Reading “Notes on a Nervous Planet”

I wasn’t sure I would like this book when I bought it. It was an impulse buy when I was browsing a small independent bookshop in my town. After walking around the shop for more than 15 minutes, I felt so observed by the owner that my social awkwardness made me buy something, anything. So I picked up this book.

I’d heard of Matt Haig before, and a few people have recommended his writing. I’m not usually into mental health books or anything resembling self-help, but this one seemed interesting.

notes on a nervous planet

Notes on a Nervous Planet is a collection of Haig’s thoughts on the technological and social advancements that are affecting our happiness, and how we’ve created a world that makes people anxious. The book is messily written, mixing essays with little stories and lists, jumping from one topic to another, and combining personal stories with history lessons. This format was purposely chaotic, and it made me enjoy the book more because, after a long and depressive or anxious-inducing chapter, there was a funny little story or a small list that helps you calm down before your mind starts spiralling, or at least it did for me.

Matt Haig writes about daily life things I barely think about, but that resonated a lot with me. Reading his opinions on consumerism, social media, social pressures, and education helped me put into words how I’ve felt most of my life.

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.

I loved reading Notes on a Nervous Planet, and it has easily joined my list of favourite books read in 2021. It’s not so much what Matt Haig writes but how it makes you feel. This book felt like sitting with a cup of tea and a cosy blanket on a rainy day and just reading your troubles away.

(…) find a good book. And sit down and read it. There will be times in your life when you’ll feel lost and confused. The way back to yourself is through reading. I want you to remember that. The more you read, the more you will know how to find your way through those difficult times.

My notes on the planet

My notes on the planet are that I’m tired. I’m tired of checking my phone every five minutes. So tired that social media is no longer just an option, a thing you joined in 2010, and then forgot you had created an account. The world seems to be designed in a way where everyone needs to be online these days. Our lives are so linked to social media and the internet that when I promised myself I would use my phone less and only check my accounts once a week, I felt out of the loop. I get my news from Twitter, book and album announcements from Instagram, and drawing or embroidery ideas from Pinterest. The days I don’t look at social media, I feel so disconnected and out of the loop that I spend too long catching up when I get my phone again.

I’m tired of having too many options and things to follow. I’m tired of all the noise every time I check Twitter and how I’m being bombarded with ads for stuff I should want, but I don’t anymore because it’s been advertised to me so many times.

This book was a helpful distraction. It helped me put my phone away, and I read it slowly, trying to make it last longer, so I could cancel all the noise around me.

People are craving not just physical space but the space to be mentally free. A space from unwanted distracted thoughts that clutter our heads like pop-up advertising of the mind in an already frantic world. And that space is still there to be found. It’s just that we can’t rely on it. We have to consciously seek it out.

I want to know if one of the reasons I sometimes feel like I am on the brink of a breakdown is partly because the world sometimes seems on the brink of a breakdown.

I know I’m not the only person who feels this way, and Matt Haig made me feel less alone. I don’t know what to expect of the future for our planet, Haig says to focus on the present but how can one focus on the present when the future looks so bleak? At least I know what I’m going to do after this, read all of Haig’s books.

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