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40 pieces of advice on living from Matt Haig’s excellent book Reasons to Stay Alive

I recently finished reading Matt Haig’s excellent book Reasons to Stay Alive. It is a short masterpiece. I loved the book thoroughly and learned a lot from it. I plan to write a separate review of the book and my takeaways from the book. 

We are all distinct humans. It’s natural to want to live as such. It’s hard to be truly happy unless we're living an authentic life. Getting to know yourself is the most important journey. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight. You have to be patient with yourself. Nothing is going to make this world better if we don’t start believing in ourselves. Accept, and don’t fight things, feel them. Tension is about the opposition, relaxation is letting go. Finding and following your unique path is a life-long journey.  

These are some of the ideas from a chapter in the book titled “how to live (40 pieces of advice I feel to be helpful but which I don’t always follow)”. The chapter is kind of a summary of the main values of the book. I found the list profound and wanted to share it with you all separately. So, instead of adulterating it with my own thoughts and ideas, I share with you the entire list here. 

“How to live (40 pieces of advice I feel to be helpful but which I don’t always follow) from Matt Haig: 

  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 the past that you can change. That’s basic physics. 
  5. Beware of Tuesdays. And Octobers. It means that starting can be the first step and don’t give up on the next day, and the same in October, go till the end. No matter what you are feeling, just fight it up and don’t think troubles are bigger. You can do and solve anything. 
  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 are 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. Unchecked distractions will lead you to distractions. 
  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 in Frozen. 
  19. Don’t worry about things that probably won’t happen. 
  20.  Look at trees. Be near trees. Plant trees. 
  21. Listen to that 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 multiplies itself by itself. The more you have, the more you are likely to have. And if it’s hard to stop at one glass, it will be impossible at three. The addition is multiplication. 
  24. Beware of the gap. The gap between where you are and where you want to be. Simply thinking of the gap widens it. And you end up falling through. 
  25. Read a book without thinking about 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 that 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 winning or 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 you that matters. 
  34. Don't worry about the time you lose to despair. The time you will have afterward has just doubled its value. 
  35. Be transparent with 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. Just read. 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 that the key thing 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 most need to make time to relax. 
  40.  Be brave. Breathe, and keep going. You will thank yourself later.
Ayrin Saleha Ria works at Future Startup as a full-time Research Associate. She has a background in Applied Sociology. Before joining the FS team, she worked and volunteered with a number of social organizations. As someone who comes from a social science background, she takes a deep interest in research around important social-economic challenges in our society. A voracious reader, Ayrin is passionate about working for the betterment of society, takes a deep interest in human society and behavioral science, and loves books.

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