8 "Bad" Habits Science Says Are Actually OK
If you’re tired of playing by the rules all the time, here’s some good news: In certain cases, it’s completely OK to let loose. Sure, there are some bad behaviors that you’re better off ditching altogether. (Sorry, binge drinking or staying up until 4 a.m. scrolling through Facebook are never good ideas.) But sometimes going against the grain can come with a pretty big payoff. Here’s a look at eight common no-nos that you just might want to say yes to every once in a while. (Maybe just don’t try them all at once, OK?)
Spending all day fixating on your problems won’t solve anything, and it isn’t great for your mental health. But in small doses, it can actually be helpful. A 2017 study published in the journal Social & Personality Psychology Compass found that a little bit of worrying can spur you into action. For instance, seeing someone weaving in and out of traffic could make you worry about your safety and make you drive more defensively, says licensed certified clinical social worker Scott Dehorty.
It’s not healthy to worry constantly, though. If you’re extremely nervous or anxious about things that aren’t really a big deal or your worries feel overwhelming and make it hard for you to get through the day normally, consider talking to your doctor or a therapist.
2. Binge-Watching TV
Good news: You don’t have to feel guilty about watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of “House of Cards.” Binge-watching is often billed as a pointless time waster, but it can actually be good for you. Getting immersed in a show’s story line is a temporary escape from your own responsibilities and stressors, Elizabeth Cohen, assistant professor of communication at West Virginia University, writes on TheConversation.com.
But the key here is letting yourself see binge-watching as beneficial downtime instead of as a bad habit. Buying into the idea that only lazy people watch TV can nix the stress-relieving benefits, suggests one Journal of Communication study from 2014.
3. Giving In to Cravings
When you’re hit with a major urge for a cookie or a slice of pizza, you might be better off indulging. Always saying no is a recipe for feeling deprived, says sports nutritionist Marie Spano, RD. When that happens, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually end up breaking down and gorging on whatever you happen to have around — even if it’s not all that tasty.
That’s why giving yourself permission to splurge may actually be the smarter move. “Having a small amount of what you really want might mean that you end up eating fewer calories because your taste buds are happy,” Spano says.
4. Wallowing in Your Sorrow
Your mom always told you that you shouldn’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself. But embracing sad feelings — like those felt after a breakup or when someone else got that promotion you were up for — can actually make it easier to cope, a 2016 study from Colorado State University research suggests.
Some waterworks are OK too. A 2011 study from the Journal of Research in Personality found that crying can help you feel better. Emotional tears signal the release of mood-boosting hormones like serotonin and norepinephrine, says Atlanta-based psychologist Dion Metzger, M.D. So by the time you wipe your eyes, you might start to feel a sense of relief.
Read more: The 7 Healthiest Ways to Deal With a Breakup
5. Having a Third Cup of Coffee
A daily cup of coffee can reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. It could even help you live longer, according to a 2017 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine. And guess what: It’s totally fine to have more, as long as it doesn’t leave you feeling jittery or mess with your ability to fall asleep.
Just don’t go overboard. Keep your caffeine consumption under 400 milligrams per day, recommends the Mayo Clinic. (That’s the equivalent of four 8-ounce cups of coffee.) Just as important, be mindful about what’s going into your java. You’ll get the biggest benefits from drinking your coffee black with no added sugar, syrups or cream, says registered dietician Jessica Swift.
6. Getting Angry
Not only is it not bad to let yourself feel royally PO’d, it can actually be beneficial. Feeling angry can motivate you to take action, which gives you a sense of control, says the American Psychological Association.
Expressing your angry feelings can also improve your relationships, as long as you do it constructively. (Honesty brings people closer together, after all!) Instead of yelling out the first thing that pops into your head, think about what your goal for the conversation is and the message that you want the other person to understand, says social worker Scott Dehorty.
7. Being Messy
Being a neatnik is overrated, especially when you’re trying to think creatively. A 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that people tend to be better at brainstorming new ideas in messy rooms than in tidy ones. And being surrounded by a little bit of clutter seems to make you more open to new experiences.
Messiness isn’t always best, though. That same study found that having an organized environment can encourage you to make healthier choices and be more generous. So consider straightening up after you’ve had your light-bulb moment.
Read more: 9 Things Only Type B People Will Understand
8. Taking a Break From Your Workout
Yes, it’s important to have a regular exercise routine that you can stick with. But it’s just as important to let yourself relax once in a while. Having one or two rest days built in gives your body time to recover. And just as important, it gives your mind a break from doing the same stuff over and over, says registered dietician Marie Spano. So when you come back to your workout the next day, you feel good physically and feel refreshed mentally.
That doesn’t mean you have to spend the whole day on the couch, though. Try getting in your movement with an easy, low-stress activity like walking or yoga. Or just swap your usual workout for something equally challenging but different. “Substituting rock climbing for weightlifting, for instance, can challenge your body in new ways,” Spano says.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you avoid these “bad” habits? Do you think you’ll allow yourself to indulge in some of them a little more frequently? What other “bad” habits do you allow yourself in moderation? Tell us in the comments below!