Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Running is popular but there’s a dark side

There’s no doubt about it, running is popular. Increasingly you see people out and about clutching their bottle of water and wearing hi-tech clothes and running shoes.

All to the good you might think, and there is evidence of the health benefits of running e.g. enhanced mood and self-esteem as well as the physical improvements to your body – although there is also the potential to damage your health if you go to extremes.

However the evidence about the downside has been largely about physical damage. In the June 2017 edition of The Psychologist, Andrew Wood and Martin Turner, both lecturers in Sport and Exercise Psychology at Staffordshire University, wrote about the psychological downside of running – what they called the dark side such as eating disorders and exercise dependency.

Using rational-emotive behaviour therapy (REBT), which is based on the concept of rational and irrational beliefs, they found that many athletes they worked with did in fact have irrational (i.e illogical, rigid and extreme) views and responses to setbacks and adversity. So in dealing with setbacks, injuries, or rejection and failure their distress was coming from irrational beliefs such as:

  • I want to, and therefore I must exercise (demandingness)
  • It would be terrible if I could not exercise (awfulising)
  • Not being able to exercise makes me a complete loser (self-deprecation)
  • I can’t stand it when I can’t exercise (frustration intolerance)

In turn the athletes who were dependent on running would say things like “I can’t stand missing a run” or “I hate myself for not running” and felt guilty or anxious and in some cases started eating less.

In high performance athletes having irrational beliefs can actually help them to be more dogged and determined to win e.g. “I must not fail and I’m a loser if I do” no matter the cost in injury or pain.

And there’s the rub (no pun intended). Extreme and irrational beliefs may propel these athletes to success but at what cost? Runners pushing their bodies too hard, over-training and ignoring their personal well-being leading to exhaustion and burnout.

Rather than seeking to discourage people taking up what is a healthy pursuit for most people they simply ask you to exercise caution and monitor your relationship with your running: do you do it as a healthy choice or are you driven to run – at all costs?


Domestic abuse. Where does it start?

ulearn2bu

bully_picking_fight_1600_wht_11656-2Just over a year ago I posted on this topic following comments from Seema Malhotra the then shadow minister for preventing violence against women and girls.

As it’s that time of year when people often think about making changes in their lives I thought it worth re-posting with an updated checklist.

Malhotra had said that undermining someone’s self-esteem, for example, could be part of a broader pattern of behaviour, “Psychological abuse can be an indicator of physical abuse in the future or an indication of physical abuse that has happened in the past”.

It can be a part of a pattern of controlling behaviour that leaves people feeling fearful and terrorised in their own homes”.

And that could include being critical of someone’s appearance e.g. saying they look fat or their clothes are not trendy enough, or anything done to control or undermine someone.

Domestic abuse is usually thought…

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Domestic abuse now a criminal offence in the UK

Almost a year since it became a criminal offence. If you are suffering make a New Year resolution to do something about it NOW!

ulearn2bu

P1000496Controlling or coercive behaviour became a crime last week punishable by up to 5 years in prison under s76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.

Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said “Being subjected to repeated humiliation, intimidation and subordination can be as harmful as physical abuse with many victims stating that it had a more lasting impact”

The UK government’s definition of domestic violence is “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional

I posted last week on this subject not realising this amendment to the law was due. India Knight wrote about it in the Sunday Times describing such psychological abuses as seeking…

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Ditch your smartphone, get out in the countryside, and feel better about yourself

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Nature lovers are significantly less anxious and have higher self-esteem than people obsessed with their smartphones according a recent study.

They are also more conscientious, emotionally stable and more open to new experiences than those addicted to technology.

The on-line research at the University of Derby examined people’s mobile phone use and their connection to nature. Participants were also assessed on their personality and self-esteem

It found that those most in touch with nature used their phone half as much each day as the rest of the population and were more emotionally balanced i.e. 2 hrs 15 mins each day (which seems a lot to me) compared to 4 hrs 8 mins for those less connected to nature.

They also took 87% fewer selfies but three times as many pictures of nature.  So we can probably assume that they are also less narcissistic.

Miles Richardson, head of psychology, said “Nature…

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Princess on board – is that really a good thing?

“Have you let kids take over your life?” asked The Times’  Janice Turner – appropriately in the paper’s “Body + Soul” section – as the gist of the article was that they had done just that.

As I read the article I was agreeing more and more and getting quite annoyed. (It was in  half-term week after all).

A colleague and I used to meet regularly in a cafe bistro for a coffee and a glass of wine to catch up on mutual business matters. The cafe had big leather settees and proudly advertised wi-fi facilities which was great for nomads like us – a perfect mobile “office” and we could invite clients and colleagues to join us for lunch.

Then disaster struck – they introduced a kiddy menu (but not for them as there is probably more profit in a small portion than an adult one).

Now the place is crowded out with mums and kids in those over-sized “off-road buggies” which take out everything in their path. The noise level has increased and drowned out the background music – and that’s just the mums on their phones never mind the screaming kids. The staff often have to clear up the mess left by the kids around the settees (sticky drinks and leather – not a good combination) and not a laptop in sight.

And in an alternative venue I discovered that the mirror above the washbasin is fixed so low on the wall that any adult has to bend double to see in it (I had similar experiences in Wales but that’s a different story). It was put that way for the “little people” apparently (and no, we’re not in Ireland either).

We misinterpret “family friendly” as “child friendly” and over-indulge them, allowing them to dictate our lives rather than helping them adjust to the adult world. And as Turner points out other countries may be considered more family friendly but they expect children to fit in and be courteous.

Here we seem to be determined to raise a generation of accessorised little people with over-inflated egos, because they only ever receive praise, well on the way to developing a sense of  narcissistic entitlement. Simon Cowell needn’t worry about running out of X-factor wannabes any time soon.

As a parent I think I’ve done my share of tax-driving kids to activities and events but every time I see a car, or more probably a SUV, with a “Princess on Board” sign in the back, it makes me want to call social services and report a severe case of over-indulgence and parental self-flagellation.

Updated 15 February 2011: Seems I’m not the only person who gets annoyed when kids run around in restaurants. A report on the BBC News web-site reveals how attitudes vary and which restaurants welcome children. So you now know which ones to avoid.