Writer Matt Haig on how to stay sane in a mad and ever-evolving world ‘I don’t see us doing enough of sort of taking a step back and thinking, what is this doing to us.’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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How can we stay sane in a mad world?  That’s the question at the heart of Matt Haig’s new book, ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’ which is currently the number 1 bestseller in the UK.  He spoke to Miriam O’Callaghan about some of the challenges we face when trying to keep up with our modern, mediated world.

“I’m definitely not saying I have all the answers.  I am someone who has struggled myself with a lot of these issues.  I’ve had anxiety and depression on and off for 20 years now and what I was trying to do in this book is make us see and make myself see the connection between mental health and how we interact with the world and these very fast-changing societies we live in.”

Matt says that even if the internet brings a positive change to our lives, change itself can create uncertainty and we need to take a step back and pay attention to how it is impacting us.

“We talk about progress all the time but essentially… we’re cave people really.  We haven’t evolved biologically for 30,000 years yet, even in the last 10 years, how we live, how we work, how we communicate with each other, all those things have changed almost beyond recognition and I don’t see us doing enough of sort of taking a step back and thinking, what is this doing to us?”

In terms of his own online vice, Matt says he was a Twitter fanatic and needed to take stock of how this was contributing to his life and levels of happiness.

“There was that year of like uncertainty in the UK, of political craziness and everyone was sort of ranting and I got caught up in it and it would just ruin my weekend, arguing with a stranger in Texas who I would never meet in my life and he would never convince me of anything…  It’s not psychologically doing us good so what I was trying to do here I suppose is to look at it as a health issue…  Young people both in the UK and Ireland, the rates of anxiety are spiking and you know, there’s a lot of various complicated reasons for it but one of them is the speed of technological change we’re witnessing.”

Click here to listen to Today with Miriam O’Callaghan

© The Listener 2018

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