A little diversion with the World Cup

It is hard not to get unaffected by the World Cup football around. Even if you have little interest, you get influenced by the bug by the people around!

England are unfortunately out of the World Cup finals. After a stellar run, going all the way to the semi-finals and avenging that last-16 defeat by Iceland in the previous competition, leaving the Lions with their tails between their legs, the team managed to hold Croatia to injury time before a late goal saw them lose out.

There is a general belief that the England team have done enough to restore their reputations, and there is hope amid the pain of defeat. England boss was quoted as saying that the team has raised expectation and belief. There is still something to fight for, as England head into the third place play off with Belgium. You might argue that this might have instead been the final game had been expecting, instead of France and Croatia, but this is still a good chance for England to prove they have the mettle to beat one of the top teams in the world.

In Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, you may have argued that the Belgium team had a good spine from defence to attack. Unfortunately they were snuffed out by a French team and lost to a set piece winner by Samuel Umtiti of Barcelona.

It is a good test for England to see how they will hold up against their Premier League buddies. Most of the third and fourth place players ply their trade in the Premier League, and so it may feel like a charity match of sorts. But make no mistake, there is not going to be any charity in this one!

The big question now is, will Gareth Southgate let the fringe players of the team get a chance to play? Some of the players did get some game time in the third match of the group stage, when England’s place had already been confirmed. In that third match, it was England against – you’ve guessed it – Belgium. Or more accurately, England B vs Belgium B, with both sides resting many of their key players. It is unlikely that either team will now give their B teams a roll out, because the third place finish is important. To both teams, it highlights the pinnacle of both managerial careers. Southgate is on his first as England manager, while Roberto di Martinez is doing the same since being out of the Premier League.

England vs Belgium is an important game. It is the last game for the next two years before the Euros, so get your flags out and get cheering! You have to live with the result for the next two years!

Hopefully England’s march to success will continue!

Google or Counselling?

Seth Stephenson-Davidowitz is a data scientist, which – apart from the fact that it is viewed as a modern, tech-y, somewhat sexy job – means he uses data to draw insights. A major part of his work uses Google searches as a data set, because he believes that people are less inclined to tell the truth when presented with a face to face interviewer or a survey, simply because of how it reflects on them. In other words, traditional methods of information gathering are not necessarily trustworthy, from a deeper truth point of view. However, he believes that because there is a higher perception of anonymity afforded a computer user who goes on Google to search for answers to thoughts, the data trends are more accurate.

There is some truth in that belief, but in counselling once you have established that relationship of trust with a counsellor, it is easier to unravel the tangle of thoughts in your head, to work through the things that trouble you, instead of looking to Google for answers – the latter would be akin to reading an online self-help book!

One of Stephenson-Davidowitz’s research on data trends has focused on depression. According to data searches, August 11 and Christmas Day are the happiest days of the year – there are less searches for the word depression, while depression is highest in April, the month called the “cruelest month” by poet T S Eliot. Google data also suggests that climate matters a great deal. But also highlights that money is the perhaps a strong underlying cause – searches for depression are less in areas which a large percentage of people are college-educated, which – for those of us in the UK – means they have degrees, and are not to be confused with sixth-form college.

Using such data to gather insights is useful, but we should be careful about being too reliant. The data used in this research also suggested that areas with higher Hispanic-Americans were less depressed, but that could have been because Hispanic-Americans might not have typed “depression” into Google, but used other phrases as well, some of which may have been in other languages. And while depression is an anchoring word, people might look up “suicide”, “how to kill myself”, or “end my life” as other indicators of depression.

When you are depressed, it is a good idea to speak with someone else, because not only would that help unravel the thoughts in your mind, the speaking is effortful, and helps you burn off unwanted stressful energy within you and dissipate it. Of course, the listener – the person you are speaking to – should listen, and be trained to withhold comment, otherwise helpful “suggestions” only increase the pressures on you and the things you have to do and cause more mental triggers!

If you are not yet comfortable speaking with someone, try taking up a skill to take you out of the spiral of negative thoughts. Try a candle-making course, something arty, that takes you out to meet people. But if that still is too far of a social stretch at the moment, then something like learning the piano might be a useful skill. Learning the piano activates different parts of the brain which relieves the pressure on the cortex and the word-processing part of the brain, and as you get lost in the music and melodies, it will momentarily take you out of your stressful world and you give you some form of mental escape – instead of being lost in the maze of Google searches without a way out!