Perhaps you are reaching middle-age, or might even be preparing for your retirement, yet your feel as if you are in the middle of a desert in terms of making decisions about your life. It seems you have no power to change anything – and in consequence you become lethargic, careless about what you eat, don’t take enough sleep, drink too much. You know you are unhealthy, but can’t be bothered to do anything about it.

Everybody knows that a healthy body is associated with having a healthy mind; nevertheless we read little about what we can do to improve things in that direction. If we are unhappy we eat more, or drink more, or buy another packet of cigarettes, or another bottle of alcohol. Our sleep is interrupted and tomorrow we have no energy to exercise or the will to do it. Then we get stressed out and our world falls apart.

So what’s the answer? Psychologists tell us that the majority of problems in our lives develop because we have a bad relationship with our past. In everyday terms this means it is our reaction to what happened to us, sometimes many years ago, that causes our problems now. That may be difficult to believe, but it is true; to understand how this works might help us to improve our lives now – and hence our health!

Try to see your mind as a computer on which are stored all our memories: smells, sounds, sights, events, conversations and people. Some are happy memories, some are sad – and some could even be labelled as viruses and better swept off the mind’s hard disc completely. Getting rid of memory viruses is not as simple as geting rid of those on a computer, though it can be done. And here I hope to show you how.

Like a real computer, our mind has links which have an uncanny knack of being able to transport us from, say, a faintly smelled perfume in a restaurant to a quiet country cottage garden we visited when we were scarcely five years old. Or it could be the back of somebody’s head in a restaurant which reminds us of our first love.

For those who are not addicted to computers, a different way of visualising the mind may be to imagine it as a store-cupboard, its many shelves overflowing with a colourful array of packets and boxes.

Some of the boxes contain pleasurable items, reminders and memories which every time we take the box down from the shelf will enhance our current and future happiness. Others store what can only be described as goods which have well passed their use-by date. These are memories from our past which have the ability to contaminate everything that happens to us both now and in the future.

These boxes can be compared to bags of oatmeal or flour which have been left too long in an unsuitable environment and are now unfit for use. Imagine a bag of flour infested by weevils, multiplying by the second, which will soon invade anything which comes into contact with them.

The only way to rid the cupboard of its unwelcome inhabitants is to give it a good clean out, taking care to open every packet and box, and ensuring that only those which have a good and useful life are kept. We must throw out all those which are past their use-by date – as well as those which merely find themselves in the wrong cupboard or on the wrong shelf. Some boxes may simply have been pushed to the back of the shelf and left there until they started moving of their own accord like a bow full of maggots. We need to search these out and eliminaate them in the same way we would if they were viruses or worms on our computer.

The contents of infected memory boxes are events which at the time they occurred made us unhappy or downright miserable. Maybe this left us with feelings of inferiority, neglect, being abandoned, powerless, not being loved – whatever it was we felt at the time. Then as the hours, days, weeks, months, years passed, the bad feelings (like the weevils) multiplied and grew stronger.

The reason is that from time to time we have taken out these memories, re-lived them, enlarged upon them, fantasized about them in such a way that they have become more concentrated and have bound together one on top of another so that they have been transformed into one seething bitterness

. Perhaps we were abandoned as a child so that when we open that memory box something inside it does not allow us to get close to anyone in case they too abandon us in their turn.

Perhaps we were bullied at school and our self-confidence was put to flight. Nowadays that memory can cause us to imagine slights and threats where none exist, or to see challenges around every corner. Other memory boxes might carry a later sell-by date. We felt controlled by inflexible authority in our yourth, our lover left us for his secretary, we were overlooked for promotion by our boss, or maybe our children didn’t show us sufficient respect in our opinion. And so on…

Like weevils the bitterness spreads into every corner of our current life, it is picked at like an irritating sore, so it turns into hatred and a need to blame somebody else for our unhappiness.

Most of us know that bitterness and hatred are corrosive emotions; emotions which can eat into our well-being in the same way that an acid eats into metal. Yet still we allow them a place in our lives; allow them to determine how we live our lives. Why?

‘But I can’t help it, it wasn’t my fault’ I can hear many of you whose shelves contain out-of-date weevil packed boxes saying. ‘It was them, they wronged me.’

That might well be true. But I would stress that it is YOUR REACTION TO WHAT HAPPENED that is now causing you pain – maybe 10,20,30,40 years later. YOUR PAST IS NOW MAKING DECISIONS FOR YOU: you have given it that power.

Most of us would work very hard indeed to get rid of weevils in our store cupboards or viruses on our computer. So why not work hard to get rid of those in our minds preventing us from living more happily and healthily in the future. Maybe it is merely that we have no idea where to start, or how to do it. Part 2 of this article provides you with seven steps to help you. Good luck.(continues in Part 2)