Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Happiness means different things around the world.

In Helen Russell’s new book “The Atlas of Happiness, the global secretes of how to be happyshe describes the way different countries see happiness and contentment.

It seems the Danes haven’t got the monopoly on this subject.

  • In China it’s about finding your meaning in life or “xingfu” – the state of being happy in the sense of living a meaningful life – not just being happy in the short term.
  • In Costa Rica it’s about staying positive and socialising. “pura vida” means the pure life and is about staying optimistic and happy in the face of adversity. It involves good food, good company – especially family, good weather, and the time to enjoy those things.
  • In Japan it’s about embracing the perfectly imperfect or “wabi-sabu” or simplicity and the beauty of age and wear. An appreciation of the things the way they are and revelling in imperfections in real life.
  • In Denmark, apart from the concept of “hygge“, they also have the idea of”arbejdsglaede” or happiness at work. Working long hours is a no-no (they work 33 hours a week on average) and regular breaks  for coffee and cinnamon buns de rigeur.
  • In India the idea is to focus on solutions not the problem. “jugaad” means frugal innovation, life hacks and a commitment to get things done all in order to get a positive outcome.
  • In Finland it’s “kalsarikannit” or getting “pants drunk”. Sitting in your well-insulated house in your underpants watching TV and getting drunk. I was told in Finland that they have a drink problem but this is elevating it to a different level and there is even an emoji for it.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the book!

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Helicopter parenting isn’t helpful for child’s development but nurseries are!

A recent study of more than 400 children, starting at the age of two, suggests that helicopter parenting harms a child’s emotional well-being. 

This is a term used to describe parents who become over-involved in their children’s activities.

Toddlers whose mothers intervened more frequently in their play grew up to be less able to control their emotions and behaviour.

At age two the children were filmed playing and tidying up with their mothers. The activity was scored on how controlling the mother was – was she helping or intervening when the child became frustrated?

Over the next eight year the researchers returned to see how the children were developing. They interviewed them and teachers and parents and measured behaviour such as emotional control.

“When mothers are too controlling at age two and don’t allow their children to experience a range of emotions and practise managing tim, the child loses out on an important learning opportunity” said Nicole Perry from the University of Minnesota who carried out the study published in the journal Development Psychology..

The ability to regulate emotions ( a key component of emotional intelligence) was linked to a host of adaptive outcomes, including mental and physical health, greater peer likability, healthier social relationships, positive teacher-student relationships, and greater academic adjustment.

If parents want better outcomes they should send their children to a nursery. A recent French study has found that children sent to nurseries have better social skills and behaviour than those kept at home by parents.

Opportunities for socialisation and stimulation offered by quality centre-based childcare might prevent children from developing emotional difficulties, according to an observational study of 1,400 children who were tracked from birth to the age of eight.

Parents were asked to complete questionnaires at three, five-and-a- half, and eight years of age. They were asked how easily their children made friends, their behaviour and social skills. At four, eight, and twelve months of age parent were asked what childcare support they used.

The researchers found that for psychological development a nursery or crêche staffed by professionals was better than being cared for informally by family, friends, or a childminder.

Children who had been to a nursery, daycare centre or crêche – formal childcare (26%)- had lower odds of poor social skills, difficult relationships with peers, and behavioural problems, compared to those who received informal childcare (30%) or went to a childminder (45%).

If they had been in formal childcare for a year the odds were even lower. In contrast those who had been cared for by a childminder appeared more likely to have behavioural problems.

It seems girls do better than boys which they say is because formal childcare is about internalising behaviour, more common in girls than boys.

The study doesn’t prove cause and effect and the families were better educated and more affluent than average and the researchers couldn’t assess the quality of the childcare.

However the researchers concluded that “Access to high quality childcare in the first years of life may improve children’s emotional and cognitive development, prevent later emotional difficulties, and promote pro-social behaviours”.

In France 97% of children start school at three (in contrast to Scandinavian countries where they start later than in the UK) and formal childcare provision is open to everyone.


10 Tips for better health

According to  the Chief Medical Officer these are the ten things you should be doing to look after yourself (and others).

  1. Don’t smoke. If you can’t stop cut down
  2. Follow a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
  3. Keep physically active
  4. Manage stress by talking things through and making time to relax
  5. If you drink alcohol do so in moderation
  6. Cover up in the sun and protect children from sunburn
  7. Practise safer sex
  8. Take up cancer-screening opportunities
  9. Be safe on the roads. Follow the highway code
  10. Learn the First Aid ABC: airways, breathing, circulation

And as a Macmillan nurse once said “Be kind to yourself

 


Social media makes young people more lonely than the elderly

This comes as no surprise to me as I first blogged about this eight years ago – and a couple of times since.

The evidence is out there: social media is not good for your mental health. The survey linked the increase in loneliness directly to social media.

A new survey of 55, 000 people was conducted by BBC4’s All in the mind programme led by Professor of Psychology Pamela Qualter at the University of Manchester said “the response to the BBC Loneliness Experiment has been significant. People have provided valuable insights into when and how loneliness is experienced, how it relates to age, being alone, carrying responsibilities, employability and discrimination”.

40% (4 in 10) people aged between 16 and 24 sat they are often lonely compared with 30% over-65s. These are people with more so-called friends on Facebook – who they don’t know face-to-face -than they have in real life. They say that being told to get out more and date is the least helpful advice they receive because they can still feel lonely in company.

A similar exercise carried out earlier this year by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) also found loneliness is much more common among the young rather than the older generations.

The government actually appointed a minister for loneliness, Tracery Crouch. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi story.

There have been behavioural changes in the younger “sensible generation” less drinking and drug-taking, fewer pregnancies and this is probably because they are spending more times connected through phones and tablets and less time socialising (down 30 minutes a day since 2,000).

Professor Qualter also said “.. the stigma of loneliness… suggest we need to be kinder to ourselves when we feel disconnected from others“.

Just stay off social media and get a real life

Previous posts

Loneliness and health

Friends

Young people not communicating


First Facebook now Instagram envy – and despair?

Just as Facebook makes people feel less satisfied about their lives as they look at exaggerated posts and touched-up selfies it seems Instagram is having the same effect.

It’s become a popular place to get ideas about your home decor with perfect pictures of the new extension or bathroom or anything else in the home considered of interest.

A recent survey by a window manufacturer found that after viewing these beautiful settings half of the of 1,500 UK adults it asked, felt dissatisfied with their homes after seeing other people’s.

And one in ten felt disappointed with their homes “several times a day” after looking at others’ on social media.

Dr David Lewis, a well-known psychologist, describes this as Home Dysmorphic Disorder or HDD. Now Dr Lewis has a flair for publicity and labels but he has a point. People with OK homes can be made to feel dissatisfied as they look at all these perfectly staged pictures. Just like scrutinising Facebook.

There’s no doubt that many people will get good ideas for making over their homes and according to the Sunday Times these are the key elements:


Women more likely to be addicted to their smartphones

Do you never leave a room without your phone in your hand? Do you check Facebook or other social media in your bedroom at night? Tell fibs about how long you spend on it?

If so you could be a victim of smartphone or internet addiction.

Women are more likely to have this problem and are far more reliant on their devices than men according to research by UK Addiction Treatment, the largest company of its kind in the UK.

It has recorded a 160% rise in women needing help for internet-based addiction in the past two years. Last year it treated almost a third of the it’s private and NHS patients for the problem and most were women who find themselves unable to stop using social media or playing games on their phones or computers.

They feel anxious, irritable or depressed when they can’t use the internet and put it before basic needs. Last year the company helped 475 women and 375 men, up from 180 women and 220 men in 2015.

They are not sure why there is a gender difference but it could be because women are more likely to be at home with children or unemployed.

Most patients were in their 30s or 40s, younger people understand the internet better, said Eytan Alexander the company’s founder. “It’s about escapism and we see female patients using drugs to enable them to stay up into the night to play games on their phones or stay on social media”.

The World Health Organisation recently declared that “gaming disorder” was a new mental health condition.

The government is also concerned about the effect of this  on children who see their parents, and particularly their mothers, as role models.

They are advising parents to leave their phones in the kitchen at night to set a good example to their children. They also advise that all computers should be turned off two hours before bedtime and no internet in the bedroom! And that applies to smart phones too which should be a no-no in kids’ bedrooms.

They want parents to be stricter to combat mobile phone addiction and show them how to use the internet safely. By 2020 young children from age 4 will be taught in schools about the perils of social media.

I’ve posted may times before about the dangers of social media and the way it effects your health and the clever ways designers use to get you addicted e.g. likes and streaks, just like a slot machine randomly reinforcing you behaviours.


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Full fat fiasco at Costa Coffee

Costa Coffee used to be my favourite coffee shop. I went in most days for a large cappuccino or more recently flat whites.

But since they became health fascists trying to dictate what kind of milk we have I am falling out of love with them.

A few weeks ago a barista mentioned that they would only be serving semi-skinned milk in future, except for the flat white family which would still have full fat, whole milk.

They are doing this by stealth. There are no signs anywhere explaining their new policy. What happened to transparency and honesty?

I tweeted (the first of several) complaints to @CostaCoffee to be told by Natalia that there had been demand for semi-skimmed from customers and team members. Well Costa team members shouldn’t be dictating what customers want and many of us want whole milk.

Since then trying to get a coffee with whole milk has proved difficult and sometimes impossible.

Family members have experienced difficulty at several stores  – Haslingden Tesco, Burnley Tesco, and Rawtenstall and Accrington Costa shops. I reported this to Costa to be told they were still adjusting delivery levels.

Well this morning they hadn’t done a very good job as after queuing for my flat white, I checked they had whole milk, to be told they hadn’t because head office hadn’t sent enough. So I walked out.

Sometimes staff miraculously find some as we walk away. Sometimes staff are borderline rude about our asking for it as if they know best.

They say it’s part of a health drive. Don’t make me laugh! This country has an obesity problem and the coffee culture has a lot to answer for apparently.

People are drinking more elaborate coffees (you with the syrup and the whipped cream for example) and have cakes on the side. Lots and lots of calories. And Costa is no different.When asked why they still serve people with sugary syrups and the like they say “those are extras”.

Milk provides a lot of nutrients — including a few that most people don’t get enough of, like vitamin D. Calcium is important for kids and teenagers who are still building bone and for adults who need to maintain the bone they have.

Although it’s lower in fat and calories, semi-skimmed milk also has lower levels of fat-soluble vitamins, including A and E, than whole milk, so children and grown-ups might be missing out on nutrition

Research from America found that people who drink whole milk have a lower risk of diabetes than those who don’t.

The 15-year-long study by Tufts University looked at 3,333 people aged between 30 and 75. The researchers found that people with high levels of three different by-products of full-fat dairy in their bodies had a 46% lower risk of diabetes mellitus than those who had low levels of dairy fat.

Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, whose findings were published in the journal Circulation, told Time:  “I think these findings, together with those from other studies do call for a change in the policy of recommending only low-fat dairy products. There is no prospective human evidence that people who eat low-fat dairy do better than people who eat whole-fat dairy.”

As a psychologist I wonder if they are taking advantage of something called moral licensing. This is a phenomenon that causes people to overeat by giving them permission to indulge, the psychological tendency to indulge ourselves in one area of our life when we’re being good in another. 

The phenomenon accounts for why many runners gain weight while training for a race. They expend more calories during their runs, but by rewarding themselves with indulgences throughout their day like an insulin-spiking post-workout “sports drink,” they ultimately negate many of the health benefits of exercise.

Some studies found participants who believed multivitamin pills provided significant health benefits also exercised less, were less likely to choose healthy food, and smoked more.

So having a skinny decaff latte (can you actually call that coffee?) doesn’t justify that syrup and whipped cream you are adding to it, and the sticky bun on the side.

Costa should rethink this policy. They are still selling syrup, whipped cream, marshmallows etc so they aren’t really serious about the health issues.

Furthermore they are foisting this on people unknowingly – not very honest. Why haven’t they put up signs or posted it on their web-sites?

There are half a dozen other coffee shops in the town centre. Costa shouldn’t take customers for granted.