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Is Norway Really Happy?

28 Mar

When you think about it Norway doesn’t really have much going for it. It’s Geographical  position is one of the coldest parts of Europe. Long cold winters are a part of life in a country that has 30% of its landmass in the Arctic circle. Temperatures drop significantly, snow arrives lack of light and darkness is pretty much a way of life from November to February. So much so they call it Mørketiden ( murky times) in the far northern regions. The long days of sunlight from June to August must play havoc with the Nordic Circadian rhythm.

Norway was extremely poor before the late 1960’s and the they discovered oil. Until then Norwegian life was nothing like it is today’

The high rate of taxes between 40/45% of Salary and a vat rate of 25% on goods and 15% tax on food take quite a chunk out of everyone’s earnings. A Tv licence is 2680 KR which is €317. So you would expect some quality TV for that price.More about that later.

They don’t spend too much time at cinemas or in restaurants due to the high cost. They haven’t got the same love affair with coffee as the Finns and the Swedes both number 1 and 2 in the world coffee drinking rankings. They don’t even like ice cream as much as the ice cream obsessed Swedes or enjoy Fika( drinking coffee with a sweet treat) as Swedes do daily and at 3pm in almost all workplaces .

You need to be quite organised to buy alcohol, as only alcohol below 4.75% abs can be sold in supermarkets, anything stronger must be sold in state-run shops Vinmonopolet.They close by 18:00 on weekdays and 15:00 on a Saturday and no alcohol sales on Sunday. So If you like a drink in Norway you need to plan ahead. Even queuing up to purchase your alcohol is no guarantee you will get it as if it says 18:00 hrs on the till by the time you get to the counter you can forget about your party tonight. The till shuts down sales.

They have a criminal Eurovision song contest record finishing last 11 times. This overshadows the 3 wins they have to date. But creates a record in itself as no other country has had so many “Nul” points as Norway.

I have never been to a party yet where someone has said  “if only we had a few more Norwegians here then the party would really get going” So they don’t have a reputation of being the most sociable people. If they do it’s a well-kept secret.

Prices of coffee, beer and eating out are also seen as quite high in comparison to the rest of Europe and backpackers are told that you would need about €90 a day to get by, seems expensive. People complain about the lack of choice of food especially those that have moved from cultures with more options in a supermarket and sometimes the quality of fruit and veg in some stores seems questionable.

But for some reason

Despite all that I have outlined above, the people of Norway are constantly placed in the top ten happiest countries in the world. In 2017 they stole the top spot from the happy Danish people and beat their closest neighbours Sweden, Iceland and Finland to the top spot.

A Brief history?

Norway is an interesting country. Norway was relatively poor once one of the poorest countries in Europe in the early part of the 20th century. It had spent centuries with an on and off connection to Sweden starting in the 14th century.  and ultimately gaining independence from Sweden on the 7th of June 1905 only to have the 33-year-old  Prince Carl of Denmark called on to become the King of Norway. The National day for Norway is Constitution Day on May the 17th this goes back to 1814 its simply called “Syttende Mai” The Seventeenth of May. Norway and Denmark had sided with and Napoleon against the British and lost but it was the first time Norway had its own independent Constitution. For many years in the Early 19th century the Swedes had not allowed the Norwegians to celebrate this day. The will to celebrate “Syttende Mai” grew in significance. It also coincides with the end of the German occupation of Norway and the cessation of the World war 2 on the 8th of May 1945 which for many Norwegians was another great reason to celebrate Syttende Mai.

It was only with the discovery of oil and gas in the late 1960’s that turned Norway’s economic  fortunes around. It invested the oil revenues in a sovereign wealth fund that has a present day value of $885 billion and they also heavily taxed any foreign investors in Norwegian oil.

What are the 6 Key foundations to a nations Happiness and does Norway have them?

  1. GDP per capita
  2. Social Support
  3. Healthy life expectancy
  4. Social Freedom
  5. Generosity
  6. Absence of Corruption

Norway’s GDP per capita

Norway has an extremely healthy GDP at $64,124 . The nordic average for Finland Iceland,Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined is $47,375. in the 1980’s both Britain and  Norway invested in North sea oil reserves. Rather than splurge on all the money from oil that was discovered the Norwegians created a Sovereign wealth fund. Even with todays low oil prices, Norway is shielded from economic upset and citizens have guaranteed pensions on retirement and very little stress about their future. The fund is worth $885 billion and is the third largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. Britain never developed one and to this day has none.

The cost of living is expensive in Norway. The wages that are paid are commensurate with this and people can afford to get by with limited worries about financial difficulty.  Norway has the 2nd highest female to male ratio income. The normal stresses that the the rest of the world experience are not felt by Norwegians. Once they travel abroad there money goes even further. Frequent shopping trips to neighbouring  Sweden for alcohol and other items can bring savings. Even better is a trip to southern Europe or elsewhere where a Norwegian wallet will buy a bottle of Champagne while the rest of us are drinking Cava.

Social Support

Norway 6

One of the key things to feeling happy is the understanding that someone has your back. In home life or at the workplace “the knowing that there is someone to support you when things might get hard whether you need it or not” is a key component to a positive life evaluation and Norwegians have this. In Norway 93% of people believe that they have someone who they can rely on in times of need.

Norwegian Parents get to share 46 weeks of Maternity/Paternity leave for each child at 100% income if both parents share the leave and 56 weeks at 80% of income. Starting a job and thinking about having children are not a barrier to an employers decision to choose you. It is seen as something that everyone experiences and you may be asked the question at your interview process only to be informed of the great Maternity leave policy that the company have in place for you if you have Children.

Sick pay from work is 100% of salary and Unemployment assistance is 62% of last 3 years salary. Saying that the unemployment figures for Norway are 4%. Which means that many have purposeful employment.

Health care costs per capita are the highest in the world at $9,715. The benefits of high taxes provide all under 16’s and pregnant women with free medical care. Everyone else once they reach an annual deductible medical expense threshold of about €210 then receives free medical care. This takes a huge amount of stress out of the possibility of getting ill as many other countries have private health care systems for their citizens. If a hospital is unable to treat you condition in Norway it will arrange treatment abroad free of charge for you, That is hard to beat.

Education in Norway is free. University is 96% funded by public money. There are no tuition fees. The large student debts that many students end up with in Countries like Britain and the USA only contribute to an unhappy and stressful start to working life. The only debt that Norwegian students end up with from University is if they have needed to move city and rent elsewhere.

Health care on tap, free education for all, Maternity/Paternity leave with at least 80% of salary being paid for up to 56 weeks combined with a 100% sick pay scheme if illness arrives and a 62% of salary unemployment rate if you are unlucky enough to become a part of the 4% unemployed Norwegians.

They Have a healthy Life expectancy.

Eat enough Omega 3’s and this is bound to happen.Norway is surrounded and filled with a lot of water. They have quite a healthy lifestyle. Alcohol consumption is 28th out of all the 33 OECD countries. They also have a good health service and life expectancy of 82 compared with the OECD average of 80.

Also knowing that their future is secure with the $885 billion Sovereign wealth fund as a safety net for any future economic downturns. Norwegians experience less stress in their lives until the winter olympics and the Swedes beat them in Curling.

Almost 100% of the Norwegian population are satisfied with their drinking water. They live an outdoors life and like to Ski at any possible chance. The are surrounded by beautiful clean air and have 32.000 electric cars running on free electricity at present. Clean air in an oil rich country.

Social Freedom

Norway 4

Norwegians value their freedom. They only work 1,423 hours per year the 2nd lowest in the world. They spend 15.6 hours of their day on average concentrating on family,leisure and personal care. That makes sense.

Feriepenger is a word Norwegians have for a month of Holidays in July. Very little gets done in July. The sun is up the weather warmer and everyone gets paid for the month off with 12% of last years salary. Norway even has free bridging days if a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday then you get the Monday or the Friday off to spend more time eating Fårikål a national dish of boiled mutton and peppercorns YUM!!!

When asked the question  in the world happiness report 2017  “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what to do with your lives? the Norwegians responded with a resounding yes. Norwegians can choose to go to university and they can readily choose their careers.

Allemansrett: Means you have the right to roam pretty much anywhere in Norway. You can pitch your tent, travel and forage anywhere that is not private land. Norway is a vast country with a population of only 5 million people. There is a lot of land that is free for its citizens to explore and enjoy.

Do Norwegians feel safe.

Norway 5

Norway has quite a low  prison population. It has less than roughly 3,800 in a country with a population of 5 million. Rehabilitation is a big part of prison life. Prisons are open rather than closed and turning inmates into valued members of society is a priority. That makes Norway’s incarceration rate just 75 per 100,000 people, compared to 707 people for every 100,000 people in the US. Taking someones freedom is seen as punishment enough for crimes.

Leaving a purse behind in a coffee shop and returning to find it still where you left it is a common part of Norwegian life. Children are left in prams outside coffee shops as parents drink coffee. Children play outside on dark evenings in the winter and crime levels are very low. The murder rate is among the lowest in the world.

Norwegians take reformation of the individuals importantly. Three young children were playing in the snow one day  in 1994 in Trondheim ,two boys and a girl Silje Redergard. They were six and Silje was five. An argument broke out and Silje was killed by the boys. The boy names were never released and the papers never ran with the story like the Bulger case in Britain. They were immediately assigned into new Kindergartens with the approval of the parents of other children there. Rehabilitation was provided for the boys until they where 18 yrs old. One has responded well the other struggles to this day with what he has done but neither was incarcerated. Silje”s mother although still heartbroken agrees with the system of rehabilitation that Norwegian society has compared to other countries. Even Anders Behring Breivik has only received a 21 year sentence for the killing of 77 people in July 2011. His release will be postponed if authorities do not think he is fully rehabilitated.

Trust

Trust plays a big part in Norwegian society all wages and taxes paid are transparent for everyone to see online even the Prime ministers salary and tax returns,

The Government even employed a Philosopher to government role to advise on how best morally to spend the Sovereign Wealth fund. Henrik Syse advised the government on how spend the oil money that funded the wealth fund. His thinking was it took 200 million years for the oil to be formed let us not waste it in 50 years. The Norwegians use the surplus created from the fund but on Henrik’s advice they never touch the capital because it is not their money but future generations money for them to use. Quite a forward way of thinking that has kept Norway as one of the most stable countries in the world and allowed them to ride out the financial storm of 2008 and the falling oil prices of 2016/17.

They like the slow life

In 2009 the state broadcaster aired a live broadcast of the famous Oslo to Bergen railway journey, filmed from the perspective of the driver at the front of the train. Its a 500km  train journey live on TV and 25% of the Nation watched it probably eating boiled mutton while they did. This was recreated in 2011 in June with a coastal boat trip from Bergen to Kirkenes a 134 hour live broadcast of the boat trip. People came out to greet the ship as it passed and for 6 days the country was enthralled. It was the most watched broadcast in Norwegian Television history with over half the whole population of 5 million tuning in. The Queen even came out to get involved. There have been more slow TV broadcasts of a live crackling fire, salmon fishing, a knitting marathon and canal cruises. All mesmerisingly slow and relaxing and contributing to the calm approach to life that the Norwegians possess. Allowing them more time to write Eurovision hits.

What Norway is doing right.

Norway is a country which has so many of the attributes of a happy society.  People in Norway experience less anxiety about what is around the corner for them. They have an education system that is free and available to all to make choices career wise without incurring the burden of financial debt in the early years of working life. Many jobs in Norway are seen as job for life and are recruited with this in mind. Maternity and Paternity leave can be taken for over a year on between 80 to 100%  pay. Sick pay is 100% of Salary. July is a month of Holiday which is paid for by contributions paid in advance by workers. They have bridging holidays if a national holiday falls on a Tuesday of Thursday to give longer off. That’s smart

Unemployment is at 4% but if you become one of the 4% you are paid 62% of your previous salary until you get your next employment. The Health service is free after you have paid roughly €210 in charges for the year. Any operation that the hospital can not provide for you domestically is organised and paid for abroad.

You are unlikely to go to prison but if you do you will work on a programme of reahabilitation to return you as a functioning member of Norwegian society when you leave. Everyone in prison has a job and many cater for themselves,Trust is a major part of society and everyones wages and taxes are available to view online.

The Government has not squandeed the money made from the oil reserves discovered less than 50 years ago. They have delayed gratification and created a fund of $885 billion that will ensure that the country survives economic downturns and guarantees a pension on retirement to all Norwegian citizens.  With A health life expectancy of 82 years and a beuitiful clean environment to live in. You can see why Norwegians feel as happy about life as they do.

Maybe that happiness can help Norway forget all those nul point Eurovision losses and 11 last place positions.

 

 

 

 

Happiness isn’t complicated.

26 May

Worth the wait- Delayed gratification

20 Feb

delayed-gratificationOne of the simplest  but most fun exercises that I do when I run programmes for students is the Marshmallow experiment. I have provided this kids as young as 10 right up to 18-year-old students. Most of us know the experiment by now. The original experiment that took place in Stanford University in 1968  by Walter Mischel placed children in a room with a single marshmallow. The children were told by the person conducting the activity that they would return in 15 minutes and if the single marshmallow has remained uneaten then the child would receive a second marshmallow. Ten minutes alone with one of your favourite treats is a long time as a child and it is not a surprise to discover that two-thirds of the children eat the marshmallow thus forfeiting the chance of a second one. Although it was also discovered that if Children were instructed to think of the treat in front of them as a fluffy cloud like object or to think about salty pretzels rather than what was in front of them the desire to eat the marshmallow would be delayed. The experiment we know did not end there. Researchers followed up on the children almost 20 years on and discovered that delayed gratification resulted in greater SAT scores in schools and over all greater competencies in life.

I do a similar experiment by leaving the marshmallow on the desk in front of the child and continue with class. Those who make it through the class gain a second marshmallow. To me it is a fun and interesting experiment. I never mention the pretext to why I have done this. It is just a fun and interesting aside to learning about positive mental health. Kids simply like marshmallows!

But on a more serious note it seems that there is greater consequences from lack of delayed gratification.

In a controversial article by Marilyn Wedge in Psychology today titled Why French kids don’t have ADHD

And then, of course, there are the vastly different philosophies of child-rearing in the United States and France. These divergent philosophies could account for why French children are generally better-behaved than their American counterparts. Pamela Druckerman highlights the divergent parenting styles in her recent book, Bringing up Bébé. I believe her insights are relevant to a discussion of why French children are not diagnosed with ADHD in anything like the numbers we are seeing in the United States.

From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means “frame” or “structure.” Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies “cry it out” if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months.

French parents, Druckerman observes, love their children just as much as American parents. They give them piano lessons, take them to sportspractice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word “no” rescues children from the “tyranny of their own desires.” And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France. (Author’s note: I am not personally in favor of spanking children).

As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don’t need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.

I am not going to enter the world of arguments about this article but we can see that ultimately delaying gratification for our children from a young age can build a more resilient, patient, accepting and grateful adult.

The problem is your child has entered a World were delayed gratification is  not the way a society works. We are asked to eat on the go. We pass shops selling cooked fast food as we travel from lunch to dinner. We eat at the wrong times which the South Koreans can’t believe. Schoolkids buy chocolates and sweets on their way to school that would have been  reserved as treats for special occasions or when the favourite aunt arrived 20/30 years ago. We have lost the wonder. I am sucked in to it too. Remember the excitement years ago when you heard your favourite song on the radio. “Don’t touch the dial that’s my favourite song” now it’s harder to get so excited when you have 9,000 + songs on your iPod and access to all the songs you could want to hear on Spotify streaming all day. The magic and wonder don’t hold the same spark. So you turn the dial and look for something else. “you can listen to your favourite song some other time.”

We know that gratitude works we know it lowers our blood pressure, increases happiness by up to 25%, creates greater sleep patterns and increases the likelihood of exercise. But in a world of  with very little chance of delayed gratification we find it harder to know what we to be grateful for when everything is available on tap all the time.

When we create a society that has never understood what it is to not have. Where Parents provide anything for their children no matter what the cost. Have you ever witnessed the actions of a Child who has experienced getting what they want for the formative years of their lives suddenly hearing a refusal for a request for sweets at a supermarket checkout from a parent who thinks enough is enough.

Are we creating a society that will struggle to cope when adversity knocks on their door in later life because we have no reference points to understand what it is not to have. Delayed gratification creates value in what we do not presently have,or for what we are about to receive.It is simply good parenting.

What should we do

  • Educating our children where our food comes from can create an understanding that it took more than walking to the supermarket to put this food on your table.
  • Save treats for weekends or special occasions. That feeling I had on Easter Saturday as a child knowing I could eat all the chocolate the next day that I had stored up in the fridge over my Lenten fast was like winning the keys to the Wonka factory.
  • Learn to say “No” and stick to your guns.
  • Stop buying crap for kids who don’t even know it’s their Birthday or Christmas because they are only two years old.It’s pointless and starts the child on the hedonic treadmill.
  • If you can’t afford something a child needs explain why and if it’s needed tell them what you have to do to or they have to do before they receive it. Nothing should be seen as immediate.
  • Create an eating routine were food is valued.
  • Teach your children to value what they have. Many in this world have nothing and I mean nothing! Let them understand this.

Be grateful and enjoy the pleasures of the simple things.

What can we learn from Donkeys

6 Nov

Donkey-Paintings-600x450

There is a fable about a farmer who had a donkey. The donkey was old and one day it had fallen down into a well on the farmers land. The farmer decided that the aged donkey was not worth saving, and since the well had no water in it and had been dry for some time, he would take the easy option and bury both. He began to shovel earth down the well and could hear the cries of the donkey as he did so. The farmer kept shovelling and soon the donkeys cries stopped. Presuming the donkey was now dead the farmer shovelled the last few spades of earth to finally cover the well and the dead donkey. Only to see the animal jump out of the well. The donkey had shaken off each shovelful of dirt and had stepped on the slowly rising mound of earth before finally jumping out and free.

The reality in a lot of our lives is that… relationships will end, Jobs will be lost, cars will be crashed and people we care about will pass away. As much as we might like to,we can’t escape the fact that sometimes life is tough.

What we have though is an ability to see these events in our lives as a chance for us to grieve, grow and have a greater ability to cope when something unexpected happens to us again… It’s called RESILIENCE. Resilience provides us with an ability to express what we feel,grieve and understand emotion when something difficult comes our way in life…But also to learn from what happened and understand that this will give you coping skills for when something similar happens again.

We are probably very guilty of producing a generation of children with less resilience. As we tell our children that they are  “Special”  and “Amazing” . The truth is that the word special itself explains that not everybody can be special or else the it would be redundant. Tell an interviewer that you think you are “Special” and balk at his next question when he asks why you think this is true? This excellent article by the Huffington post outlines the problems that generation Y are experiencing.

You mightn’t get your first your second or even your third job after interview. But you will be learning valuable life skills and you will be better prepared and more appreciative when the door finally opens for you.

Your first girlfriend might dump you because it’s not all about “You” and maybe caring and paying attention to the other person in the relationship is what you need to work on for your next relationship to work.

Life is a work in progress and the key word here is “progress” Try nothing new or never venture out of your bubble and you will rarely feel that you are learning and your life is moving forward.  Run away from difficult decisions or experiencing life’s emotional upsets will never build resilience.

Be that Donkey…or die.

Positive mental health -What would Gandhi do?

19 Jun

Mahatma-GandhiSometimes life doesn’t seem to offer many glimmers of hope.  Our thoughts can really effect our lives.Negative thinking can lead to negative behaviour and thus can contribute to negative feelings or physical feelings that make it difficult to see that life can change for the better any time soon.

The thoughts that we have are not always based in fact. Actually, most of our negative thinking has no base in reality at all. We might think I’m not good enough when we can write a list of all the activities we have accomplished and a large list of reasons that we are good enough.

We might think that we are not loved when we have a large number of friends and family that care for and love us.

Our thoughts might lead us to think that we will never find a partner in life because we think we are not loveable. All this leads to actions that don’t help us. We might become very inward. We might stay in rather than socialize. We might turn to stimulants or alcohol. We might even get angry at people  because of our situation. All actions that will not help with our negative thoughts and feelings.

Next time you are having thoughts like

  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “Everything always works out for the worse for me.”
  • “No one would want me as a partner.”
  • “I’m too nervous to meet new people so I will give it a miss.”
  • “That job promotion is not for me.”

Think of someone who you look up to in life. It could be a really dear friend that you have in life . It could be your best friend or partner. What would they say to you if they knew you were thinking like this. They would tell you that there is no reason to be thinking like this and they would give you many reasons why.

Think about it like this what if you discovered someone you really cared about was thinking like this. What advice would you give them. You would outline all the great qualities they have and all the reasons that their thinking holds no truth.

Simply apply this advice to yourself. Quickly it begins to change your perception of your situation.

My favourite method for this is I imagine a role model past or present in life and I think how would they act if they were thinking like this. Your role models might be Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Eddie Vedder or an old teacher that you once looked up to. This is really powerful and helps us stop and analyze why we are thinking a certain way and if it is serving us well.

Negative thinking ruins our lives as I talked about in my article about Worry. So make an effort to stop it by

  • Think about someone you care about what advice would they give if they knew you where thinking like this. Take it.
  • Imagine someone you really cared about was struggling with negative thinking. What advice would you give them and simply apply it to yourself.
  • Take a role model past or present and imagine how would they act if they had thoughts similar to yours. What would Gandhi Do? and Follow it?

Lately when those negative thoughts start to emerge I immediately think of one person and think …….” What would Pooh do?”

Positive Mental Health- The Weather

6 Jun

sunny dayDon’t know what the weather is like where you are but here funnily enough it’s brilliant. The Sun is shinning it’s about 23˚and everyones mood seems to have lifted.Plenty of people are out and about and the cold miserable January weather seems a million miles away. Actually this Easter the temperature barely rose above freezing at night and 6˚during the day. This morning I did an interview for radio on the impact of good weather on our mood. Last year funnily enough the weather was the opposite to what it is now and I was interviewed by the same radio station on the impact of the poor weather on our mood.

Does Sunny weather improve our mood?

Well here are a couple of different things that happen when the sun shines

  • Ice cream sales go up!
  • We want to do more activities.
  • We feel like spending more time outdoors.
  • We feel happier.
  • We create more Vitamin D from direct sunlight.
  • We produce serotonin from sunlight.
  • We have more energy.
  • We feel worse if we stay indoors.

Vitamin D is great for building strong bones. We get it from  exposure to direct sunlight . Remember I told you before that we get a lot of help from our bodies to naturally help us feel good like the production of Endorphins when we exercise. Vitamin D not only helps us build strong bones it can also enhance our mood and help us to produce Serotonin.

Some countries have struggled with this. In 2011 Scotland had a problem they wanted to remedy. It was discovered that The people of Scotland suffered from low levels of Vitamin D. A couple of things might play into this. As beautiful as Scotland is it’s not likely that you have booked a holiday there in the hope of getting a tan. Actually some of the Northern reaches of Scotland of Scotland like the Shetland and Orkney Islands might only experience between 1,000 and 1,400 of sunlight a year. It also must be hard to watch the BBC weather forecast and see the South East of Britain basking in 28˚heat and above at certain times of the Summer when you are lucky to hit the high teens in parts of Scotland.

Scotland actually has one of the highest of not the highest rate of Multiple Sclerosis sufferers in the World with 10,000 people diagnosed at present,. The lack of Vitamin D seems to be contributing to this. Scotland has also high levels of asthma and allergy sufferers.Direct sunlight levels are poor and I presume that most fair skinned Scots wear high sun protection once the sun comes out.  This prevents the benefits of Vitamin D from reaching our bodies.

Why then do countries like Iceland and Denmark not experience low levels of Vitamin D like the Scottish. It seems that oily fish which plays a big part in both countries diet  supplies Iceland ,Denmark and other Nordic or Scandinavian countries with essential Vitamin D.

Funnily enough there are now reports that Countries like Australia and Kuwait are reporting lower levels of Vitamin D in their populace. Two sun filled countries that you would think are brimming with sun filled citizens overloaded on Vitamin D. It seems that lust like the Scots certain aspects of Australian/Kuwaiti life are preventing the benefits of the sun from getting through.

  • Sun cream prevents the benefits of sunlight from getting through to where it is beneficial.
  • Australians and particularly Kuwaitis are spending more time indoors. Most of the Middle East is so hot that spending time outside is oppressive. People jump from air con building to air con building.
  • Sun lights UV rays don’t make it through glass as we spend more time in buildings cars and offices.
  • Traditional dress in countries like Kuwait covers up most of the body especially in women which blocks the benefit of sunlight.
  • Oily fish may not play a big part in Kuwaiti diets.

Vitamin D aside there are other contributors to our mood and the weather.

Light also stimulates a part of our brain called the Hypothalamus which controls our mood,sleep and appetite. When the first bit of sunlight hits our retinas in the morning we begin to produce Serotonin which acts like our ON button. We are ready to greet the day and get active.

Lack of light or darkness the pineal gland produces Melatonin and we begin to feel sleepy. So at night time we wind down and in Winter we do so too by putting on a few extra pounds to fend off the cold and generally sleeping longer hours than in Summer. Farmers are busiest in Summer months and activity wise so are we.

So when we jokingly say “we are solar powered” we actually mean it. We need the sun to energize us and to contribute to our mental health.

But remember that

Here are a few tips for Summer sun

  • Get out and enjoy at least 30 minutes of unprotected sun. If you live in the Sahara or Kalahari desert maybe this is not a great plan.
  • Don’t excessively cover up. Let some sunlight in.
  • Think of all the things you spent your winter wishing you could do. Surfing ,picnicking,running,swimming, playing games or just walking with nature-go do it now.
  • Don’t spend your day looking out at the good weather but not coming out actually decreases your mood.
  • Soak it up while you can it wont last forever.

Think of it like this. All those people who live in eternally sunny climates look forward to visiting countries with seasons. Sometimes the heat in these countries becomes so oppressive that the ability to do any outdoors activities is sapped.

Think of that song by WizardI wish it could be Christmas every day” chances are you wouldn’t. The same applies to the sun.The happiest countries in the world are not Saudi Arabia, Turkey or South Korea but surprisingly un-sunny Denmark,Norway and Sweden. Go to Iceland any Summer and you will see people running naked around all kinds of festivals and enjoying the short summer.

Enjoy it while you have it.

Positive Mental health- Action matters

30 May

to-do-list-nothing[1]Life it seems is a series of choices that we make. These choices are generally made up of actions or behaviour. We either decide to do nothing… and nothing changes or we decide to put an action in place that will make a difference.

It is the action that makes the difference. Are all actions good? Not necessarily!. Some actions like overeating, hitting out at others, drinking excessively or spending money we don’t have are actions that will contribute to how we feel about ourselves or the world in a negative way.

We know that our thoughts can affect our feelings and our physical feelings. Our Behaviour(actions) can also contribute to negative responses in our thoughts and feelings.

Remember I said that if you do nothing, nothing changes. That’s a given. If there is something in your life that is impacting negatively on your life put an action in place that will help you.

Here is an example: If you wanted to lose 12lbs in weight what actions could you do.

  1. Order an Ice cream and tell yourself you didn’t want to change anyway.
  2. Talk lots about how you used to be a stick insect years ago.
  3. Buy lots of books on weightloss
  4. Watch Tv programmes on weightloss
  5. Talk a lot about wanting to lose weight- Tommorrow-Maybe!
  6. Go shopping on an empty stomach
  7. Get excited about special offers on Your favourite Ice cream tubs while shopping.
  8. Clear out your kitchen and fridge of foods that are not helping you lose weight.
  9. Eat everything that you were just about to clear out of your Kitchen and fridge and then revert to numbers 3, 4 and 5 above.
  10. Do nothing!
  11. Change your diet for the better
  12. Start to exercise 3 times a week.
  13. Find a form of exercise you like and start slowly at it.
  14. Cut down on portion size.
  15. Avoid High calorific foods.
  16. Set small goals of losing 2lb a week over a 6-8 week period.
  17. Put a plan in place to do this.
  18. Treat yourself a little on milestones or weekends.

So listed above are a series of actions that we could do if we thought about losing 12lbs of weight. I have made it quite obvious that Actions 1-10 might not get us very far or revert us back up the weight scale a little. Nevertheless they are still behaviour that might seem very familiar that we are quite capable of resorting to.

What I have listed on 11-18 are actions that are much closer in getting us to the goal we had in mind.

So now we are aware that Actions make the difference. It is important that we know which ones will help to change patterns in our lives that are impacting negatively.

Get out there and put more positive action into your life. As I have said before

Do nothing and nothing changes. Pick the right action and your life will never be the same again”

As Aesop once said. “After all that has been said and done there is a lot more said than done”

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