The first time I read this book was in the summer of 2018 and, though I loved it when I first read it, over the last year it has become even more relevant to me. Since starting university my life has gone from 0-100 and with it my mental health has been a little rockier than it used to be. So rereading this book a few days ago, I thought it might be beneficial to write a review and share some of it’s wise words.
The first thing that makes this book a refreshing read is it’s frankness about the realities of mental illness from a male perspective. Haig criticises the toxic stereotypes surrounding male displays of emotion, and speaks openly about his experience suffering from extreme depressive episodes and anxiety. With the perfect balance of personal anecdotes and statistics from scientific studies, he opens up conversations regarding mental health across both genders.
He discusses the truth about social media that we need constant reminding of – most of the time it is damaging.
‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’Theodore Roosevelt
Instagram and Facebook often lead us to comparing the worst bits of ourselves with the carefully-selected best bits of others. If used in the right ways, social media can be social, and a place for people who feel alone in a situation to find others who understand. But it can also make people feel insecure through constantly comparing their lives and bodies to friends, influencers and even models.
‘Do not seek out stuff that makes you unhappy. Do not measure your own worth against other people.’Matt Haig
In September I deleted Instagram for 6 months. I have always been insecure about my body and used to strive to be the ‘skinniest’. Growing up and inevitably gaining weight terrified me, and seeing perfect bodies on Instagram was beginning to drag my confidence down even further.
The book focuses on the fact the world is overloading us – if it was a person, it would be turning mad. Haig discusses the negative aspects of society to make us aware and therefore able to detach ourselves from them. With chapters on news, the negative intentions of marketing, sleep and the internet, he addresses many modern concepts that have contributed towards a rise in mental illnesses across the last the last 20 years.
The most important element of this book is its message of hope. Yes, the world may be going a little crazy, but it is possible to lead a happy life among the chaos. The solutions he gives revolve around disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature, our bodies and our minds. Stop fighting against the clock; stop comparing yourself to others; stop worrying about insignificant things; stop being afraid of changing your perspective on the world.
He preaches acceptance – of our bodies, our current situations, the situations of others and the fact that we can’t plan our future; we just have to let it be. This is something that really hit home for me. I worry incessantly about everything, especially things that might happen in the future but probably won’t, or if they do are out of my control anyway. The way to combat this is to live in the moment; why delay happiness to a point in the future (when I have a job, when I have a house…) instead of just being happy right now?
‘Maybe the point of life is to give up certainty and to embrace life’s beautiful uncertainty’Matt Haig
The final chapter, entitled Everything you are is enough, reminded me that comparison is futile – to be happy, we must realise that we are already complete people, and that instead of seeking more all we need are the simple things. All we need is food, water, music, shelter, people to talk to and care for and love and that in itself constitutes a full life.
Talking is the most important thing. Being there for other people to talk to is the most important thing. You don’t have to be 100% put together, you can be a mess but still a happy mess.
Finally, I want to end quoting my favourite page of the book – a list of things to always remember.
Feeling you have no time doesn’t mean you have no time.
Feeling you are ugly doesn’t mean you are ugly.
Feeling anxious doesn’t mean you need to be anxious.
Feeling you haven’t achieved enough doesn’t mean you haven’t achieved enough.
Feeling you lack things doesn’t make you less complete.Matt Haig
I have attached a link to the book on Amazon, I would highly recommend it as a little guide to keeping calm when things get tough and remembering the things that really matter.