Ever promised yourself that this year you were definitely going to give that bad habit the flick, only to give into your vice again after only a couple of hours? Well, the good news is that 'bad' habit may not actually be as harmful as you think. Here are 10 common 'bad' habits that are actually good for your health.
'Bad' habit that's good for you 1: Gossiping
Most of us love a good gossip, whether we're giggling over a colleague's new romance or passing an opinion on someone's outfit choice or behaviour, and the good news is that gossiping could actually be good for us. Not only does listening to gossip help us to learn more about the characters of those around us, bonding and having a laugh with your peers also releases feel-good hormones which help to relieve stress and anxiety.
'Bad' habit that's good for you 2: Drinking coffee
Although drinking too much coffee can be detrimental to your health, in smaller quantities the popular hot drink can actually be good for you. When drunk in moderation (no more than three cups per day), caffeine can speed up your metabolism, boost exercise endurance and reduce your risk of gallstones and kidney stones. A study by the Harvard Medical School has also found that women who drink two or more cups of coffee a day are less likely to be depressed, while separate research has shown that drinking three cups cuts risk of age-related diabetes.
'Bad' habit that's good for you 3: Fidgeting
It's the bane of school teachers everywhere, yet research suggests that fidgeting may be no bad thing; at least in us adults. Research suggests that fidgeting can burn up to 350 extra calories a day, helping you to keep off those excess pounds. To further increase your calorie burn, try to squeeze in more incidental exercise, such as getting up to change the channel rather than using the remote control.
'Bad' habit that's good for you 4: Swearing
Swearing: it's not big and it's not clever... but studies suggest that in certain situations it may actually be good for you. According to a study by the University of East Anglia, swearing at work could help employees cope with stress and maintain solidarity. Meanwhile, researchers at Keele University's School of Psychology found that swearing can provide effective short-term relief from pain. However, the study also notes that swearing should be reserved for crises only, as the higher the daily swearing frequency was for participants, the less pain relief they experienced.
'Bad' habit that's good for you 5: Skipping a shower
OK, so repeatedly missing showers may not win you any friends, but if you are ever tempted to skip a shower here and there, research suggests that you could be doing your health (and the environment) a favour. Daily washing not only strips your skin of the natural oils that keep it hydrated and supple, it could also strip your skin of good bacteria that help to prevent disease. If you do decide to skip a shower, just try to do it on a day when you won't be vigorously working out!
'Bad' habit that's good for you 6: Losing your temper
Many of us have been brought up to believe that losing our temper is the ultimate social faux pas. To an extent this is true (nobody wants to hang out with that person who is always losing their cool and shouting their mouth off), however research has found that losing your temper could actually be good for your health. Venting your emotions is believed to reduce the effects of stress, while a Swedish study found that men who bottled up their anger when unfairly treated at work doubled their risk of having a heart attack.
'Bad' habit that's good for you 7: Sunbathing
In recent years, official advice has been that we should cover up in the sun at all times to protect ourselves from skin cancer. However, more recently experts have stated that actually little and frequent sun exposure is good for us. In the UK, where vitamin D deficiency is common, seven leading health groups and charities have issued a statement advising everyone to spend 10 minutes in the midday sun without sunblock in order to avoid rickets. Meanwhile, a US study has stated that the vitamin D produced by the sun could help ward off colds and flu. However, experts have stressed that people should cover up after 10 minutes, and skin should never be red at the end of the day.
'Bad' habit that's good for you 8: Having a lie-in
Feeling guilty about your weekend lie-in? Don't be! Research has found that sleep can help you live longer, boost your memory and reduce stress, while not getting enough can lead to accidents, weight gain, and increased risk of heart disease. Furthermore, delaying your morning workout in favour of some shut-eye may have health benefits, as research from Brunel University found that heavy training sessions early in the morning can compromise the immune system.
'Bad' habit that's good for you 9: Giving in to your cravings
Although constantly giving into junk food cravings is a sure-fire way to sabotage your healthy eating success, allowing yourself the odd treat will not only boost your happiness, it will also help you keep motivated to stay on track. Also, as many people crave the foods that they most attempt to resist, allowing yourself a little of what you fancy can actually help to reduce cravings. If you have imposed extreme restrictions on your diet and cut out entire food groups, cravings could also be a sign of a nutrient deficiency in your diet.
'Bad' habit that's good for you 10: Daydreaming
Many of us view daydreaming as a sign of laziness or form of procrastination; however, researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that letting your mind wander can actually help boost your problem-solving abilities. The study found that when participants minds wandered, the parts of their brain associated with problem-solving became more active than when focused on routine tasks. So, while daydreaming can increase the time it takes to complete your present task, it can allow you to unconsciously sort through other important problems in your life.
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The pupils (the black circle in the centre of the eye) in normal people are usually symmetrical, the same size and react in the same way when exposed to sunlight. If one pupil is bigger or smaller than the other, there could be an underlying medical problem. Experts claim that differences in pupil size could indicate that the person is at a higher risk of having a stroke, brain or optic nerve tumour, or brain aneurysm. If you spot any changes to your pupils, raise this with your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.
If your eyes are always dry and ultra sensitive to light, it could signal an immune system disorder, Sjogren, which impairs the glands in the eyes and mouth. The condition affects women over 40 with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Seek advice from your GP if this sounds like you, as artificial lubricant can be prescribed and you'll be advised to drink plenty of water. "Dry eyes are more common in women over 50 due to hormonal changes," adds Larry Benjamin from The Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
If your eye is covered in a 'cloud' and your vision is impaired because of it, you may have a cataract. This causes a clouding of the lens inside the eye and can be corrected with surgery. This condition mainly occurs in older people but in younger people, it is commonly caused as a side effect of diabetes, tumours and some medication.
Although there are many things that can cause itchiness around the eyes, the most common reason could be pinpointed to an allergic reaction. The eye, and the area around it, is delicate and sensitive and more vulnerable to infections and allergies. Triggers could be anything from airborne pollens, dust or animal fur. If you suffer from red itchy eyes, try antihistamines to ease the redness, or visit your GP to organise an allergy test. If your eye and eyelids become puffy and sore, this could be a sign that you're sleep deprived. "Fluid moves around your head when you sleep and normally disperses when you wake from a good night's sleep. "However, lack of sleep causes this fluid to retain around the eye area for longer," explains Larry Benjamin from The Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
If your eye has a light grey ring around the cornea (the coloured circle in your eye), you may have a condition called arcus senilis, which is often linked to high cholesterol levels and triglycerides - fatty acids found in the blood. These are linked to higher risk of heart disease and strokes, so if you spot a grey ring circling your eye, visit your GP to discuss changing your diet.
Although it's natural for eyebrows to become thinner as we age, if you notice your brows literally 'disappearing' from the outer third of the eyebrow, this could signal a thyroid dysfunction. Loss of eyebrow hair from the outer edges of your face is a common sign of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (under active thyroid). Thyroids help regulate the metabolism and thyroid hormones are vital for hair production. If in doubt, book an appointment with your GP.
"Watery eyes can indicate infection," explains Larry Benjamin from The Royal College of Ophthalmologists. "If the eye is watery, you've most likely got an infection caused by a virus. If it's sticky, you might have a bacterial infection." If your vision becomes blurry, this could also be the result of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), caused by eyestrain from lack of contrast on a computer screen. This makes the eyes work harder focusing on the pixels on the screen. If in doubt, speak to your employer about booking an eye test, which is free if you use visual display units (VDU) for long periods of time.
Yellow lumps, also known, as xanthelasma palpebral, which appear on your eyelids could be a warning signal that your cholesterol levels are sky high. These are fatty deposits, which clump together and live in the eyelid. These are very often mistaken for a stye. Although these are quite common, it's best to get them checked by your optician or GP, as it can sometimes be an early sign of coronary artery disease. If you spot any coloured spots on your eyelids, in particular brown spots, visit your GP immediately as it could be an early sign of skin cancer. These usually appear on the lower part of the eyelid and will look a brownish colour with tiny blood vessels.
If your eyes are always blood-shot with broken blood vessels making them look blotchy and sore, this could be a sign that you have high blood pressure. Your optician will be able to confirm this by looking at your retina (the inner part of the eye). High blood pressure causes the blood vessel in the retina to 'kink and twist', causing them to break and look red. This could increase your risk of a stroke, so raise it with your GP as soon as possible.
If the whites of your eyes have a yellow tint rather than pearly white, you may have jaundice, which is linked to various liver and gall bladder problems. A simple blood test will confirm this, so if you're in doubt, book an appointment with your GP.
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