How to Live

Sometimes I come across things that I just love and want to share. Today is one of those days.

In the book Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig details his story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over illness, and learned how to live again. It’s a book about living better, loving better, and feeling more alive.

Matt Haig states, “I wrote this book because the oldest cliches remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it . . . Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.”

Below are “forty pieces of advice I (Matt Haig) feel to be helpful” but which he doesn’t always follow:

1.Appreciate happiness when it is there.

2. Sip, don’t gulp

3. Be gentle with yourself. Work less. Sleep more.

4. There is absolutely nothing in your past that you can change. That is basic physics.

5. Beware of Tuesdays. And Octobers.

6. Kurt Vonnegut was right. “Reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found.”

7. Listen more than you talk.

8. Don’t feel guilty about being idle. More harm is probably done to the world through work than idleness. But perfect your idleness. Make it mindful.

9. Be aware that you breathing.

10. Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.

11. Hate is a pointless emotion to have inside you. It is like eating a scorpion to punish it for stinging you.

12. Go for a run. Then do some yoga.

13. Shower before noon.

14. Look at the sky. Remind yourself of the cosmos. Seek vastness at every opportunity. , in order to see the smallness of yourself.

15. Be kind.

16. Understand that thoughts are thoughts. If they are unreasonable, reason with them, even if you have no reason left. You are the observer of your mind, not its victim.

17. Do not watch TV aimlessly. Do not go on social media aimlessly. Always be aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Don’t value TV less. Value it more. Then you will watch it less. Unchecked distractions will lead you to distraction.

18. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it. Let it go, like the snow queen from Frozen.

19. Don’t worry about things that probably won’t happen.

20. Look at trees. Be near trees. Plant trees, (Trees are great.)

21. Listen to your yoga instructor on YouTube and “walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”

22. Live. Love. Let go. The three Ls.

23. Alcohol maths. Wine multiples itself by itself. The more you have, the more you are likely to have. And if it is hard to stop at one glass , it will be impossible to stop at three. Addition is multiplication.

24. Be aware of the gap. The gap between where you are and where you want to be. Simply thinking of the gap widens it. And you will end up falling through.

25. Read a book without thinking of finishing it. Just read it. Enjoy every word, sentence, and paragraph. Don’t wish for it to end or for it to never end.

26. No drug in the universe will make you feel better, at the deepest level, than being kind to other people.

27. Listen to what Hamlet – literature’s most famous depressive – told Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

28. If someone loves you, let them. Believe in that love. Live for them, even when you feel there is no point.

29. You don’t need the world to understand you. It’s fine. Some people will never really understand things they haven’t experienced. Some will. Be grateful.

30. Jules Verne wrote of the “Living Infinite.” This is the world of love and emotion that is like a “sea.” If we can submerge ourselves in it, we find infinity in ourselves, and the space we need to survive.

31. Three in the morning is never the time to try and sort out your life.

32. Remember there is nothing weird about you. You are just a human, and everything you do and feel is a natural thing because we are natural animals. You are nature. You are a hominid ape. You are in the world and the world is in you. Everything connects.

33. Don’t believe in good or bad, or in winning and losing, or victory and defeat, or up and down. At your lowest and at your highest, whether you are happy or despairing or calm or angry, there is a kernel of you that stays the same. That is the you that matters.

34. Don’t worry about the time you lose to despair. The time you will have afterwards has just doubled its value.

35. Be transparent to yourself. Make a greenhouse for your mind. Observe.

36. Read Emily Dickinson. Read Graham Greene. Read Italo Calvino. Read Maya Angelou, Read anything you want. Books are possibilities. They are escape routes. They give you options when you have none. Each one can be a home for an uprooted mind.

37. If the sun is shining, and you can be outside, be outside.

38. Remember the key about life on earth is change. Cars rust. Paper yellows. Technology dates. Caterpillars become butterflies. Nights morph into days. Depression lifts.

39. Just when you feel you have no time to relax, know that this is the moment you need to make some time to relax.

40. Be brave. Be strong. Breathe, and keep going. You will thank yourself later.

I will admit, I never read this book. After reading what I just shared, it is now on my reading list. When faced with illness, despair, or difficulties, sometimes we need to remember how to live. We should all want to live better, love better, and feel more alive. Life is too short to do anything less.

What would you add to Matt Haig’s list?

xoxo, Jane Anne

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