A while ago I read ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig (you can read my book review of it here) and absolutely loved it, so naturally I decided to read the sequel ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet.’
I would say that, whilst the sequel has some moments dedicated to mental health, it doesn’t have as much as ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’, but there’s only so much you can say about a certain topic. I actually really liked the direction ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’ took – it talks about why we come to have mental health problems, rather than how they affect us. The world around us is so jam-packed full of technology and possessions that it’s hard to stop and think. Instead, we end up doing the opposite and overthinking everything.
There is one part of the book that I found really interesting and that’s the passage on time. It goes as follows:
“We are too aware of numerical time and not aware enough of natural time. People for thousands of years may have woken up at seven in the morning. The difference with these last few centuries is that now we are waking up because it is seven in the morning. We go to school or college or work at a certain time of day, not because that feels the most natural time to do so, but because that is the time that has been given to us. We have handed over our instincts to the hands of a clock. Increasingly, we serve time rather than time serving us. We fret about time. We wonder where time has gone. We are obsessed with time.”
And Haig is completely right. How are we meant to be content with whatever we are doing when there are always other things on our mind – things that we need to get done before a certain time and within a certain time? We are never really focused on one thing because we know there are other things. And the fact that we don’t have all the time in the world means we tend to rush these things or give them less attention. This must do so much to our brains. It trains them into thinking that everything must be done at double the speed. It feeds us with anxiety because we know we can never get everything completely done within the time limit. It’s like a race we can’t ever completely finish.
This made me think a lot about my own life – the way I rush about to do things and always distract myself with things to the point that I never actually enjoy a whole day without the stress of my phone or deadlines or people. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to sit in an open space, all alone, with nothing but myself. I don’t think I would be able to stand it. And that’s what is so wrong about this world. If I can’t sit with myself in an empty space then I’m way too attached to the bad habits of this planet and I need to detach myself. But how?
Today I decided to take a break from technology. I felt a bit depressed and wanted nothing more than to detach myself from the world and everyone in it. So I turned my phone off. And it’s been a while since I’ve done that. I shut all my notifications and phone-related stresses out of the day for 5 hours and for once I focused solely on me, and not anyone else. Before I knew it, my day became really productive. I de-cluttered my desk and, consequently, de-cluttered my brain and I felt so much happier after doing so. I turned my phone back on knowing that I actually did something useful today and that although I missed a lot of notifications, they weren’t urgent. They can wait 5 hours. It makes no difference.
And with 2019 only just beginning, I hope to take more days out like this. To detach myself from the nervous planet that Matt Haig speaks of and to reattach myself in a way that gives me space and time to figure out what is most important. So if you’re having a bad day and you don’t know how to save yourself, give yourself some space; turn off your phone and find a quiet corner to read.
You can view my reviews of Matt Haig’s other books below:
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