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10 Bad Habits That Can Make You Healthier, Happier, And More Successful

10 Bad Habits That Can Make You Healthier, Happier, And More Successful

There’s probably something you do that you class as a cringeworthy bad habit. Relieve your guilt and stop your self-flagellation by reading about the good sides to ten common bad habits, and how you can use them to your advantage.

1. Being Disorganized Enhances Creativity

People who are messy may sound like they’re making up lame excuses for their bad habits by pointing out how disorder helps them to be creative. It turns out they’re telling the truth, and scientific research backs them up. Chaos does indeed encourage people to think outside the box and come up with novel solutions. Volunteers in a study at Northwestern University were faster at solving puzzles when they were in a messy room as opposed to a tidy one. They also drew more creative pictures in a messier setting.

Since disorder has such a powerful effect on the mind, you may want to save your mess for the right context. Keep your accounts tidy and orderly, but allow clutter in spaces where you need more creativity.

 2. Watching Cute YouTube Videos Can Make You More Productive

What could be a bigger waste of time than trawling the internet for cute animal pictures or amusing videos of pets doing daft things? Plenty of things, surprisingly. Studies have shown that, as counter-productive as it seems, this common habit can actually help your brain to focus and complete tasks accurately. Researchers at Hiroshima University found that viewing images of cute baby animals triggered care-giving instincts, making people take more care on subsequent tasks.

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Now that you can guiltlessly surf the web for cute animal images, bear in mind that it’s even better if you can find a video of a puppy or kitten doing something hilarious. Laughter reduces blood pressure, relieves pain and makes the body more resilient to stress.

3. Biting Your Nails Boosts Immunity

Nibbling on your nails is considered a bad habit, but only because of social convention. Back before we had nail scissors, humans would likely have bitten their nails for two reasons. First, it keeps them from getting too sharp and from injuring us, and second, it exposes the immune system to bugs. Research consistently shows that small exposures to bugs will help boost immunity.

If you’re not a nail-biter, rest assured, you don’t have to start. Follow the principle that small amounts of exposure to bacteria are health-boosting, so don’t sterilize, scrub or scour your body too much.

4. A Good Gossip Boosts Your Mood

Talking about other people seems to be a global fascination. People can’t resist a good story or secret, and there are whole magazines devoted to celebrity gossip and members of the public telling tales. Sharing other people’s news has a whole range of mood-boosting benefits. Researchers at Brown University found that most people’s mood improved for up to four hours after spending just 20 minutes gossiping with a friend. 96 percent of people were able to reduce tension and anxiety this way.

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The benefits of gossip are really about bonding and connecting with others. Use gossip positively, and not as a way of judging, criticizing, or ostracizing other people.

5. Swearing Relieves Stress

Your mother may have told you that cursing is a sign of a limited vocabulary but using a little blue language can actually make you feel better when you’re subjected to stressful experiences. Swearing may be particularly useful in the workplace, especially in times of crisis. Swedish scientists have revealed that employees who suffer unfair treatment at work, and don’t find ways to express their anger, double their risk of having a heart attack. Researchers at the University of East Anglia found that swearing at work helps employees to cope with stress and frustration, and cursing can encourage team spirit.

Make sure you let off a little steam when you’re suffering from stress, including an odd choice curse or two if it helps to lower your blood pressure. Make sure you only use naughty words in front of people who are unlikely to find it offensive, and be aware that certain words may prove too fruity for most ears.

6. Sleeping In Protects Heart Health

You may have been led to believe that ‘early to bed, early to rise’ was the best way of organizing your sleep, and may have come to think that having a lie-in is a bad habit. But research by Japanese endocrinologists shows that people who wake up before 5am may put themselves at risk of cardiovascular disease. Hardened arteries, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and obesity were more likely in people who got up earlier, scientists found. These findings held true, even though the amount of sleep was the same. Research at Stanford University previously concluded that the most restorative sleep occurs between 2:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.

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If you have to be woken by an alarm clock, this shows that you haven’t got enough sleep. Respect your natural sleep cycle, by going to sleep when you’re tired and letting yourself have as much sleep as you need.

7. Fidgeting Improves Alertness

Fidgeting may seem like a sign of restlessness but when you’re doing it, you’re actually trying to make the brain more alert and focused. Just as you yawn when tired to bring more oxygen in to keep the brain awake, when you fidget, you’re trying to self-stimulate in order to boost mental and physical alertness. And fidgeting is a really effective way of increasing attention. Studies show that this particular habit improves your working memory performance. If you’re not convinced by that, then consider that fiddling and fidgeting also speeds up your metabolism, helping your body to stay fit.

If you feel bored, tired, or your attention to a task is waning, try doodling, twiddling your thumbs, or tapping your foot to bring your focus back.

8. Throwing Tantrums Reduces Tension

Angry outbursts can be habitual for some people. They seem to always throw a wobbly if they don’t get their own way. Expressing small amounts of anger can help to relieve tension and stress in a healthy way, and can help you stop bottling up your frustration and turning it against yourself. Unexpressed anger can turn into anxiety or sadness, and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University revealed that anger is a healthier emotion because it produces less cortisol than fear.

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Keep your tension levels low by expressing anger in healthy ways; a mini-rant, punching a pillow, or pounding the streets during an angry run, are all good ways of letting out stress.

9. Social Media Keeps You Accountable

So many people have the bad habit of checking social media sites at every opportunity. But having a social media presence can help you behave better and stick to your goals. Research shows that announcing intentions on social networking sites allows an individual to more easily stick to their plan. And if you’re checking social media often, you’re helping others to stay on track, too.

If you have an important goal you want to achieve, announce it on Twitter and Facebook so others can keep you accountable and cheer you on.

10. Daydreaming Helps You Solve Problems

Sometimes if you focus too hard on a problem, you can end up more confused and stuck than before. Using conscious thought means you can become too rigid and limited in your thinking. While daydreaming is sometimes thought of as a form of procrastination or non-commitment, researchers have found that it could actually help you to think outside the box to solve tough problems. Scientists at University of British Columbia scanned the brains of people when they daydreamed and found that the habit activated brain regions linked with problem-solving abilities.

The reason why daydreaming is so powerful is that the thoughts you have come from your unconscious mind. You can encourage your unconscious to be activated by using hypnosis or performing a task you know so well that your mind is free to wander.

Featured photo credit: bark via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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