Lost Connections – Johann Hari

Firstly, a non-fiction! Very rare for me, but also one that I cannot recommend enough. Secondly, this is a long review so apologies, but in my defence it’s only because I feel so passionately about this book!

Lost Connections is a book that aims to change the way we think about depression and anxiety, through thorough research, case studies, and creative problem solving. Hari describes his journey researching, what he feels, are 9 potential causes of depression and anxiety. He begins by telling us a little about his own relationship with the two, and then goes on to present not only evidence that these 9 causes have a direct correlation with them, but ways we can address them…or reconnect. Hari is an excellent writer, and presents his findings in a coherent, reasonable, and scientific manner.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is “self-help”. I do not personally buy anything resembling “self-help” books, and Hari reassures the reader that Lost Connections is NOT in that category. When I saw the cover of this book it struck me. I, like the author, have struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time. And I, just like the author, was told it was due to a chemical imbalance in my brain…one that could be solved by taking medication. It’s an explanation we’re all familiar with. But what happens when that “fix” stops working? Like many, when that medication stops doing what you’ve been told it will do, you’re left feeling even more broken than before.

Enter Hari’s investigation into alternate causes. I have to say, reading Lost Connections has COMPLETELY changed the way i think about depression and anxiety. It’s nothing shocking, or controversial, but in fact so reasonable that it felt like a little weight off my shoulders. Of course these disconnections have a correlation with depression, and of course addressing some of them can go a long way to readjusting how we feel.

Hari’s book is truly outstanding. It reached me in parts of my brain that were previously on standby, and brought me to tears on more than one occasion. To be told that you have no control over your mental health, other than your ability to take a pill every day is not empowering. In a way it feels to me like putting up a barrier between your body and your brain. But, after reading Lost Connections I definitely felt empowered. Not in a faux “yay I’m going to be a new me” way, but in a way that made me feel that I could make definite steps toward reconnecting with my brain.

There were LOTS of parts of this book that I underlined and marked so that I could go back to them, and I’ll definitely read through it again soon. It’s all I can do not to talk to you about every little detail (which is what I’ve been doing to all my family and friends since I started reading it…sorry guys) but there was one part that stopped me in my tracks, and that I sat thinking about for a long time…

“I asked myself: What if depression is, in fact, a form of grief – for our own lives not being as they should? What if it is a form of grief for the connections we have lost, yet still need?”

Out of context that may be a little confusing, as Hari writes it after discussing grief and its place in mental health. But, I think it perfectly sums up what his book is trying to achieve – for the reader to ask themselves: “What if this way of life, the one that we are conditioned into thinking is right, is actually the reason I feel so terrible?”

Regardless of the controversy I’ve seen since researching and reading the book, I think Hari is definitely on to something. And if the only people contesting it are the people who want you to swallow the “medication fixes everything” story then maybe we should all start paying attention.

You can buy Lost Connections here

And you can learn more about Johann Hari’s work here

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