Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

IMG_0579“There is no standard normal.  Normal is subjective.  There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet.”

In Reasons to Stay Alive, author Matt Haig recounts his experience with depression and anxiety.  It is part memoir and part self-help book, which very effectively describes what it is like to live with depression and anxiety while at the same time being informative and comforting.

Matt Haig is the author of one of my favourite books, The Humans.  When I learned that the first Canadian edition of Reasons to Stay Alive was being released, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.  I found it to be one of the best books regarding mental health that I have come across.  It shares very personal experiences, emotions, and struggles that are described and presented in a relatable way.

“When you are depressed you feel alone, and that no one is going through quite what you are going through.  You are so scared of appearing in any way mad you internalise everything, and you are so scared that people will alienate you further you clam up and don’t speak about it, which is a shame, as speaking about it helps.”

The author breaks everything down into a simple and easy to read format, using lists along with short and concise chapters.  Reasons to Stay Alive is brave, honest, and hopeful.  I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, whether you struggle with depression/anxiety or have a loved one who is.

“Talk.  Listen.  Encourage talking.  Encourage listening.  Keep adding to the conversation.  Stay on the lookout for those wanting to join in the conversation.  Keep reiterating, again and again, that depression is not something you ‘admit to’, it is not something you have to blush about, it is a human experience.”

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

IMG_0467“The fact is, no one-size-fits-all solution exists.  It’s easy to dream that if we copy the habits of productive, creative people, we’ll win similar success.  But we each must cultivate the habits that work for us.”

In Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin tackles the subject of habits, and how we can not only change them but understand them.  The key to change being knowing ourselves and understanding our habits.  The author presents a framework through which we can do this, starting with The Four Tendencies as described in the book:

Upholders – respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations.
Questioners – question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified.
Obligers – respond readily to outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations.
Rebels – resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

By recognizing your tendency, you learn what may or may not work for you, which allows you to develop a foundation for success.  From there the author explores a variety of tools and topics related to habits, from strategies to excuses.  Better Than Before recognizes that everyone is different and what works for others, what is successful for them, may not yield results for you.

I developed a much better understanding of my own tendencies (a total Obliger), and traps I fall into when trying to develop habits that will benefit me.  A lightbulb went off for me several times while reading this book.  I recognized the excuses, and more importantly why certain methods I was using were absolutely not working for me and what I can do that will work for me.  That is what I truly appreciated about this book.  It doesn’t sell or promote one specific idea, but instead gives you the information and the tools you need in order to learn what strategies may work for you.

The book is very well researched and the author’s passion for the topic is evident.  Her voice, humour, stories, and examples make it not only an informative but an enjoyable read as well.  I would love to see a more condensed version of this book that would act as a pocket guide or quick reference as I know I will be re-visiting its ideas often.

If you struggle with making the changes you want in your life, or find yourself stuck in any way, I absolutely recommend you check out this book.  At the end of the day, the work is yours to do, and Better Than Before is a great place to start.

“Whenever you read this, and wherever you are, you’re in the right place to begin.”

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day

BLOG“There will be video game references galore, and at one point you may say to yourself, ‘This book might be too nerdy even for ME.’  But the heart of my story is that the world opened up for me once I decided to embrace who I am – unapologetically.”

Felicia Day rose to fame with her internet show The Guild and has found tremendous success online with her shows as well as in her acting career.  She is an actor, a producer, a director, a writer, a violinist, a math genius, a gamer… I may be missing at least five more.  She is one accomplished individual.

“It’s hard being weird. No—it’s hard living in a culture that makes it hard.”

I wasn’t familiar with Felicia Day before reading her book so I was not sure what to expect.  During the time You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) was being released, I watched an interview with her and she just came across as a very charming, funny, and quirky person.  Who doesn’t love charming, funny, and quirky?  All of these qualities translate into her memoir, which is such a fun read.  She takes us through her “hippie” upbringing, interesting childhood stories, the mastering of violin and mathematics, her acting career, and of course the evolution of her relationship with gaming and how she created her own success in the online world.  With humour and the awesome use of Photoshop (A+ use of images), You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) is a memoir that can be enjoyed by anyone, whether you are a gamer or not.  And if you don’t know Felicia Day yet, you should!

“My story demonstrates that there’s no better time in history to have a dream and be able to reach an audience with your art.  Or just be as weird as you want to be and not have to be ashamed.  That lesson’s just as legit.”

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

photo 1-5“Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.” 

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is a motivational and inspiring take on creativity and living a creative life. Elizabeth Gilbert approaches the subject through six sections: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity.  She addresses these different topics, simplifying the creative process, making it less daunting, and adding a sense of fun.

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred.  What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.  We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.  We are terrified, and we are brave.  Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything.”

This book really spoke to me.  I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s perspective and found it to be refreshing in its lighthearted nature.  Especially interesting is her discussion of rejection and ego, her opinion on higher education when it comes to the arts, the pressures of “topping” your previous work that may have achieved a high level of success, as well as the distinction she makes between being a genius and having genius.

I feel this book is relatable whatever your creative endeavour, and particularly encouraging for writers as Gilbert uses many of her own stories and experiences throughout.  I would recommend Big Magic to anyone who is looking to add more creativity to their life, is pursuing a creative endeavour, or may be stuck in the creative process.  It may be the inspiration you are looking for.

“Do whatever brings you to life, then.  Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions.  Trust them.  Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

Do Your Om Thing by Rebecca Pacheco

“Yoga is not useful to a life we should live, in a world we wish we had. It is meant for our lives now in this world, as it is. It is not about manufacturing a utopian existence free of setbacks; it’s about removing obstacles whenever possible and mastering our own attention and perception when it’s not.”

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Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life is a comprehensive guide to yoga and ways in which we can take our practice off the mat and into our daily lives.  It is divided into four sections: Yoga: Ancient and Modern, The Body, The Mind, The Spirit.

The book is well organized and written in a very relatable way.  I enjoyed all the sections and learned a lot from each, particularly The Body and The Mind. There is a lot of information and material out there about yoga, along with quite a few misconceptions.  Do Your Om Thing condenses all that information and addresses the misconceptions, presenting the key aspects of yoga, helpful notes, exercises and their benefits.  Above all, it shows us ways we can adapt the practice to our lives.  I feel this is a great book for anyone looking to deepen their yoga practice and their knowledge.  It is also a great resource for those looking to try yoga but would like a better understanding of the subject.  Do Your Om Thing is an informative and helpful guide.

Favourite quote: “Stop fleeing the moment and your Self in favour of quick comforts. Look inside. Pull up a chair in the quiet room of your own mind and learn to be comfortable there. Find happiness there. If you can’t, you will not find it elsewhere.”