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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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.


UK wife carrying championship……this will get up the SJW noses!!!!

What a way to celebrate International Women’s Day!

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

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Above: Eventual winners Jack McKendrick (No. 21), carrying his wife Kirsty Jones, neck-and-neck with fellow competitors at the hay-bale hurdles at the UK Wife Carrying Race 2017 in Dorking, Surrey.

Wife carrying can be a dangerous activity, which can lead to any one or more of the following injuries: slipped disk, broken legs and arms, spinal damage, facial injury, skull fracture, hernias, and other sundry injuries and illnesses, and potentially including death.

But please don’t let this put you off!

Run over a course of 380m, with 15m of ascent and 15m of descent. VERY TOUGH!

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Wife carrying originated in the UK over twelve centuries ago, on 8 June 793AD, when Viking raiders rampaged into Lindisfarne on the northeast coast of what is now England, destroying the monastary and most likely carrying off any unwilling local wenches. Such wife carrying (-off) continued intermittently for around 300 years. Wife Carrying was…

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A universal basic income for everyone – could it work?

money_stairs_stick_figure_chinese_5753Finland has already started by selecting 2,000 people at random who will receive just under £500 a month tax free in a two-year pilot scheme, the first in Europe.

The idea is to relieve long-term unemployment at a time when jobs are increasingly being automated or carried out in cheaper countries due to technological developments. In Finland employment stands at almost 9% with long-term unemployment is increasing forcing the government to rethink its approach to the problem.

So the payment of the universal basic income (UBI) should help people to adjust to the insecurity of the current labour market with its part-time jobs and zero-hour contracts. It will also mean that all the complicated rules about welfare or unemployment benefits can be cut.

For example an unemployed worker in Finland might get €667 a month after tax but any money earned would be deducted from that. Now that person will received €560 a month with no strings attached and no red tape.

The government also hopes that more people will become self-employed. A senior official said “People are afraid to take on temporary jobs or start small businesses because they would lose their benefits; they prefer safe but low income to the risk of failing”.

If the experiment is a success the UBI would be available to every employable Finn although better paid ones would lose the benefit through taxation. This would cost €10-15 billion and some critics doubt it would be possible without increasing the already high rates of tax.

This is a test of human nature. Will people want to work and strive or just sit back and take the money. Theory X or theory Y in management speak.

Other countries are also considering the idea e.g. the Netherlands, France, Canada, India, and the state of California. Switzerland decided against it last year after a referendum in which voters were told it would double welfare spending.

Here in the UK trials are also being planned for Fife and Glasgow in Scotland, but not in England where the Citizens Income Trust and the Green Party support the idea. The Royal Society of Arts has also pitched in suggested we would need a basic income of £,3692 a year (2013)

Professor Guy Standing, from the School of Oriental and African Studies, recently presented the idea to the World Economic Forum in Davos. He talked about the “precariat” – people who live a precarious existence in temporary jobs, zero-hour contracts, and shuffling between employment agencies without any assurance of state benefits.

And if futurist are right and up to 50% of jobs could be automated over the next two decades then UBI could be the answer, certainly Elon Musk, the technology entrepreneur behind Tesla cars thinks so.

The idea was first proposed by Karl Marx’s son-in-law Paul Lafargue over a hundred years ago. He proposed that as technological advances would put humans out of work so everyone had a right to be lazy and should be paid  basic income whether or not they had a job.

As mentioned above France is one of the countries considering adopting UBI and it is a central plank of the Socialist Worker’s Party. They foresee automation replacing 10% of all jobs in France over the next 8 years and the end of France’s jobs-for-life culture. So everyone should receive €9,000 a year (watered down in the face of criticism to people aged 18-25 initially with others included by 2022).

Could it happen? Should it happen?

Will it only encourage those who don’t want to work to not bother looking for work (and there are probably 15-20% of the population who fall into that category)?

 


Now thats what you call a REAL sport……………….

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

 A Finnish couple has narrowly won the 19th Wife Carrying World Championships — a quirky competition in which men race to be the fastest while carrying a female teammate.

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Ville Parviainen and Janette Oksman cleared the grueling 253.5 meter (278-yard) obstacle course in 63.75 seconds on Saturday, less than a second ahead of Britain’s Rich Blake Smith and Anna Marguerite Smith.

Thirty-six couples from a dozen countries including Australia, Japan, and the United States took part in the race, which was held in the central Finnish municipality of Sonkajarvi, north of the capital, Helsinki.

The rules stipulate that the woman must be over 17 years of age and weigh at least 108 pounds. In years past, the winner’s were rewarded with their wife’s weight in beer.

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Despite the event’s name couples don’t have to be married, and organizers say male contestants could “borrow a neighbor’s wife” if they didn’t have…

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Baby blue eyed boozers get bossed

Mexican faceApparently blue eyed people are seen as less dominant than brown-eyed people – regardless of whether or not they are attractive (see my earlier post; Take me to your (tall and probably attractive) leader).

But it’s not just because of the eye colour. Czech researchers think it might be because people with blue eyes are treated as children longer and become conditioned to being more submissive.

And according to economics writer Chris Dillow in The Times (2/6/10): binge-drinking is more common in northern than southern Europe. Researchers at the Universities  of Oslo and Wyoming say that it’s in the genes and because blue-eyed people, more common in the North, are shyer they drink more to loosen their inhibitions.

Back in December 2010 it was reported that Scientists had discovered a gene, HTR2B, which can make people more susceptible to bouts of sudden aggression when under the influence of alcohol. Research with violent criminals in Finnish prisons found they were three times more likely to carry an abnormal variant of the gene than ordinary people.

Although not the full answer as to why people engage in spontaneous and motiveless violence it explains how it can be triggered by other genetic and environmental factors.

This Q20* gene mutation is only found in Finns, and in only 1% of them, and as most of whom are not violent so there is no point in screening for it.

And it doesn’t explain what happens in the UK. But research at the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism published in Nature shows that genetic factors coupled with drug and alcohol abuse can lead to impulsivity and spontaneous violence.

The Finns were chosen for the prison study because they are genetically distinct but they also appear to have problems with depression and drinking, maybe due to the long hours of darkness. The first time I was in Helsinki it was still Winter yet there were a number of people lying in the streets in a drunken stupour in the freezing cold. Passers-by just checked to see if they were OK and moved on as if it were quite normal.

And the last time I was in Helsinki wandering round a supermarket I couldn’t find the section for wines and spirits. I eventually asked a local who pointed me to a separate Alco section (the beer was with the bottled water so it shows their take on what constitutes an alcoholic drink)She explained that it was for their own good as alcohol-related problems are in their genes. Seems like she was right.

Despite that particular problem Finland is one of the most highly rated countries in the world on a range of measures and a popular one for people who want to live elsewhere.

First version posted June 2010


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France miserable? c’est la vie

Sacrebleu! France is the most miserable country in the world.

According to the Global Barometer of Hope and Despair for 2011 life is looking grim for many Europeans but the French are the most pessimistic.

Iceland was the second most pessimistic followed by Romania, Serbia and the UK in joint third place (some people say the French have always been a melancholic race but we seem to have followed them since our latest recession).

Pascal Bruckner, a philosopher, was quoted in the Times as saying that France had a tradition of self-flagellation but was concerned that; ” the better we live, the more we complain” and that France was wallowing in “le miserabilisme”.  A French newspaper, La Croix, said that; “The French are the European champions of the bad mood”.

The most optimistic countries were Nigeria, Vietnam, Brazil, Ghana, and China.

The survey asked a sample of 64,00 from all social groups in 53 countries, whether they felt optimistic or pessimistic about 2011. The percentage of optimists and pessimists were then subtracted from each other to show whether that country was hopeful or pessimistic. Globally 30% expect 2011 to be a year of prosperity and 28% expect it to be a year of economic difficulty – so the net Global Hope score is 2%. But of the 53 countries only 19 can be classified as hopeful whilst the rest are pessimistic.

Global hope is highly concentrated among the rising economic powers of Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRIC countries) which have a Hope score of 35%. In sharp contrast the score for the rich countries of the world known as the G7 (USA, Canada, Germany, France, UK, Italy, and Japan) is a negative score of -17%.

The survey also looked at per capita income in each country and found that most of the countries high on income were low on hope and the most hopeful countries were those lowest in income.  But 20 of the 53 countries fall into the category of both low income and low hope. These countries include many of the former soviet republics such as Ukraine, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, and Lithuania, as well as Egypt, Turkey and Bosnia

By contrast there is a small group of countries which had both a high per capita income and a high hope score. These were Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Switzerland.

These countries have been in the limelight before. Finland has been judged the best country in the world, followed by Switzerland and Sweden, and one of the top countries people would like to live in, along with Sweden and Denmark. It’s scandinavian neighbour Denmark has been judged to have the most satisfied populace, followed by Switzerland and with Finland and Sweden both not far behind. There is definitely something to be said about these Nordic countries but Norway must feel left out.

Updated 30 January 2011: To add to France’s woes President Sarcozy is proposing that French schoolchildren are taught English from an early age! The President is well-known for his love of Anglo-saxon culture and now wants to teach the “language of Shakespeare” to toddlers.

Right wing intellectuals are up in arms reminding everyone that de Gaulle never spoke a word of English in public (but we know what an ungrateful so-and-so he was) and that another former President, Jacques Chirac (currently in a spot of trouble with the law), walked out of a meeting being addressed by a Frenchman in English. They see language as an agent of domination

The English language borrows from the French (usually courtesy of 1066) but the French don’t generally reciprocate. “Le weekend” is about the extent of it apart from internet language and air traffic control. The government is proposing that children start learning at 3 years of age – rather than at seven as at present – assisted by computers, and there should be student exchanges for older pupils. Some experts say that three is too young anyway and that children can’t learn a foreign language until they learn their own at age 5 or 6.

Others argue that standards in French have slipped and those should be improved before teaching English. The President himself has been criticised for his use of slang and vulgar expressions. The Academie Francaise has always resisted the spread of “franglais” and “globish” and insisted on French words such as “courier electronique” for e-mail.

Updated 21 February 2011: Good news at last for the French, or at least the French “baby boomers”. It seems they might have found the secret of beating old age and believe that senior years can bring joy and fulfilment rather than what Charles de Gaulle called a “shipwreck”.

There has been a backlash against jeunisme (youngism) led by psychotherapist Marie de Hennezel. Her best-selling book: “The Warmth of the Heart prevents your Body from Rusting” promotes staying healthy but embracing physical decline rather than resisting it. She says it means; “accepting age without becoming old”.

She is a government adviser on end-of-life policies and finds that although quality of life allows people to live longer, old people are hidden from site and France has one of the highest suicide rates in the world for the elderly.

As you might expect from the French, the need to continue to delight in sex is an important part of this new philosophy and Hennezel says; “it just gets more beautiful and lasts longer as you get older“.

And older women are revered on French TV (the top rated newscaster is a 56 year old woman) and many foreign stars like Sharon Stone and Kristin Scott Thomas have resurrected their careers in sexy roles in French cinema.

So for baby boomers follow the French way: accept your age but enjoy the sex!

Updated 28 February 2011: I never thought I would say this but after the last update and the latest news from France – I am getting to like the French (except for Arsene the Winger)!

The news is that part of the planning to reduce the 9.3% unemployment rate is to offer free hairdos, manicures and makeovers to female jobseekers. Action Relooking is an initiative open to a dozen women every month from the 1.5 M who have been out of work for more than a year. OK it would take over 10,000 years to clear the backlog but it’s a start.

Pole Emploi, the national employment agency, has been accused of sexism by feminist groups because it hasn’t offered the same service to men. In the politically correct UK of course it would never have got off the ground in the first place unless men were offered the same treatment.

The French Prime Minister’s wife is backing the scheme and those who have been the lucky recipients say it has boosted their morale in difficult times and given them confidence when they attend interviews knowing that first impressions are important.

Others are less convinced. A union activist said it was a “get pretty and go to work philosophy” and feminist websites are saying that makeup and fashionable clothes will only be good for bosses who are predominantly male.

Updated 2 May 2011: You have to feel sorry for the French riot police, the CRS. They’ve been told they can no longer have a glass of wine with their lunch when on duty!

The police union aren’t happy about this attack on a Gallic tradition of having a 1/4 litre of red with their meals. The union is suggesting a very French compromise – having their meals and drink out of sight of the public. Other police departments are watching with more than interest as they fear the same rule will be applied to them.

French employment law prohibits alcohol in the workplace with the exception of, wine, beer, apple or pear cider (so now you know the French definition of alcohol) and police regulations forbid drinking altogether but this has always been officially ignored (and you have to admire the French for their willingness to ignore rules and regulations).

The CRS spend most of their time waiting to deal with riots and see the wine as a convivial tradition. Unfortunately last year riot police were seen drinking beer during demonstrations they were supposed to be policing.