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10 Guilty Pleasures That Are Good for You

“Many guilty pleasures are actually good for you, either physically or psychologically — or both.”

  • Massage: “Massages release stress,” Several studies show that massage reduces levels of stress-inducing cortisol and increases the levels of stress-reducing serotonin and dopamine, slowing the heart rate and reducing blood pressure. Massages are particularly effective for back pain, working better even than chiropractic therapy or acupuncture.
  • Chocolate. Dark chocolate is packed with powerful antioxidant flavonoids that provide many health benefits. A study reported in the British Medical Journal found that eating chocolate regularly decreases the risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent. Another study found that those who ate a chocolate bar weekly reduced their chances of dying from a stroke by 46 percent. And you’ll feel better — chocolate contains both serotonin, a neurotransmitter that acts as an antidepressant as well as a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) that enhances mood.
  • Coffee. No longer a vice connected with cigarettes, researchers have found the brew to contain potent antioxidants that fight numerous diseases.
  • Vacation. “A vacation gets you away from your everyday life and allows you to put your worries away and relax,” A study published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal found that stress and depression were lower among women who took at least two vacations each year.
  • Wine. Studies show that drinking moderate amounts of wine on a regular basis (two glasses daily for men and one for women) can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 80 percent, and numerous studies show that moderate amounts of red wine lower the risk of heart attack by 30 to 50 percent. Red wine has been shown to reduce the risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal, prostate, and ovarian — sometimes by as much as 70 percent.
  • Funny books and movies. “Laughter is strong medicine and causes us to release endorphins in our brain,” says Helmering. “Our bodies are flooded with ‘feel good’ chemicals, and we have a better sense of well-being.” Studies have found that laughter eases stress, boosts immunity, lowers the risk of heart disease, and decreases pain.
  • Video games. A large Canadian study found that video games game improve concentration, dexterity, and decision-making skills. In addition, says Helmering, they give our confidence a boost. “They get us away from feeling powerless — we have control and can change the game and start over.”
  • Dancing. An evening of tripping the light fantastic gives your brain a boost.”Dancing provides good physical exercise, energizes you, and gives you pleasure.”
  • Shopping. Shopping is stress relief that gets women away from mundane tasks, and it’s only a problem if you’re spending money you need for necessities. “It’s OK to spend money on yourself,” and you don’t have to spend large amounts for shopping to be satisfying.
  • Cat nap. Heart rate and blood pressure go down when you nap. Even a short nap will rejuvenate you and boost your brain power. If you nap, you’re in good company — Ronald Reagan, Albert Einstein, Napoleon, Churchill, and George W. Bush all enjoyed an afternoon nap. “Going to bed early and sleeping late also qualify as good guilty pleasures.”

    “Most guilty pleasures are fine.” “If you feel anxious, though, that means your ‘guilty pleasure’ doesn’t fit your value system, so you should avoid it. But for the most part, enjoy.”

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