Notes on A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

  • How much I’d Recommend: 9/10
  • Date finished: 7/21/21
  • Notes on A Nervous Planet, Recommend borrowing from your local library

It’s a lovely book of short articles Matt Haig wrote about battling with anxiety and depression in his life. It’s quite funny and very informative. It actually made me feel very peaceful knowing someone out there is going through very similar things in life. I finished this book in 2 days and wrote down a lot of quotes. I am almost inclined to buy a copy of this book and keeping it to go back and read more – which doesn’t happen to me a lot. I’d still say, borrow it from the library first and see if it’s your cup of tea because it seems that people who’s never had anxiety/depression (or won’t admit they have) won’t be enjoying this book much.  

  • Couldn’t aspects of how we live in the modern world be responsible for how we feel in the modern world? Not just in terms of the stuff of modern life, but its values, too. The values that cause us to want more than we have. To worship work above play. To compare the worst bits of ourselves with the best bits of other people. To feel like we always lack something.
  • If the modern world is making us feel bad, then it doesn’t matter what else we have going for us, because feeling bad sucks. And feeling bad when we are told there is no reason to, well, that sucks even more.
  • it sometimes feels as if we have temporarily solved the problem of scarcity and replaced it with the problem of excess.
  • for instance, personally I need to know why i have a fear of slowing down, like i am the bus in Speed that would explode if it dropped below 50 miles per hour. The reason is simple, and partly selfish. I am petrified of where my mind can go, because I know where it has already been.
  • I am a catastrophizer. I don’t simply worry. No. My worry has real ambition. My worry is limitless. My anxiety – even when I don’t have capital-A Anxiety—is big enough to go anywhere. I have always found it easy to think of the worst-case scenario and dwell on it.
  • i worry that I upset people without meaning to. I worry that I don’t check my privilege enough. I worry about people being in prison for crimes they didn’t do. I worry about human rights abuses. I worry about prejudice and politics and pollution and the world my children and their entire generation are inheriting from us. I worry about all the species going extinct because of humans. I worry about my carbon footprint. I worry about all the pain in the world that I am not actively able to stop. I worry about how much I’m wrapped up in myself, which makes me even more wrapped up in myself.
  • Years before I ever had actual sex I found it easy to imagine I had AIDS, so powerful were the British Government’s terrifying public awareness TV slots in the 1980s.
  • I stepped off the Paris Metro and into wispy mouth-burning clouds of tear gas. At the time, covering my face with a scarf just to breathe, I thought it was a terrorist attack. It wasn’t. But simply thinking it was one was a kind of trauma. As Montaigne put it, “He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.”
  • Even the best news channels want high ratings, and over the years they work out what works and what doesn’t, and compete ever harder for attention, which is why watching news can feel like watching a continuous metaphor for generalized anxiety disorder. The various split screens and talking heads and rolling banners of incessant information are a visual representation of how anxiety feels.
  • The whole of consumerism is based on us wanting the next thing rather than the present thing we already have. This is an almost perfect recipe for unhappiness. We are not encouraged to live in the present. We are trained to live somewhere else: the future.
  • To see the act of learning as something not for its own sake but because of what it will get you reduces the wonder of humanity. We are thinking, feeling, art-making, knowledge-hungry, marvelous animals, who understand ourselves and our world through the act of learning. It is an end in itself. It has far more to offer than the things it lets us write on application forms. It is a way to love living right now.
  • Far and away the biggest regret [old people] had was fear. Many of Bronnie’s patients were in deep anguish that they had spent their whole loves worrying. Lives consumed by fear. Worrying what other people thought of them. A worry that had stopped them being true to themselves.
  • How to stop worrying about aging: understand that old people aren’t actually that worried about old age.
  • There was no clocks until the 16th century. 16th century pocket watches didn’t even have minute hand. But now, we have time, we were told what to do where to be when to do something. We often find ourselves wishing for more hours in the day, but that wouldn’t help anything. The problem, clearly, isn’t that we have a shortage of time. It’s more that we have an overload of everything else.
  • Don’t play the ratings game. The internet loves ratings, whether it is reviews on Amazon and Tripadvisor and Rotten Tomatoes, or the ratings of photos and updates and tweets. Likes, favorites, retweets. Ignore it. Ratings are no sign of worth. Never judge yourself on them. To be liked by everyone you would have to be the blandest person ever. William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest writer of all time. He has a mediocre 3.7 average on Goodreads.
  • Life isn’t about being pleased with what you are doing, but about what you are being.
  • How to be happy: Do not compare yourself to other people x10.
  • The cure for loneliness wasn’t always to have company, but to find a way to be happy with your own company. Not to be antisocial, but not to be scared of your own unaccompanied presence. She thought the cure to misery was to “decorate one’s inner house so rich that one is content there, glad to welcome anyone who wants to come and stay, but happy all the same when one is inevitably alone.”
  • When I first became ill, age the age of 24—when I “broke down”—the world became sharper. I felt the wearying pressure of advertising, the frantic madness of crowds and traffic, the suffocating nature of social expectation. But when I am well I forget those things. The trick is to keep hold of that knowledge. To turn recovery into prevention. To live how I live when I am ill, without being ill.
  • Don’t grab life by the throat. Life should be touched, not strangled.
  • To be aware of breath is to remember you are alive.
  • We are frequently encouraged to want the most extreme and exciting experiences. To act on a heady impulse for action. To “Just Do It” as Nike always used to bark at us, like a self-help drill instructor. As if the very point of life is found via winning a gold medal or climb Mount Everest or headlining Glastonbury or having a full-body orgasm while sky-diving over the Niagara Falls. And I used to feel the same. I used to want to lose myself in the most intense experiences, as if life was simply a tequila to be slammed. But most of life can’t be lived like this. To have a chance of lasting happiness, you have to calm down. You have to just be it as well as just do it.
  • Don’t let anyone or anything make you feel you aren’t enough. Don’t feel you have to achieve more just to be accepted. Be happy with your own self, minus upgrades. Stop dreaming of imaginary goals and finishing lines. Accept what marketing doesn’t want you to: you are fine. You lack nothing.

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