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Notes on a Nervous Planet

Build your very own twenty-first-century survival kit

By Matt Haig
15-minute read
Audio available
Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Notes on a Nervous Planet (2018) is a compassionate guide on how to stay happy and healthy in the messy, modern world. Drawing on personal experience, author Matt Haig explores how technology can exacerbate stress, depression and anxiety, and presents ways to guard against this.

  • People suffering from anxiety, depression and panic disorder
  • Anyone who just can’t put their phone down
  • Parents, educators and coaches interested in responsible technology use

Matt Haig is a British journalist and author who has written over 20 fiction and non-fiction books for both children and adults. His memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive, details his struggle with depression and was a number-one Sunday Times best-seller in the United Kingdom. His children’s books have been translated into over 25 languages.

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Notes on a Nervous Planet

By Matt Haig
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig
Synopsis

Notes on a Nervous Planet (2018) is a compassionate guide on how to stay happy and healthy in the messy, modern world. Drawing on personal experience, author Matt Haig explores how technology can exacerbate stress, depression and anxiety, and presents ways to guard against this.

Key idea 1 of 9

The world is faster and messier than ever, and it’s making us sick.

The modern world is a great place to live. There is less extreme poverty, hunger and violence than ever, and life expectancy is rising. But even though people live longer, more prosperous lives, they are also much more likely to be stressed, anxious and depressed. In industrialized nations all over the world, mental illness is on the rise. 

Perhaps one reason for this is all the environmental, political and cultural changes we are experiencing at the moment. Change makes people nervous. Just think about the ice caps melting, robots taking our jobs or fake news stealing elections, and the world can start to seem like a pretty scary place.

Of all these transformations, none is happening as rapidly as technological change. According to Moore’s Law, the processing power of computers doubles every few years. In the 1960s, when this observation was first made, a simple mathematical computer was the size of a car. Today you can carry the whole internet around in your pocket. 

This rapid technological progress may be at the root of many other changes, influencing everything from political elections to our body image. Social media, for example, has quickly become a huge part of our lives, with major impacts on how we relate to each other. Think about it – just a handful of years ago, no one knew what a selfie or a tweet was. Now we are constantly packaging, presenting and rating ourselves on social platforms.

But while technology is overhauled every few months, humans haven’t changed in thousands of years. No matter how many blue screens light up our homes at night, we still operate on the same internal clock as our ancestors did. We still need a healthy amount of sunlight, sleep and real-life social interaction. So, when we’re holed up inside for 14-hour workdays, emails keep us up at night and social media replaces human interaction, we deprive our bodies and minds of basic human needs. Like the author, you probably know from experience that too much technology, and social media, in particular, can exacerbate feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.

It’s high time we examine how our modern life intersects with mental health and find ways to protect ourselves from the negative effects of ever-faster technological change.

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