Mini Reviews: Reasons to Stay Alive & Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Reasons to Stay Alive

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • Nonfiction
  • Self Help
  • Psychology/Mental Health
  • Hardcover
  • 266 pages
  • Goodreads rating: 4.11

Reasons to Stay Alive is Matt Haig’s memoir from the years his depression and anxiety were at their worst. Haig describes how he crawled out of his mental illness(es) step by step with the help of his girlfriend/wife.

“How to stop time: kiss.

How to travel in time: read.

How to escape time: music.

How to feel time: write.

How to release time: breathe.”

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

Reasons to Stay Alive is definitely my favourite one of these two books. It felt a little more hopeful, where Notes on A Nervous Planet felt more of an instruction manual at times. Reasons to Stay Alive felt like 266 warm hugs that you can just take when you need one. Every page shows you a different aspect of life that makes it worth living. Haig’s writing is so open and honest and I have the biggest respect for him that he is willing to share his own experiences in this way. This book, and Notes on a Nervous Planet too, may actually save lives. I recommend buying this books and just reading a couple of pages whenever you are having a bad day. It will make all the difference.

Notes on A Nervous Planet

Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Nonfiction
  • Self Help
  • Psychology/Mental Health
  • Paperback
  • 310 pages
  • Goodreads rating: 4.00

Notes on a Nervous Planet is a follow-up on Reasons to Stay Alive, although I read them in the “wrong” order. There are a lot of references to its predecessor, though none that you will not understand if you haven’t read Reasons to Stay Alive first.

Notes on a Nervous Planet explores how certain aspects of modern society can feed our anxiety and other mental illnesses (depression, eating disorders etc.). It describes how every technological advancement can also have its drawbacks, but also how to shield yourself from aspects of society that negatively influence your mood and mental health. The book focuses a lot on social media and the news, but there are sections on all sorts of subjects, such as the way we work and the importance of sleep.

The writing in Notes on a Nervous Planet (and Reasons to Stay Alive) is very accessible. Like I said about RtSA, the way Haig describes his own struggles with mental health is very open and honest. I especially like how he gets to the bottom of things like WHY supermarkets (a recurring theme in both books) can overwhelm people with anxiety so much. He explores the biology of it and explains that we were not made to have so many choices and so much stimulation at once. It makes you feel less guilty about having trouble with doing certain things or going certain places.

My other favourite thing from NoaNP was when Haig invented Psychograms. There is no unit in which you can measure the psychological weight of certain things, so Haig invented one: the Psychograms. Having to make a phone call costs 200pg for example. Going grocery shopping might cost 500pg, but watching a sappy movie or reading a good book may gain you some Psychograms. I’m all for implementing this system!

I tried to keep it short and sweet, but there was a lot to talk about, in Notes on a Nervous Planet especially. I’m currently reading The Comfort Book, so I’ll be back with a mini-review on that shortly.

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