Review: Sane New World by Ruby Wax

The full title of this recent book by Ruby Wax is Sane New World: Taming the Mind. After accidentally becoming the ‘poster girl for depression’, Ruby Wax went on to study an MSc at Oxford, the results of which are evident in this book.

Sane New World Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax book review

Her studies were a combination of neuroscience and mindfulness, and the book is a distilled run-through of the former, and an explanation of the possible benefits of the latter. All in Ruby’s quirky voice, with bursts of humour throughout.

The first section of the book is devoted to outlining how certain human thought processes and behaviours were incredibly useful to the average hunter-gatherer – and how they’re not so well suited to the ins and outs of everyday modern life.

This is followed by a brief mention of how these maladaptive responses can feed into everything from simple stress and general discomfort to severe anxiety and depression. There’s information about the structure and the function of different parts of the brain, and an outline of some of the better known neurochemicals. There are some simple mindfulness exercises to try too.

The book is also peppered with funny illustrations and some quite searingly honest anecdotes from Ruby about her upbringing, some of her most distressing thoughts, past behaviour she regrets, and her experience of severe clinical depression. The honesty is what really makes the book, and it makes it easier to identify with the writer because after all, everyone has bad days, moments of self-doubt or the occasional bout of irrational thinking.

In addition to writing about mindfulness, Wax also mentions other treatments and supportive therapies that may be of help, including CBT, emotional regulation and physical exercise such as Tai Chi, yoga and various martial arts.

To sum up, it’s an entertaining read, with the human touch. It’s also an easily understandable explanation of mindfulness itself, and how it works at the level of the brain and in a practical sense. It won’t teach you how to fully get into mindfulness though, more how to dip your toe in the water.

There’s a related workbook coming out later this year, so perhaps be on the lookout for another review of that in a few months.

Sane New World: Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax is available at Amazon for £3.49 for the Kindle version, £6.20 for the paperback, and £16.71 for the hardback.

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