Hello there! Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig made a huge impact on me as you’ll know from my July favourites post. Having experienced mental health issues myself, I want to share my thoughts on why this book is a must read.
I first off have to thank Ruth in Revolt. If it wasn’t for her competition on Twitter, I might not have come across this book. Yes, I received my copy for free, but buying the book won’t break the bank. On Amazon, it only costs £4 and I guarantee that it is worth far more than this. The book is quite literally life-changing.
What is Notes on a Nervous Planet about?
Without wanting to regurgitate too much content, Notes on a Nervous Planet provides an in-depth analysis of the modern day world, and of how many things in our everyday lives induce stress and anxiety.
It’s safe to say Matt Haig is qualified to write this book. Not only has his work been published many times before Notes on a Nervous Planet, but he knows what it feels like to suffer mental health problems.
I love how honest he is about his life and it’s great to see a man speaking up about mental health, especially when suicide is ‘the biggest killer of men under the age of 50’. Matt Haig is a role model to men out there. Don’t ever listen to people who say you should get over yourself and snap out of it. The real strength is in accepting mental health issues and not being afraid to speak out and ask for help. That applies to everyone, but phrases such as ‘man up’ or ‘be a man’ are not helping men in particular.
Reading the book
I have to admit, I’m finding it increasingly hard to read a fiction book that really interests me. I start reading a book and I struggle to connect to the characters and never finish it. Whether that’s because I’m choosing the wrong books or there are books with similar plotlines, I don’t know.
The fact that Notes on a Nervous Planet is not a fiction book was therefore refreshing. There are 310 pages, the chapters are small and the text per page is minimal. The layout itself makes reading this book little effort. What I loved in particular is the writing style. Matt Haig’s voice is chatty and personal, and I felt like I made a friend whilst reading. I finished the book in 4 days, something unheard of for me.
You don’t have to read the book solidly either. If you just want to dip in every so often and reassure yourself with words of wisdom, that’s fine too. I know I will be going back to it again.
Things I learnt
There were 3 things that struck me most when reading Notes on a Nervous Planet. I’m not sure if things is the right word. I guess features of the modern world that cause unwanted stress and anxiety is more appropriate.
Social Media and the Internet
A relevant item not only for blogging, but everyone else. Technology is taking over our lives.
There are plenty of positives regarding technology and more specifically the Internet. Blogging would not exist for starters and I love my blog so much. It gives me a platform to share my love of writing and thoughts on life. The Internet enables me to discover new opportunities. My freelance writing job, which has kept my bank account a tad healthier at uni, is down to the Internet. I have met amazing people through blogging, some of whom I now consider friends.
What’s more, the ability to research and improve our knowledge is available at our fingertips. There’s a never ending bank of information out there.
That’s part of the problem though. There’s too much. There’s so always something more we could have. Matt Haig highlights the problem of ‘want’. Increasingly, the modern generation is never satisfied. We are always after something bigger, something better. I say ‘we’ as I am a guilty party just like everyone else.
Since starting my blog, I have realised this even more. There’s a constant pressure to get more views, more followers and earn money from blogging etc. The social media statistics addiction is real and is just one of many reasons given in Notes on a Nervous Planet that causes a rise in our constant staring down at smartphones. But why?
I know if you want to take blogging to a career level, brands like to see that you have a high following, so they know that they’re being advertised to lots of people. For me, you shouldn’t start a blog for the sole purpose of gaining thousands of followers and becoming ‘Insta famous’. The only person creating that pressure is you.
I blog because writing makes me happy and it’s great meeting other bloggers who share that love. If someday I am able to blog as a full-time job, that would be incredible, but I’m fine if that doesn’t happen. I’d rather have less followers, but who genuinely enjoy my content. I hate this follow/unfollow business on Instagram etc. Gaining more followers in that way is not the right mindset to have. It’s not a competition.
Social media and advertising causes problems relating to body confidence. How many times have you seen an Instagram photo of a woman on a beach with a flat stomach and perfectly toned legs or a man with a six pack and big arm muscles? How many times have you seen a magazine cover about how to get a beach body?
I’m not sure who originally said this quote, but this is what magazines should really be reporting. ‘How to have a beach body: 1) have a body 2) go to the beach’. It’s as simple as that.
Matt Haig realises the pressures that people feel to look a certain way. The media takes a big chunk of the blame for this. If a female celebrity is pictured by paparazzi wearing a loose top, pregnancy rumours are soon in circulation. Things like this are leading people to photoshop their bodies and go on crazy diets that aren’t in the least bit healthy amongst other things. I saw a product line in New Look the other day with the phrase ‘Shredding for the Wedding’. Given that New Look’s target audience are young women/girls who don’t need to lose the slightest bit of weight, shops themselves aren’t helping the situation.
Women aren’t the only ones affected by body confidence. Men are also under pressure. It’s all gyms, protein shakes and who can have the biggest muscles. It’s horrible, unhealthy and needs to stop.
Yes, we need to do exercise and eat a balanced diet to stay healthy, but there’s no need to push it to the extremes. Be proud of who you are, no matter what your shape and size. Anyway, I love chocolate and there’s no way I’m giving that up for the sake of a slightly slimmer waistline.
Beauty and aging
Similar to body confidence, but Notes on a Nervous Planet has wonderful section specifically on makeup and skincare. One thing that struck me the most was the issue with anti-ageing products and the constant barrage of advertising persuading people to buy a face cream or something to maintain your youth. This is misleading. As Haig so rightfully points out, we cannot anti-age. Even the name of these products is lying to you straight away. They can’t make you a year younger. Embrace the aging instead. It’s natural and honest.
The most important message for me. Acceptance is key. Whether it’s accepting that you suffer from mental health issues, accepting your body or accepting the fact that technology is taking over our lives. Once we accept something, we can learn how to deal with it. Even if you haven’t experienced mental health problems, accept that other people do and offer your support.
With all that in mind, I’m accepting that this is post is getting very long and I’m going to sign off now. Whilst it may seem like I have written a lot, it barely touches the surface of what Notes on a Nervous Planet is about. Every page is treasure trove of life-changing thoughts. If you’re going to only one read book in your life, I’d give this one a chance.
Thank you, Matt Haig, for bringing this truly enlightening book into the world.