Notes on a Nervous Planet
Illness has a lot to teach wellness.
I love Matt Haig’s reflections on how illness offers us valuables lessons in how to thrive.
Illness has a lot to teach wellness. But when I am well I forget these things. The trick is to keep hold of that knowledge. To turn recovery into prevention. To live how I live when I am ill, without being ill. Mental health is intricately related to the whole body. And the whole body is intricately related to mental health.
You can’t draw a line between a body and a mind any more than you can draw a line between oceans. They are entwined. Physical exercise is know to have a positive impact on all kinds of mental things, from depression to ADHD. And physical illnesses have mental effects. We can hallucinate with flu. A cancer diagnosis can make us depressed. Asthma can cause us to panic. A heart attack can cause mental trauma.
If you have a bad lower back – or tinnitus, or chest pain, or a lowered immune system, or a painful stomach – because of stress, is that a mental or physical problem? I feel we need to stop seeing mental and physical health as either/or and more as a both/and situation. There is no difference. We are mental. We are physical. We are not split up into unrelated sections. We are not an existential department store. We are everything at once.
– Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet
- How has illness taught you about wellness?
- Are you in tune with your body or is it simply the vehicle that gets you around?
- What actions can you take or avoid in order to avoid getting physically or mental unwell?
- Take a few moments to write down what a life of thriving and flourishing looks like. What’s stopping you? What can you add or subtract from your life in the pursuit of thriving?
[I took this pic at the Saatchi Gallery in November 2018. Brilliant and disconcerting, eh?]