Book Review: My Year of Living Mindfully by Shannon Harvey
1. What the book is about
This book captures the experience of journalist Shannon Harvey’s year-long daily mindfulness meditation experiment, as well as a number of cases studies of other individuals who have adopted a mindfulness practice in order to heal from chronic mental and physical illness. Shannon herself has a chronic autoimmune disease and suffers with insomnia, so over the period of her experiment she documents her thoughts, feelings, challenges and insights as well as her interviews with leading scientists in the field of meditation and mind-body medicine. At the end of the book, Shannon reveals the findings of the multitude of measurements she has had collected by researchers over the course of the experiment, as well as her personal learnings and reflections.
2. What I liked about this book
I really enjoy reading Shannon’s work. Her ability to summarise copious numbers of scientific papers in a way that is easy to digest seems effortless. Her sense of humour and witty insights are entertaining and memorable. Her willingness to share her personal journey, including her doubts and her despair, is humbling. As a GP and medical educator, this is the kind of book that I love to recommend to patients and students alike because it is both engaging and based on scientific evidence.
3. What I disliked about this book
As I had already seen Shannon’s documentary by the same name by the time I read her book, I did feel at times the book was repeating what I had heard in the film. Having said that, the messages are timeless and wise, so hearing them again hopefully increased the likelihood that they stuck!
4. Who should read this book?
If you are someone who has been contemplating starting a regular mindfulness practice, this book provides some convincing evidence that may well motivate you to take action. If you are someone who is cynical about the hype surrounding mindfulness and wonders whether it’s all too good to be true, you will likely find Shannon’s journalistic approach answers your questions and demonstrates the evidence in a balanced and thoughtful way. If you’re someone who can think of a number of people in your life who need to read this book, then read it yourself first!
5. Other work by Shannon Harvey
If you prefer documentaries to reading books, then definitely download My Year of Living Mindfully here. I’ve previously reviewed Shannon’s book, The Whole Health Life , which I can highly recommend. Her other documentary, The Connection, can be downloaded and watched online. You can also read more from Shannon on her blog.