NEW YORK (Learnvest) — You swore off coffee – then caved when you hit a particularly stressful deadline.
You don't eat any chocolate anymore – unless there's no one around to see you.
Well, now you can flaunt those "bad" habits, because it turns out not all of them are so bad. In fact, some of them are downright good for you.
For instance, did you know sleeping in can improve your memory? Or that eating chocolate might even make you live longer?
We took a deeper look into 10 bad-habits-that-aren't. Turns out all these little things you may have been berating yourself for can actually benefit your health, your money and your motivation.
Study after study shows money doesn't make us happy. We'll make an addendum: Money doesn't bring you lasting happiness, but there's no denying the rush of a splurge.
Research shows that our increase in happiness isn't proportional to the money we spend, so treating yourself to a $50 blouse may actually bring you less total happiness than spending the same money on a small accessory every week or two. After the initial wave of delight, we adjust to our new situation very quickly each time we get something we want, whether it's big or small. Unfortunately, that first rush of euphoria is short-lived.
As a result, little, frequent splurges give us those bursts of happiness over and over.
That's why buying things you enjoy can actually be good for your money. The key is to spend in a premeditated, controlled way. For example, you might choose to reward yourself for staying on budget by buying fresh flowers at the end of the month, which will keep you motivated to stay the course.
No one is saying you should drain the coffeepot twice over before 10 a.m., but research shows a reasonable amount of coffee does you more good than harm. Not only is coffee no longer associated with heart disease and stroke, but it also has antioxidants. It's been shown to fight Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer.
New research published in The Archives of Internal Medicine also found that women who drank two to three cups of coffee daily had a 15% lower risk of depression than those who didn't, as the coffee helped regulate their moods.
If coffee isn't your thing, other caffeine sources are just as good. Various studies have shown that caffeine increases memory, detoxes the liver, increases stamina during exercise and fights Alzheimer's. As with all of these habits, make sure not to get carried away – more than four cups per day can have adverse health effects like insomnia, irritability and restlessness.
Staring into the distance at the team meeting doesn't exactly impress your boss.
But that dreaminess may actually be associated with good "working memory": A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that people with more working memory have a greater tendency to drift off when the task at hand doesn't use all of their attention.
Working memory is your ability to remember many different things at once: the emails you need to send, the errands you want to run after work, the fact the dog walker isn't coming tomorrow. Working memory accounts for that experience of "being on autopilot," thinking of one thing while doing another – such as commuting all the way home and not remembering the trip. It's also been associated with measures of intelligence such as IQ and reading comprehension.
So the next time your colleague pokes you with a pencil to bring you down to earth, remind her that you're just demonstrating your intelligence.
Something tells us we might not have to work too hard to convince you of this one.
But in case you're still resisting your co-worker's snack drawer, we'll tell you that The Daily Beast compiled 11 research-supported reasons that chocolate – especially dark chocolate – benefits your health. Here are some of the standouts: Eating 45 grams (about two bars) or more of chocolate per week reduces your risk of stroke, thanks to the dessert's antioxidants.
One weekly serving of chocolate prevents blood clots.
A compound found in chocolate may prevent the growth of cancerous cells. It can lengthen your life: The oldest woman on record lived 122 years and ate 2.5 pounds of chocolate per week.
Being lazy about your money
Setting up automatic payment for your bills can make you feel lazy, like you aren't staying on top of every dollar in the way you should.
But we actually recommend automatic payments for fixed expenses (and fixed expenses only) such as rent or savings contributions. By bypassing your checking account, you don't see that money and aren't tempted to spend it somewhere else. Plus, there's less risk of forgetting your cellphone bill is due on the 15th.
There are a few caveats: If you use auto bill pay, make sure you have enough money in your account ahead of time to keep from overdrawing. If you don’t have a lot of extra cash and have to rush to deposit your paycheck before you can pay your bills, don't use auto bill pay – the risk of overdraft isn’t worth it!
For more guidelines on when to use automatic bill pay (and when not to), see our guide.
Yes, your cubicle-mate might hate you for the constant finger-tapping, but does she know you're technically working out?
It's the same principle as integrating stair-climbing and the odd yoga pose into your day: Every little bit counts. The Mayo Clinic found that leaner people spend an average of two hours every day moving and fidgeting, while heavier people spend that time sitting. The sitters might have burned about 350 extra calories per day – enough to lose 30 to 40 pounds in a year.
There is also research showing that children with ADHD actually focus and learn better when they're fidgeting. Their movements, instead of being distracting, are actually their own method of focusing their attention. It's not a stretch to think that fidgeting, a mindless task such as doodling or twirling your hair, might help adults focus as well by filling up the working memory not occupied by the task at hand.
So fidgeting burns significant calories and keeps us on task? Our cubicle-mate can deal with it.
We've done our fair share of villainizing stress. We're always looking for better ways to lessen our stress and learn exactly how to deal with it. Because generally, stress is a bad thing.
But maybe not? There's actually such a thing as "good stress," known as eustress. The thought is that a little stress is good for us. Some psychologists claim that many people do their best work under low levels of stress ... such as writing those last-minute papers in college. Think about so-called adrenaline junkies: They're just people who pursue stressful situations.
Again, stress is one of those things that's only good in moderation. Running a little late? Your neighbor's music is just a touch too loud? A slightly stressful situation won't hurt you. But constant, pervasive stress, such as the kind many people feel about money, isn't the same thing. Persistent money stress can actually damage your health.
Calling in for a sick day when your symptoms are that you have tickets to Florence + the Machine definitely shouldn't become a habit.
But the days off you've been promised, whether personal, sick or vacation days, are yours to use. Even if your health is flawless, forfeiting paid time off is like giving back money your employer already paid you.
As we learned when discussing why women are burning out before age 30, Americans will give up roughly 226 million vacation days this year. But that's not a good thing: One report found that 48% of workers felt happier and more positive about their workplaces after taking a vacation.
Since feeling cynical about your office is one of the key causes of burnout, taking a vacation is an easy (and fun … and potentially margarita-filled …) way to keep yourself going.
We've heard it before (and before that, and before that): Morning people have it better. They're more productive, healthier and probably never get stuck at two red lights in a row.
But sleeping in isn't the vice you might think. Sleeping late can improve your long-term memory, your memory organization and your capacity to learn. It has to do with sleep cycles: Humans sleep in cycles and each cycle has progressively more REM sleep, which strengthens the memory. When you get up early, you're cutting off that last cycle, which deprives you of the necessary REM.
We certainly don't condone being late to work (or anywhere else), but every extra z is a good one.
Compulsive penny-counting endears you to no one, especially friends who don't want to eat at the 99-cent pizza place down the block for their birthday dinners.
But stinginess is just an inflated version of a good habit: discernment. Picking and choosing where your money goes is something we encourage. The trick is keeping it from going too far, like this woman, who nearly ended a relationship because her boyfriend bought brand-name crackers.
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