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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Helmshore Textile Museum part 2

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I wrote about the textile museum in a previous post and included photographs of the machinery in use at the time. However I was also interested in its social history and the interesting additions to our everyday language.

The museum also includes displays of the mill offices and the quality control machines, a typewriter and a clocking-in machine.DSC02118DSC02121DSC02119DSC02120

When I started work in the 1960s and worked in old mills which had been converted for modern use we still had those type-writers and clocking in machines.

(They even had them during war-time e.g. in the factories building Zeppelins in Friederichshaven, Germany).

And clocking-in machines were still widely used in the 1990s in many businesses.

There were also lots of rules to follow e.g. no swearing, no smoking (for obvious safety reasons), and no sharing the lavatory! Workers were also told how often they should wash and bathe themselves.

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Back in…

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Helmshore Textile Museum part 1

After reading my colleague’s blog about the silk mills I remembered we’d visited this museum some years ago and found it similarly fascinating

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It’s been a while since I last visited this Rossendale Valley museum and a photographer friend wanted to see it so we headed there after stopping for a tasty snack at Holden Wood tea shop.

Helmshore is now part of Lancashire County Council’s Pennine Lancashire museums along with Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham, Towneley Hall in Burnley, and Queen Street Mill at Harle Syke in Burnley among others.

The museum comprises two mills, Higher Mill which was a woollen fulling mill built in 1789 and powered by a 20 ton water wheel, and Whitaker’s Mill, built in the mid 19th century specialising in cotton spinning mill, starting from waste recycled cotton and finishing with mule spun yarn.

There is a bright new entrance and reception area. The staff were really friendly and the guides very knowledgeable. We had to get permission to take photographs and flash photography wasn’t allowed which made…

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Macclesfield Silk Museum………a place to treasure

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

As part of my continuing exploration of the industrial heritage of Cheshire I decided to take in a visit to the Silk Museum at Macclesfield. I know it may not sound the most exciting of places to visit but sometimes it is the unlikely places that turn out to be the “little gems.”

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The Silk Museum is housed in the original School of Art built in 1879 with land and funding granted by the council and public subscriptions.  The School had been founded in 1851 and initially used rented rooms in the Useful Knowledge Society building.  Its original aim was to educate practical designers for the manufacture of silk, but later it went on to offer more general art education and gained a reputation for producing high quality work.

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It formed part of a complex of buildings linked to learning in this area of the town, including the Free Library…

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Nurses have no time for compassion

On the one hand the idea that all nurses are compassionate creatures was never true. I say that as someone with 20 plus years experience working in the NHS and more recently as a patient.

That’s not to say some, maybe most, nurses aren’t. I particularly remember one who held my hand throughout an uncomfortable 2-hour eye operation carried out under local anaesthetic and another who rubbed my back during an endoscopy examination.

But according to a recent study of professional values there is “a moral vacuum at the heart of nursing”.

Nurses are so ground down that they end up as “robots going through the motions” with a focus on clinical skills driving compassion from the job“. Yet compassion is part of the UK’s Nursing Vision.

Eight out of ten say their work conflicts with their personal values much of the time. The study concluded that it was that moral disengagement that leads to patients being put at risk.

Kristen Kristjansson, the psychologist from the University of Birmingham who led the study, said that the state of nursing was far more depressing than any other profession he had studied including lawyers, teachers, and doctors.

He added “When you have been working for five years or more you usually realise that following the rules is not the only important thing. You have to rely on your moral compass” But the nurses didn’t.

In the study of 700 nurses almost half of them sad they acted the way they did because it was what the rules decreed rather than because it was the right thing to do.

The only standard was what was laid down in the codes. Unlike other professions they did;t seem to pick up on their own values as they got more experienced.

This is bad news for patients who can tell when someone is going through the motions. The nurses say they don’t have time to show care and compassion and often come away from patients feeling they could have done more.

Professor Kristjansson worries that this “Mr Spock” mentality means they could struggle in a morally stressful situation such as happened at Mid Staffs where few nurses felt able to speak out about patient neglect.

He thought it was positive that nurses were now seen as a professionals requiring degree-level skills rather than just as assistants to doctors but felt the pendulum had swung too much the other way, away from the ethical core of nursing. Nurses since Florence Nightingale had done more than administer medicines – they created an ethos in hospitals to put patients at ease.

Sir Robert Francis QC, who chaired the public inquiry into the Mid Staffs scandal, backed up the Professor’s calls for more emphasis on virtue and character in nurses’ training.

A commonly accepted set of values has to be the foundation of professional practice to enable those with this vocation to navigate the ethical dilemmas they face daily”.

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said the report “demonstrates the emotional pressure on caring professions who, when faced with an inability to work as they know they should, become compromised”.

It’s almost five years since they decided to overhaul the training of health care assistants and introduced compassion as on of the 6Cs of nursing care (see post). Other research has shown compassion is a key characteristic of the best carers and there are questions about whether or not a degree  is really necessary?

It seems like we continually re-invent the wheel as far as nursing is concerned

The way things are going we will have fewer whistleblowers (not that the NHS has a good reputation for the way they treat such people) and the only way to wake people up will be another crisis.


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Norway tops World happiness league

Yes the Norwegians have toppled the Danes from the top position, but it was a close finish.

The UN’s World Happiness Report measures “subjective well-being” mainly by asking a simple question: “Imagine a ladder with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to number 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?

The average result is the country’s score. So Norway scored 7.54 whereas the Central African Republic scored only 2.69.

The report also looks at economic strength (GDP) social support, life expectancy, freedom of choice, generosity, and perceived corruption. Having a job was also important although white-collar jobs were more associated with happiness than blue-collar ones.

To see the full report go to http://worldhappiness.report/

The top 10 countries

  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

The USA came 14th and the UK 19th (Bristol was named the best place to live in Britain in 2017 by the way)

Western Europe dominated the list with African countries doing least well. The regular dominance of the Nordic countries (see previous reports) has encouraged others to adopt the Danish concept of Hygge – the concept of cosiness and relaxation.

Denmark has always done well in these kind of comparisons, for example for work-life balance, for how satisfied they are and for  being a good place to live

Note on the flag. The Norwegian flag is interesting because apart from using the red, white and blue  – symbolising liberty – and the Nordic cross (centred towards the hoist or flag pole), it incorporates the white cross of Denmark and the blue cross of Finland.