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Your Healthy Family: Your bad habits may actually be good for you

Posted at 8:28 AM, Sep 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-11 08:28:28-04

We all have bad habits; some people pop their gum, others click their pens or bounce their legs. While they can be annoying to other people, those bad habits may actually be good for you.

“Surprisingly, there are some wellness benefits to our bad habits," Dr. Dan Pallesen, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, said.

Let's start with gum-chewing.

"When we're stressed out, our bodies tighten up, we clench our jaw. Chewing gum has been linked to relaxing the jaw, but still helping us to focus and maintain attention in stressful times. It’s like a way to help us maintain that prolonged attention when we’re stressed," Dr. Pallesen said.

This is backed up by the National Institutes for Health. Even professional athletes use gum to get an edge.

"Michael Jordan, Shaquile O'Neil, even Jordan Spieth attribute staying in the zone for a longer period of time to chewing gum," Dr. Pallesen said.

Another bad habit that gets a bad rap — messy rooms, desks and personal spaces.

"Messy personal spaces, even though they're the thorn in the side of many parents and bosses out there, can actually be a sign of intelligence and even creativity," he said.

While the University of Minnesota's Psychological study backed this up, it may not apply to the neat freaks.

"A messy environment for you may be distracting, but for a lot of people out there, a messy environment helps those creative juices flow," he said.

Another bad habit that may be good for you: fidgeting.

"You may be burning more calories, if you're bouncing your legs you increase your bloodflow, which strengthens the heart, so there's definitely some benefits to being active and fidgeting throughout the day," Dr. Pallesen said.

Research from London's Mayo Clinic says you can burn more than ten times the calories of someone sitting still, but you may be annoying the people around you. Dr. Pallesen said clicking your pen, or using fidget toys like spinners, cubes, and bubble pops can help us stay focused and on task.

"It helps to preoccupy parts of the brain that may run a little active, especially for people with ADHD, and can help them focus in places like the classroom or the office," he said.

Another surprising bad habit that may actually be good for you: cursing. A Keele University study found it's a great way to kill pain.

"Swearing has been found to increase pain tolerance by up to 33 percent," Dr. Pallesen said.

But here's the catch: it has to be actual swear words, not just jibberish.

"You're going to have to break out the hard stuff. They found in the study by screaming out jibberish swear words, it doesn't help with the pain tolerance. Something about the actual swear words can increase your tolerance for pain," Dr. Pallesen said.