Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig
In 2015 Matt Haig published Reasons to Stay Alive, a book of painfully honest recollections of his own struggle with mental health and what people can do to help themselves. The book gained incredible reviews from broadsheets, bloggers and celebrities to become a Sunday Times number one bestseller.
A couple of years on, although Matt had changed his life to include exercise and regular sleeping patterns to improve his mental health, he found anxiety creeping back into his world. After taking a step back, he realised that advances in technology, especially social media and the constant availability of news, were rekindling an anxiety he thought he’d managed to extinguish.
Thanks to the internet we are both blessed and completely overwhelmed by choice and information, especially information on other people’s lives. Constant comparison and FOMO (fear of missing out) have become the consequences of being bombarded by carefully edited highlights from people lives across the world.
One subject that Matt highlights as anxiety-inducing that I can definitely relate to is the news. I’ve always been happier not watching the news on TV but have also felt a guilt over not keeping up-to-date on what’s going on around me. After a long break from television news, I found myself watching a bit of it last week and I felt the effects almost immediately. It’s overwhelmingly depressing, especially due to our current political climate and completely changed my frame of mind in minutes; so I’m done with it.
Not many people have the amount of Twitter followers that Matt Haig has but his struggles with social media are applicable to most of us. I’m guilty of reaching for my phone before I’ve even got up in the morning and staying awake longer than I want at night because I’m trawling through my feed in bed. I won’t be giving it up and he doesn’t ever recommend that you do but explains how he managed to disconnect more by making sure his phone was charged downstairs overnight so he couldn’t check it in bed. The fact that this idea makes me nervous right away is probably a sign that I should take that advice!
Notes on a Nervous Planet is made up of insights and advice on how to deal with a world that is advancing at such an incredible rate. The chapters (if that’s the correct way to describe them) are often 1-2 pages, perfect for the limited attention span of the Instagram generation and people struggling with anxiety and mental health problems. It also makes the advice and ideas easily digestible; just be careful not to race through it and miss the contemplation that is really required to make the most of a book like this.
I fell in love with Matt Haig’s writing when I read The Humans back in 2013 and I continue to be blown away by every different genre he turns his hand to. A Boy Called Christmas is a children’s story I have listened to every year since it was published, the audiobook being the perfect accompaniment to wrapping Christmas presents. I’d never read a self-help book until Reasons to Stay Alive and it certainly opened my eyes to why the genre is needed. I’ve been very lucky and privileged to grow up in a home that is very open about mental health, but you only have to see some people’s overly aggressive reactions to books like this, paired with the male suicide rate to realise that this isn’t as common as it should be.
Notes on a Nervous Planet is an important conversation starter and an aid to minimising anxiety in a fast-paced world where we still don’t feel we have enough time. Where Reasons to Stay Alive was a lifesaver, Notes on a Nervous Planet is a life-changer. This book encourages you to break away from the everyday technology addictions that can bring you down and manage them in a healthier way. Anyone that can help people and in such a wonderful way as writing a book as unique as this is a star in my eyes.
Read my review on Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Read my review of The Humans by Matt Haig