From binge-watching Netflix to lip-syncing on our commutes, guilty pleasures help us relax and reconnect with our silly selves. But while you know they help you unwind, did you know they keep you healthy, too? We hope understanding the health benefits will take the guilt out of these pleasures so that you can feel free to let loose and be you.
01. Dancing by Yourself
No matter if it’s tap or tango, dancing sharpens your mind and tones your body. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that dancing improves your memory and decreases the chance of dementia because it requires quick and constant decision-making. And like any form of exercise, dancing builds muscle and bone strength, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. And let’s not forget the “by yourself” part—solitary, intentional experiences of contentment throughout your day can have a positive impact on stress management and creativity. The lack of social pressures while alone gives you the freedom to think and act independently. So whether or not someone’s watching, bust out some moves for a happy mind and a healthy physique.
02. Singing in the Car—or Shower
Driving down the highway to your favorite playlist? Lathering up to the beat of the Backstreet Boys? No shame. When listening to a catchy melody in private, it’s hard not to break into song, and your health is benefiting while you’re at it. The wellness perks of singing include increased immunity, improved lung function and breathing, stress relief, and mental alertness. Plus, a music study performed by Emporia State University found that listening to pop music results in greater levels of comfort and relaxation while decreasing worry, tension, and confusion.
03. Doodling When You’re Bored
That random scribbling in your notepad? It’s engaging your imagination and improving your memory. A study conducted by a psychology professor at the University of Plymouth revealed that doodling prevents daydreaming during boring tasks, which in turn prevents your mind from wandering and helps you remember the important details. Don’t underestimate the power of your pencil shades, either. Using specific ones can induce positive emotional states through the psychological impact of color. A study out of the University of Georgia found that red instills excitement, strength, and passion; orange brings energy and joy; yellow is associated with hope and cheerfulness; green produces relaxation and security; blue is calming and builds trust; and purple inspires creativity and romance. For a mentally stimulating doodle, choose an instrument in a hue that corresponds to your desired mood.
04. Binge-Watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Viewing funny TV shows—whether it’s your favorite sitcom, cartoon, or throwback from ’90s-era TGIF—takes you away from your adult problems and into someone else’s world. You’re bound to let loose a chuckle while watching, thus reaping the healthy rewards of laughter. Equal to a mild workout, laughter stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles. According to a study led by medical researcher Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University, laughter stops the production of stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac. It instead activates anxiety-relieving and immunity-boosting hormones. So take unabashed pleasure in your occasional SpongeBob binge!
05. Baking Something Sweet or Savory
Cooking up a scrumptious treat can please your taste buds and improve your well-being. Smell has a powerful influence over your mental state. The olfactory bulbs in your nose are part of the limbic system, the brain region that controls emotion. So the next time you’re indulging in some baking, plan your ingredient list based on what your mind and body are craving. According to Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, authored by aromatherapists Kathi Keville and Mindy Green, peppermint improves focus and relieves stress, depression, and insomnia. For a tangy flavor, use a citrus fruit such as orange to decrease anxiety. Choose cinnamon for a calm mind and steady nerves.
06. Soaking in a Bubble Bath
After a long day, sometimes all you want to do is sink into a warm tub of bubbles. All those reasons why you love drenching in foamy warmth—the calm, the relaxation—are exactly why this guilty pleasure is so beneficial to your health. The steamy air eases your breathing, reduces inflammation, and relieves congestion. Its heat increases your blood flow to relax tense muscles and joints. Steam also opens your pores for a moisturizing effect on your skin. The perfect pre-bedtime guilty pleasure, a warm bath induces sleepiness for speedy shut-eye. As you transition from warm water to cooler air, your body’s post-bath temperature drop prompts drowsiness.