Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


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:

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Most popular babies’ names in 2017

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that the most popular names last year were:

For Boys (28,222 different names)

  1. Oliver – for the fifth year running
  2. Harry – for second year in a row
  3. George – for second year in a row
  4. Noah
  5. Jack
  6. Jacob
  7. Leo – new entry in the top ten
  8. Oscar
  9. Charlie
  10. Muhammed – top name in London, West Midlands and Yorkshire

Least popular boys’ names were Ajax, Reese, and Ripley (only 3 of each)

For Girls (35,475 different names)

  1. Olivia
  2. Amelia
  3. Isla
  4. Ava
  5. Emily
  6. Isabella
  7. Mia
  8. Poppy – has replaced Jessica in top 10
  9. Ella
  10. Lily

Other new girls’ names in the top 100 include Aurora, Orla, Edith, Bonnie, Lyla, and Hallie.

Least popular girls’ names include October, Success and Zamora.

And Sarah has dropped out of the top 100 for the first time in over a hundred years!

Previous posts on this topic


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.


Stand up for health’s sake

Sitting down for just two hours can significantly increase your blood pressure.

Sitting is linked to increased risk of disease of the heart and circulatory system and it doesn’t matter if you exercise it’s the sitting that is the problem.

Blood pressure was statistically significantly elevated after two- and four-hour bouts of sitting in healthy older adults” according to scientists at Birmingham University’s school of sport, exercise and rehabilitation.

Sitting for less than two hours is significantly safer so getting up and walking around can reduce the risk.

Although the research focused on the over-70s it’s the same across all age ranges.

The American Cancer Society reported last year that people sitting for more than 6 hours a day had a 19% higher death rate than those who spent less than 3 hours seated.

Research at Liverpool John Moores University showed that prolonged sitting slows blood flow to the brain and may raise the risk of dementia.

So overall it’s clear that sitting damages health. “There is growing evidence supporting the longer-term health effects of prolonged sedentary behaviour across the life course” said the researcher at Birmingham who presented these results  at the British Science Association’s annual meeting last week.

It is important to make people aware that they need to try and reduce sitting time as well as going to the gym” she added.

So get up off your bums for you health’s sake!


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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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.