell each other while chowing down on their respective foods. They’ll begin to associate this smell with food, thus “making it a good thing,” Galaxy says.

Do this every mealtime for several weeks, before slowly introducing visual simulation. Continue feeding the cat and dog separately, but on either side of a dog gate or screen, before finally removing it all together. By this point, “they’re eating side-by-side, pretty much ignoring each other,” Galaxy says. For safety’s sake, continue keeping the dog on a leash until you’re confident it’s safe to take it off (and even then, exercise caution).

7. KEEP THEIR FOOD AND TOYS SEPARATE.

After you've successfully ingratiated the cat and dog using feeding exercises, keep their food bowls separate. “A cat will walk up to the dog bowl—either while the dog’s eating, or in the vicinity—and try to eat out of it,” Galaxy says. “The dog just goes to town on them. You can’t assume that your dog isn’t food-protective or resource-protective.”

To prevent these disastrous mealtime encounters, schedule regular mealtimes for your pets (no free feeding!) and place the bowls in separate areas of the house, or the cat’s dish up on a table or another high spot.

Also, keep a close eye on the cat’s toys—competition over toys can also prompt fighting. “Dogs tend to get really into catnip,” Galaxy says. “My dog loves catnip a whole lot more than my cats do.”

8. CONSIDER RAISING A DOG AND CAT TOGETHER (IF YOU CAN).

Socializing these animals at a young age can be easier than introducing them as adults—pups are easily trainable “sponges” that soak up new information and situations, Sandor says. Plus, dogs are less confident and smaller at this stage in life, allowing the cat to “assume its rightful position at the top of the hierarchy,” she adds.

Remain watchful, though, to ensure everything goes smoothly—especially when the dog hits its rambunctious “teenage” stage before becoming a full-grown dog.

Cat vs. Dog Airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet

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