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Notes on a Nervous Planet
The world is messing with our minds.
Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.
- How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad?
- How do we stay human in a technological world?
- How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?
After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him. Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the twenty-first century.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
I don’t go in for self help books, on account of the little anarchist inside refusing to take instruction. However, technology use is a subject that I - and a huge swathe of others - could do with some guidance on. Matt Haig shares and articulates wonderfully a lot of my own anxieties about social media and smartphone development. And more specifically my, and others’, lack of discipline in utilising this technology.
I suppose the reason that this book is so appealing to someone who hates being offered help is that Matt Haig’s meandering, thoughtful prose is so contemplative. He’s not always churning out solutions and instructions. Indeed a lot of the book is spent detailing all the bad things, leaving me briefly feeling pretty hopeless about the future before the text drifts once more onto the good things, humanity and potential.
The structure of the book is, intentionally, digital-media-user-friendly. Matt calls it messy. Lots of headings, short chapters, short paragraphs, bullet points, lists. Partly, this adds to the humanity of the text. The words feel like they’ve come straight from the author’s head (and the book has probably gone through a thorough and lengthy editing process to appear this way!) but in the main it mirrors the form of online content. It’s easy to read and to digest. So there’s no excuse not to give it a go!
In a timely way, while I’m writing this my mother just sent me a WhatsApp containing the words “this too will pass”… I’d been moaning to her about my children moaning to me! This is the connective, supportive side of social media. They are words that encompass the sentiment of this book. Get too fixated on the likes, retweets and notifications and you’ll feel your blood pressure rise. Let it pass.
Matt Haig’s story hangs on his experiences with anxiety and depression and how social media and online connectivity have intersected with these experiences. The one is not directly blamed on the other but they ebb and flow, feed and recede. So in addition to thoughts on how to cope with life online, this book is a revealing exploration of anxiety. How it feels (for Matt anyway) and how it forms part of a life. Lots of lives, actually.
The anecdotes and flights of fancy that feature in this book do not come at the expense of advice and solutions - there are lists and lists of those. And like any lifestyle text, in the main they are actions that are very straightforward. You already know you should be doing it but you’re not. Matt Haig is also not, which is why I love him! He writes so warmly and honestly, sandwiching each list of ‘solutions’ with evidence that of course he fails in these commandments. Because he is human. Which is the key to it all I guess.
We are implored in this book to accept ourselves as human, as individuals. To see the humans behind the profile pictures, the humans behind the filters. Perhaps we’d see a drop in online nastiness if we could all do this. It’s not a solution to the world’s ills: there will always be bullies with or without the internet. But for those feeling a nagging sense of imbalance or who are seeking to have a more positive relationship with their technology, this is a great place to start.
If I could, I’d post a copy of Notes on a Nervous Planet to every member of a couple of local town Facebook groups who can be inclined to nastiness. However, both my finances and data protection laws stand in the way of this particular course of action. So I’ll have to hope that they all read the BOOKS etc blog instead…!
An honest and human guide to coping with the modern world . . . Notes on a Nervous Planet is generous, sensible and timely. Reading it will probably be good for your mental health. Especially if you leave your smartphone in another room . . . Thought-provoking * * Guardian * * Beautiful, honest and wise -- FEARNE COTTON Notes on a Nervous Planet is a fascinating look at the link between anxiety and the world we live in . . . [Haig is] one of our warmest, wittiest and wisest writers * * Mail on Sunday * * Genius -- RUBY WAX Haig's bestseller Reasons to Stay Alive was an engaging self-help memoir which mined personal trauma for valuable life lessons. This follow-up is a rag-bag of personal experience, thoughts and feelings . . . some thought-provoking, some pertinent and important . . . He's a smart operator who knows his readership and genuinely wants to help them -- Bel Mooney * * Daily Mail * * Take Notes on a Nervous Planet twice daily, with or without food. The book is crammed with wisdom, insight, love and wit -- STEPHEN FRY Haig tackles everything from internet anxieties, phone fears to life overload, putting the chaos into beautiful words * * Sunday Post * * A primer for how to live in the present moment. This book will find grateful readers everywhere -- NIGELLA LAWSON Essential for anyone who suffers from anxiety and depression - and anyone who cares for someone who does. An insightful, personal, practical guide on how to cope with modern-day stresses * * Good Housekeeping * * Matt Haig has written really something rather special here - the definitive user manual for your own head. It's a self-help book that - unusually for the genre - talks in sensible, practical terms not in vague aphorisms and allegories. Recommended for anyone who's ever wobbled, and that's all of us -- ADAM KAY