9 Bad Habits that Are Good for You

coffee, beer, stressed
coffee, beer, stressed

By Jessica Girdwain

Look at the Bright Side

When it comes to your health, some missteps are OK to make from time to time. In fact, many of these so-called mistakes, such as downing coffee and forgetting to take your vitamins, can actually help you improve your health, feel better faster and boost your mood. Learn the nine "bad" habits you should keep and how to make them work for you.

You drink a huge cup of coffee in the morning... and pour yourself a refill (or two)


A couple of cups of joe may perk you up in more ways than you think. Coffee gets a bad rap because of the caffeine, but it may actually help regulate your mood. A recent study published in Archives of Internal Medicine showed that women who drank two to three cups of coffee daily had a 15% lower risk of depression. Photo by iStock

"Caffeine helps activate the brain chemicals involved in mood, like dopamine and serotonin," says study author Alberto Ascherio, MD, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. Coffee is also a rich source of antioxidants and other healthy compounds that may help protect against cancer, according to new research. One caveat: If you don't drink coffee, don't start (caffeine is a stimulant and can cause jitters or an upset stomach in some people). But if you're a java lover, consider this permission to pour yourself an extra cup.
Learn 7 surprising things about your morning cup of joe.

You allow the Debbie Downer in you to sneak out


Think you should force yourself to stay positive (no matter what) when difficult things happen? Think again: Research shows that the key to long-term happiness may actually be dropping the "Everything's fine!" act. A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that newlyweds who remained positive in the face of negative but controllable circumstances (problems at work, financial issues) experienced more symptoms of depression four years later than people who looked at situations in a less positive (and more accurate) light. Photo by iStock

"Being realistic drives people to take steps to improve their lives, which helps ease stress and sadness," says study author Erin O'Mara, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio. Also, forcing yourself to stay positive often means you may be suppressing worries or other emotions, which can be unhealthy. Changing your outlook can be as simple as saying to yourself, "We're in debt. What's the first thing we can do to start digging out?" instead of denying the situation.
Discover 9 ways to think more positively.

You forget to take your vitamins


Although vitamins can fill in the gaps to make sure you get all the nutrients your body needs (a perfect diet all the time is next to impossible!), there's a downside to always popping a vitamin. It may make you reach for the bag of potato chips instead of an apple-and skip your workout to boot, reveals a new study published in Psychological Science. Photo by iStock

Researchers found that taking a multivitamin every day may make you feel like you have the leeway to blow off other healthy habits-like grabbing dinner at the drive-thru rather than eating right or channel surfing instead of taking a walk, notes Benjamin Caballero, MD, PhD, a professor of pediatrics, nutrition and international health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

In general, your body best absorbs nutrients in their natural form, so rather than relying on vitamins, focus on eating a healthy diet packed with whole foods. If you do take vitamins, remind yourself that they don't replace a healthy diet and exercise or provide a buffer against unhealthy habits.
Find out which 5 nutrients you need the most-and how to get them.

You get angry-and show it!


"Anger is actually a good emotion that's often misunderstood or irrationally used," says Mary Lamia, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Kentfield, CA. "It motivates you to take action and remedy situations that are wrong." The key is figuring out how to appropriately channel your anger rather than lash out. Dr. Lamia lays out the three easy steps: Photo by Thinkstock

1) Figure out exactly what triggered your anger. Was it the rude comment your coworker made during lunch?

2) Consider any other emotions that may be behind your anger. Do you feel embarrassed about the snide remark she made in front of other people? Are you really unhappy with your job but afraid of change, so you don't look elsewhere?

3) Plan a course of action to fix the situation. Have a conversation with your coworker to find out why she made that comment. Check job boards and see what other opportunities are out there.

A good rule: Always "sleep on it" or take some time before reacting. The physiological effects of a triggered emotion affect how you think, says Dr. Lamia. Giving yourself a few hours can help you clearly think through what's going on and the best action to take.
Boost your mood with these easy tips.

You drink beer


Red wine gets all the attention when it comes to heart-health benefits, but a brew can be good for you, too. "Beer is rich in disease-fighting antioxidants," says Cassie Dimmick, MS, a registered dietitian in Springfield, MO. It also provides a dose of energy-revving iron (dark beers are a richer source than light lagers, says research) as well as dietary silicon, a mineral that helps promote bone formation, which may improve bone density and help protect against osteoporosis. In fact, research shows that some pale ales contain just as much or more silicon than oat bran, which is one of the best food sources of this mineral. Photo by iStock

Beer contains 120 to 150 calories per 12-oz serving, which can add up fast. So if you do drink beer, make sure you stick to one per day (or less) to get the healthy benefits without the added calories and pounds.
Get tasty ideas for cooking with beer.

You get stressed about the little stuff


Chronic stress is linked to conditions like heart disease, but short-term stress actually has a positive side, pushing you to get things done-and succeed at them. "Stress triggers the hormone cortisol, which helps energize us, revving up our systems to handle the day," says Judith Orloff, MD, author of Emotional Freedom. "It also motivates us to do better on the things we care about and problem-solve." Photo by iStock

So know that the brief stressed-out rush you get before a presentation at work will help you perform better, and when the car breaks down, a little stress will help you fix the situation quickly. Balance is key, though, so it's important to recharge your batteries every day so those once-in-awhile stressed moments don't turn into a constant thing, says Dr. Orloff. Her suggestions: Spend five minutes every day doing an activity or hobby you love, or if you prefer peace and quiet, sit in a dark room and breathe deeply.

You skip your workout two days in a row


You don't have to exercise hard every day to be healthy (and taking a break is actually better). "Three to four days a week is enough to keep you in shape," says Mike Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning gym in Boston. Here's why: Days off give muscles time to repair and strengthen, something that happens only with rest, he says. You may also get tired of-or start to dread-a strict routine.

It's a good idea to be active every day (whether that's walking with your friends at lunch or taking your dog out for a stroll around the block when you get home in the evening), but schedule tougher workouts for just a few days a week. At least two of those should be strength workouts with weights, which will deliver the biggest toning and fat-burning benefits, says Boyle.

You procrastinate by reading those forwarded jokes in your inbox


It may seem like a waste of time, but taking a break to do something that makes you laugh is worth it. A small study of 30 people from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore found that when people watched a funny movie (There's Something About Mary), the lining of their blood vessels expanded up to 50% more than when they watched a stressful movie (Saving Private Ryan). Here's why a hearty chuckle is so good for you: "Laughter activates blood vessels to release the chemical nitric oxide, which causes them to enlarge and can help reduce blood pressure," says coauthor Michael Miller, MD. Photo by iStock

The harder you laugh, the bigger the benefits-deep belly laughs, not light chuckles, are more likely to trigger the healthy chemicals. And be sure to share that laugh with friends. Social laughter boosts levels of pain-relieving, feel-good endorphins, according to research from the University of Oxford. So watch a funny YouTube clip with your kids or call a friend and watch while on the phone together.

You take an over-the-counter sleep aid occasionally


Taking these pills to induce sleep every once in a while is OK. They can be especially useful if you have trouble sleeping due to nasal allergies or congestion, says Ronald Popper, MD, medical director of the Southern California Pulmonary and Sleep Disorders Medical Center. Why? Many OTC options (like Unisom SleepTabs) work because of a side effect of an antihistamine, a common active ingredient that also helps relieve allergies. But most sleep specialists don't recommend that you use them daily. All you're doing is taking advantage of the side effect (sleepiness) of antihistamines, which are intended for another use (reducing allergy symptoms). By contrast, a prescription sleep aid acts on the "sleep center" of your brain to induce sleep, says Dr. Popper. Photo by iStock

If stuffed-up nasal passages are what's keeping you up at night, OTC sleep aids may be a good solution. Talk to your doctor or a sleep expert before you start taking anything-antihistamines can cause other side effects because they affect the whole body and the longer you take them, the less likely they are to make you sleepy because your body builds up tolerance to their effect fast.
Get more sleep with these 10 natural remedies.

Original article appeared on WomansDay.com

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