Following the success of his memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive, which discussed his breakdown, depression and anxiety, Matt Haig is back, this time with more of a ‘how to’ guide which in his words asks the question “How can we live in a mad world without ourselves going mad?”
In a series of short but sweet chapters Notes on a Nervous Planet suggests how people can be happy – or happier at the very least – in the 21st century. With the world evolving quickly and technology taking over our lives, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with a constant stream of news and opinions (good and bad), social media and streaming television readily at our fingertips, and this book offers a way of dealing with this overload. Matt Haig discusses how modern culture can negatively impact people’s self-esteem and damage their mental health, how advertisers want their consumers to be unhappy because people with lower self-image will buy their products, and the negative way that mental health is portrayed in the media, but he also suggests ways to tune out and focus on what’s important.
From tips on how to cope with the stresses of modern life, how to exist in the 21st century and not have a panic attack and how to stay sane on the internet, Notes on a Nervous Planet is an enlightening read packed full of helpful suggestions. Haig also talks openly and honestly about his own experiences, including dealing with trolls on the internet and a particularly nasty panic attack in a supermarket, and also reveals the aspects of “switching off” that he finds particularly tough, such as being separated from his phone overnight. It’s not easy, he tells his readers, but it can help make you feel more positive and appreciate the world around you.
Notes on a Nervous Planet is a witty, honest and heartfelt guide, which is sincere rather than self-indulgent, and is sure to make its readers more aware of how they spend their time online and promote positive mental health. The chapters are brief but informative, with bulleted lists which are easy to follow and grab the attention, perfect for a world which now digests its news in 280-character tweets. While not everything that’s said is new, it’s helpful to have positive messages reinforced, and Haig offers some useful, practical tips on how to disconnect from technology, ignore negative opinions of strangers and to simply appreciate what you already have. It’s clear he wants to help his readers, and his advice includes switching off your phone; taking in your surroundings; focusing on people, places and experiences and, more importantly, to be kind to yourself and stop comparing yourself to others. So switch off those Twitter notifications, put down your phone, ignore that Netflix show you were watching and enjoy a read of this insightful book!
Notes on a Nervous Planet is published by Canongate and is out now.
This review was originally written for Love London Love Culture. To read the original, click here.