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Feeling guilty? 5 bad habits you don't need to break

Sometimes you’ve just got to be bad. You know, let a few swear words fly or doodle to your heart’s content while you’re supposed to be listening.  Turns out some of these so-called “bad behaviors” may actually be good for your health.
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Sometimes you’ve just got to be bad. You know, let a few swear words fly or doodle to your heart’s content while you’re supposed to be listening. Maybe you even chew gum in the face of a no-gum policy at work. Get over the guilt. Turns out some of these so-called “bad behaviors” may actually be good for your health.

Sometimes when we stub our toe, the urge to drop the F-bomb is too great to stymie. That’s because the release of letting a swear word fly actually makes us feel better.

Research backs this up. A study from England's Keele University had people put their hands in ice water. Half the group got to holler an innocuous word like “table” during the pain while the other half got to let fly with their favorite curse. The group that cussed tolerated the pain longer, which suggests that foul language may trigger the body’s release of natural pain killers.

Dr. Timothy Jay, a Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts psychology professor and author of “We Why Curse” and “Cursing in America” says cursing allows us to vent very effectively in a way that other less arousing language can’t do. If you look at people with Tourette's syndrome who have uncontrollable swearing, “they use the more offensive stuff because it’s more effective at relieving the pressure behind the tic,” says Jay. “They don’t say words like poop, they say ‘motherf*****.’” Most cursing has to do with anger and frustration but it can encompass a range of emotions.

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Next time you’re cut off in traffic or whack your finger with the hammer, throw down some bad words see if it helps.

Chewing gum
It seems teachers across America may have been remiss in making you spit out that gum. Sugar-free chewing is relaxing, fights stress and is good for your teeth. “Chewing gum promotes the flow of saliva, which has antibacterial components that fight decay-causing bacteria,” says Debra Gray King, an Atlanta-based cosmetic dentist. 

Of course, by reducing bacteria in the mouth, chewing gum freshens breath and whitens teeth by lessening stains. What’s more, “for a lot of people chewing gum serves as a healthy alternative to unhealthy things they put in their mouths, such as candy, chewing on ice or writing instruments,” says King. Gum-chewing reduces hunger pangs in people trying to lose weight and burns about 11 calories per hour. Researchers also think gum-chewing may help keep you alert and aid in concentration.

Like anything, chewing gum can be overdone. When you chew gum, you take in more air, so if you’re bedeviled by intestinal gas, give gum a pass. Also, constant chewing may cause jaw soreness and sugared gum is a tooth decay disaster. But if you like an occasional chomp, sugar-free gum is good for you.

The dictionary definition of “venting” appears to insinuate that it’s always associated with anger. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Holding in anger can contribute to hypertension and a host of other illnesses, so learning to vent healthfully is a plus.

“Healthy expression has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, increase feelings of relief and improve immunity,” says Barbara Neitlich, a Beverly Hills, Calif., psychotherapist. Yelling and screaming? Not so helpful. “Although people wish that once they ‘vent’ their feelings they will be rid of the anger, this is a complete misconception. Anger begets anger,” says Neitlich.

The idea is to convey your thoughts in a calm, clear way so you feel heard. And the goal is to feel as if you are moving forward rather than drowning in feelings of frustration and anger. Some good ways to vent: Screaming (in private or in the face of earsplitting noise, like an airplane takeoff, or a train at full speed), punching pillows, taking 10 deep breaths and then conveying your feelings in a calm way. Additionally, physical activity can help in the venting process. Try jabbing a punching bag, running quick sprints, or a kickboxing workout.

Drinking (a little)
Despite the back and forth on whether drinking is a do or a don't, research from the American Heart Association says moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. A bit of booze can slash your risk of heart attack and stroke, lower the incidence of Type-2 diabetes, reduce overall cancer risk and prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The key to healthy alcohol consumption is to have a little bit each day. The most widely accepted standard for healthful drinking is one drink per day for women and two for men. (A drink is a 12-ounce glass of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.)

“The ethanol is the active ingredient in alcohol that increases HDL, your good cholesterol, and protects against plaque formation,” says Dr. John M. Kennedy, co-author of “The 15 Minute Heart Cure: The Natural Way to Release Stress and Heal Your Heart in Just Minutes a Day. “Red wine is packed with antioxidants that act as a natural diuretic, which may help prevent arteries from becoming clogged with fatty blockages.” 

If you don’t drink, don’t start. You can find those same antioxidants in grapes, chocolate and coffee. But if you enjoy a cocktail, sip away.

FidgetingCan’t sit still? Relax! Fidgeting is good for you. Studies find people who fidget burn more calories, have better circulation and less back and joint pain. Even better, fidgeters think and remember more effectively when fidgeting.

“We’re designed to move and we’ve evolved in an environment where we move a lot to solve new problems,” says Sarah Wright, an Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder coach and author of “Fidget to Focus.” “We don’t really know why fidgeting works to facilitate working memory, but we do know the more stimulus there is around something we’re learning, the more likely we are to remember it.”

Fidgeting consists of performing a mindless activity that uses a sense other than the one you are using for your primary activity. If you’re writing, the fidget may be to chew gum or twirl your pen, if you are listening, the fidget may be to knit or twiddle your thumbs. Fidgeters can jiggle a leg, drum fingers, wiggle toes, doodle or pace while talking on the phone.