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My Year of Living Mindfully by Shannon Harvey

A review by Emma Streeton


To be honest my usual method for reading anything non-fiction is to dip in and out and find the key information. With this book my non-fiction experience was totally and utterly different. Shannon Harvey had me hooked from the start and I have not stopped telling anyone who will listen about this fantastic book. This book has given me so much food for thought and I am so excited to be reviewing it. I only hope I can do the book justice!

The premise

In 2017 health journalist and filmmaker Shannon Harvey took on an experiment for a documentary, My Year Of Living Mindfully. An insomniac with chronic pain from an auto-immune disease, Harvey spent 12 months meditating at least once a day while undergoing a series of medical and scientific tests. The aim was not only to see if meditation made her feel better, but whether it had a physical impact. Alongside a whole host of scientists and researchers, Harvey hoped to identify whether it was possible to scientifically measure any changes to her brain, key markers in her blood and even her genetics.

The journey

This incredible book documents Harvey’s journey into mindfulness. It combines her own personal experience with ground-breaking science. We hear the views of several experts (scientists, psychologists and doctors) and important questions are raised and explored. Could mindfulness be part of the solution to the mental health crisis we seem to be experiencing? Can meditation practice really ease the suffering of anyone, anywhere, living in any circumstances? Can mindfulness make you happier? Like Harvey, I was intrigued.

Wholistic approach

I hope you will agree, the number one thing determining our health is our mind. What goes on in our head influences us physiologically. When we are not feeling good in ourselves, we are less likely to look after ourselves and do things like exercise, eat well and sleep well. Everything becomes impacted by our state of mind. What this book shows is that each of us has our own natural capacity to heal through the practice of meditation. Switching off from the busyness of your mind and tuning into the present really can offer great rewards. The challenge, as Harvey clearly discovers, is finding the time and space to ‘just be’ and stick with it. If there is one thing this book does, it puts a very convincing argument forward as to why mindfulness is something we should all be giving a go.

Without spoiling the conclusion, Harvey and her team make some remarkable and exciting discoveries. Without a doubt there is a need for more research to be done in this area and I for one would be keen to see Harvey’s experiment be the foundation for making this happen.

What impact does mindfulness have?

Does mindfulness make you a happier person? This was a question that interested me. What Harvey’s personal experience shows is mindfulness has the ability to make a person more comfortable in life’s inevitable discomfort. We see the negatives that arise in her life not push her off track as she comes to this wise conclusion. Life holds inevitable discomfort and suffering. The sooner we realize that, the better off we will be mentally. She talks about the idea of being able to suffer better and this is something I think this book really guides us to understand.

Similar to Harvey, I don’t believe that mindfulness is a solution to solve the world’s issues. But what I do think is mindfulness is a simple skill to embrace for one key reason. It helps us to understand the workings of our minds and that can be the start of something very exciting, not to mention healing. Thank you Shannon Harvey for such an inspirational read.

I highly recommend My Year of Living Mindfully.

And a tangential recommendation is to Stop Being Reasonable by Eleanor Gordon-Smith. – Editor.

Book details

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9780733645099
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Format: paperback
Released: 2020
Category: self-help, nonfiction

My year of living mindfully

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Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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