Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


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

 

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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.


Coffee shops told to stop selling calorie-rich cakes

Public Health England (PHE) has criticised coffee shops for pushing customers to buy snacks.

They are working with the food industry to reduce the sugar content of foods in shops and are now looking at food eaten outside the home. Chief nutritionist Alison Teddistone said “Coffee shops have got a long way to go”

A muffin adds about 400 calories to an order. Just because it has a healthy sounding name it’s still part of the problem, she says, with all the little nudges to buy extras.

Major coffee chains have committed publicly to reducing sugar and now it is time for all to raise their game. More action is needed to tackle obesity”.

PHE has set a target for cafés restaurants and coffee shops to reduce sugar in their everyday products by 20% by 2020. They are also concerned about takeaway deliveries who are doing a Facebook and saying they are “only connecting people”.  The government is also keen for restaurants, cafés and take-aways to list calories on their menus.

The WHO has warned this week that the UK was the 5th out of 176 nations for cancer linked to obesity. That is truly a shocking statistic, especially for an advanced country like the UK.

PHE said people know smoking is linked to cancer but don’t realise obesity is also increasing the risk of cancer (and diabetes and stroke).

FYI

  • Costa Coffee Blueberry muffin = 434 calories with 25.7 g of sugar
  • Costa Coffee bonfire spiced hot chocolate whole milk = 311 calories with36.5 g of sugar
  • Starbucks skinny blueberry muffin = 312 calories with 24 g of sugar
  • Starbucks venti oat vanilla latte = 438 calories with 52.2 g of sugar
  • Caffe Nero blueberry-filled muffin = 418 calories with 29.1 g of sugar

NHS advises only 30 g of sugar per day

This is all very well but perhaps if people exercised more then they could enjoy these treats in moderation.

And I’ve previously posted about Costa Coffee’s decision to impose semi-skimmed milk on customers without warning or having signs anywhere. They say it’s for health reasons yet still encourage people to have syrup, marshmallows and chocolate logs in their coffee. How hypocritical is that?


Annandale Distillery…………..Scottish whisky (just!)

Another great picture blog from Kindadukish

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

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On my recent visit to the Lake District it was suggested that I make a foray across the border to visit the Annandale Distillery (given my interest in whisky) which is the most southerly whisky distillery in Scotland. It is tucked away just outside the town of Annandale in a little valley and would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it.

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The buildings have been refurbished at a cost of £14 million (increased from the original estimate of £10.5 million) and they have done a magnificent job of retaining as much of the original structure as possible. The setting is simply delightful and it is reassuring to see wooden casks (used for maturing the spirit) stacked around the yard.

Background History*

The original Annandale Distillery was built in 1830 by former Elgin-based excise officer George Donald, who named the site after the valley in which it is…

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Cleaning up the rivers in Burnley

Parking round the back of the shops in the town centre I spotted these stone monuments.

They are commemorating the clean up of the River Brun (from which Burnley takes its name). The river runs through the town centre, mostly hidden from view but can be seen if you know where to look.

The poem about the Brun, by George Hindle in 1896, refers to the “radiant sun”. I’ve not seen much of that in Burnley lately!


Going to Scarborough

As I crossed the Pennines last week the weather didn’t improve. I got on a bus in East Lancashire where it was 5 degrees and overcast. Then I caught a train in Manchester which was the same except it was trying to rain.  Just over three hours later I arrived in Scarborough where it was just as cold and overcast but with the sea mist in the air – or was it a sea fret?

I’d gone to see my brother working at the “Books by the Beach” book festival which he co-founded 5 years ago with the present director. This year he’d handed over the reigns and was acting in a consultancy role as well as chairing/convening several sessions with well-known authors.

So I had an invitation to stay at the Crescent Hotel, which is at the end of a row of Georgian buildings, and catch up with him for a couple of days. As a crime writer he travels the world and trying to meet him is not the easiest, the last time being briefly before a funeral. My friend calls him the yeti.

Starting off with a quick exploration of the town it was obvious that the book festival was well-publicised. I also noticed that the seagulls were enormous. No wonder they use owls to try to stop them pinching food from tourists.

We wandered up an alley where my brother showed me this wonderful shop full of guitars. Very expensive ones too. I made a note to visit Guitar Galleries the following day when it was open – not that I thought that I could actually afford anything in there.

Then we walked down to the Grand Hotel, in its heyday the largest hotel in Europe.

Architecturally it is interesting both outside and inside, reflecting its former grandeur.

In the evening we went down to the sea front to eat and found ourself in Antons, a converted chapel.

The following morning it was time for more exploration. We took the funicular down to the beach promenade and walked along the front. The funicular is operated by the Central Tramway Company and reminds me of Lisbon (or the Angels’ Flight one if you’ve watched the Bosch films based on Michael Connelly’s books).

The spa was off to our right but we headed towards the harbour and pubs. It seems like every seaside resort has the same arcades and fish and chip or ice cream parlours.

But there are also great views of the harbour, the castle, the Town Hall and the boats.

 

Then it was time to refresh ourselves in a local Sam Smith’s pub chatting with friendly locals and tourists mingling in the bar looking across the harbour.

We realised it was time to head back, past the house that King Richard III allegedly stayed in, past reminders of the old packet ships that sailed up and down the coast, and a reminder of how uninviting the sea was!

My brother Peter had to do his thing, chairing a session and interviewing author Robert Goddard, whom I’d met the previous evening. He was talking about his latest book “The Panic Room”, which I am now enjoying reading.

The fresh air had knocked me out so I retired to my comfortable room in the Crescent whilst Peter did another session with “The Yorkshire Vet” before we met up for a meal at the Fish Restaurant round the corner. Great food and friendly helpful staff. What more could you want?  And did I mention that food portions in Scarborough are huge?

As I was leaving my hotel to catch the train I noticed that the hotel was using the “mirrors by the lift” psychology. It’s used in stores too but basically the idea is that if the lift is a bit slow  then putting mirrors by the doors makes people less impatient as they are too busy checking themselves out in the mirror.

So this is my impression of Scarborough: a seaside fishing town with lots of grand old buildings alongside the amusement arcades, an expensive guitar shop, a funicular and a spa, friendly people, generous food portions, famous writers and a bit of psychology to finish off with.

Lots to think about as I headed back to Lancashire.


Finland leapfrogs neighbours to claim top spot in happiness league

According to the UN’s annual report on happiness and well-being Finland is the happiest place on earth.

What’s not to like? Saunas, the Northern Lights, Moomins, Angry Birds, friendly people, Lapland, reindeers and Father Christmas (if you believe?).

And don’t forget heavy metal bands. A Finnish friend sent me a Nightwish CD swearing it was the national music of Finland. (Read more about them and hear them here).

The fact that it’s dark for half the year in the North and Summers are short doesn’t seem to bother the hardy Finns that much.

I’ve visited a couple of times to Helsinki and Espoo and apart from the difficulty in buying alcohol it seems a wonderful place. I’ve also flown to Lithuania via Helsinki on a number of occasions and it never closes (well once it did),and the airline crews are really helpful.

Finnair is my favourite airline – even though you don’t get free Lapin Kulta beer in economy anymore – and Helsinki is probably my favourite airport. Did I mention that the reindeer stew is very tasty too? And those liquorice and caramel toffees? And my Finnish felt boots I bought in Lithuania are perfect for this cold weather.

So congratulations on topping the list of 156 countries surveyed for the annual UN report. As usual the Scandinavians all feature in the top ten (along with several other countries that enjoy snow – is that significant?). In fact the same countries appeared in last year’s top ten but in a different order.

I described the methodology in last year’s blog on this topic here.

  1. Finland
  2. Norway (in top spot last year)
  3. Denmark
  4. Iceland
  5. Sitzerland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Sweden
  10. Australia

War-Torn countries and sub-Saharan Africa feature at the bottom of the table.

How did the UK do? We came in at 19th place, the same as last year, and the US dropped to 18th from 14th.