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Notes on a Nervous Planet
by Matt Haig
Age Group/Genre: Non-Fiction
Publication date: July 5th, 2018
Publisher: Canongate Books
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 21st century.
I loved Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive, which had been just what I needed when I was hospitalized for depression. My battered paperback copy is full of post-its and highlighted passages.
Haig’s follow-up, Notes on a Nervous Planet, is less about his personal mental health story and more about information overload in the digital era. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s Maybelline, maybe I read it at the wrong moment, but I felt very anxious the whole time I was reading it. I didn’t get as much of a positive, hopeful feeling from it as I did with Reasons.
Besides anxiety, the book also discusses technology, the news, consumerism, politics, ageing, work, and our rapidly declining environment. The parts on hypochrondia were painfully relatable. Just as in Reasons, the chapters are short and easy to comprehend. Matt Haig does a fantastic job of making his books accessible, unlike so much other non-fiction out there.
If you are addicted to your phone and/or feel generally overwhelmed, I’d recommend you check this book out. It got me back into using Forest again, an app that plants a digital tree in your own digital forest for each session you don’t use your phone, with times ranging from 10 minutes to 2 hours. I became a lot more aware of my mindless scrolling habit and often considered: “Is this how I want to be spending my precious time right now?”
I sometimes feel like my head is a computer with too many windows open. Too much clutter on the desktop. There is a metaphorical spinning rainbow wheel inside me. Disabling me.
We can pick up a device and contact people a whole hemisphere away. We can, when choosing a holiday, look at the reviews of people who stayed in our desired hotel last week. We can look at satellite images of every road in Timbuktu. When we are ill, we an go to the doctor and get antibiotics for illnesses that could once have killed us. We can go to a supermarket and buy dragon fruit from Vietnam and wine from Chile. If a politician says or does something we disagree with, it has never been easier to voice that disagreement. We can access more information, more films, more books, more everything, than ever before.
Employment is becoming a dehumanising process, as if humans existed to serve work, rather than work to serve humans.