25 'bad' habits that are actually good for you

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Everyone has a bad habit or two. Biting your nails? Pulling all-nighters? Procrastinating? Guilty. Little habits become bigger patterns, and can end up messing with your health and your ability to achieve your goals. But not all "bad" habits are actually, you know, bad. And if you believe popular health myths, you might go all in on trying to stop doing something that was never even bad for you in the first place. Good news is, with these "bad" habits that are actually good for you, you shouldn't bother.

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Skipping the gym

There are a lot of important reasons to exercise, but you don't want to overdo it. If you didn't get enough sleep, are feeling sore or are too stressed out by other commitments to make it to the gym, the healthier choice is probably to skip it. Trying to keep a rigid gym schedule is one of the mistakes many beginner exercisers make; resting when you need to is crucial for making healthy habits that stick.

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Eating fatty foods

Avoiding high-fat foods is one of the outdated diet tips you shouldn't feel you need to follow. The American Heart Association recommends eating larger amounts of unsaturated fats than saturated fats, though you can find room for both in a healthy diet. Unsaturated fats come from foods such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, salmon and avocado, while saturated fats are found in foods such as eggs, dairy and beef. While some high-fat foods might not be great for you, eating enough fat from a variety of sources is important for your long-term health and can have some surprising benefits.

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Eating carbs

If you've watched "Mean Girls" or listened to people gab around free pizza, you probably think that eating carbs is bad for you. While butter isn't a carb, carbohydrates are in many of the foods you should eat every day. Whole grains such as quinoa and farro are rich with carbohydrates, as are heart-healthy foods such as sweet potatoes and black beans. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise eating 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories from carbs. In fact, there are a lot of crazy things that happen to your body when you quit carbs. It's actually a good idea to get into the habit of incorporating carbohydrates regularly into your meals - carbohydrate-rich foods often provide fiber, which is essential for your digestion.

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Sleeping in

Sleeping in every day isn't a great idea, since getting too much sleep can actually be bad for you. But if you're feeling sleep-deprived, go ahead and catch up on your ZZZs. Not getting the sleep you need can have detrimental effects on your health over time, affecting everything from your immune system to your risk of heart disease.

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Drinking coffee

Drinking coffee every day isn't so bad so far as your health is concerned. In fact, there are plenty of reasons to drink coffee every day, including the fact that coffee contains antioxidants that could have significant health benefits. And there may not even be such a thing as drinking too much - studies have shown that even those who drink up to eight cups of coffee per day may be healthier for it.

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Complaining

You don't want to be that person who complains all the time - and you should never, ever gossip. But sometimes, it's important to just let it out. Complaining can help to relieve stress and alleviate the negative effects of stress on your body. Additionally, a study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin showed that those who complain actually have higher self-esteem than those who bottle things up.

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Swearing

Old etiquette rules might deem swearing rude, but is it really so bad? People who swear often have more integrity and are more honest, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. And according to a study from Keele University, shouting expletives could help increase your pain tolerance. Swearing can also help you to relieve stress and process negative emotions.

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Giving in to cravings

You might think that the healthiest approach to dealing with weird food cravings is to ignore them for as long as possible. After all, if you ate a french fry every time you wanted one, wouldn't you just be eating fries all the time? But it's not so simple. "When you feel like you failed by 'giving in' to a craving, you experience guilt and plan to restrict that food later. That leads to overeating that food now," says Dr. Michelle May, a physician, author and founder of Am I Hungry?. "Instead, just choose to eat what you are craving and enjoy it."

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Wasting time

Don't beat yourself up if you catch yourself wasting time during the day. It's impossible to be productive all of the time. Take some time and neglect your responsibilities - be as unproductive as you please. Doing so allows your brain to truly have time to rest and recover, preventing burnout and improving your productivity later on. Relax, take a walk outside - it could change your life.

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Chewing gum

You were never allowed to chew gum when you were in school. And unlike some other things that have changed since you were a student, that rule is still around. But that probably wasn't because of any real health risk of doing so. And your teachers may have actually been wiser to advise that you chew gum before a big test. Chewing gum could be beneficial for reducing stress and improving memory. Cardiff University researchers found that stress levels lowered and alertness improved when workers were given gum to chew. And a study in the journal Appetite showed that chewing gum improved both short-term and long-term memory.

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Going out to eat

Going out to eat is often warned against, since restaurant meals can be calorie- and sodium-heavy when compared to healthy, home cooked meals. However, the nutrition content of your food isn't the only aspect of wellness you need to worry about. Your social life plays a huge role in your health outcomes; being lonely and isolating yourself from social events affects your mental health and your longevity, according to research published in JAMA. Go out with friends and eat, and enjoy treating yourself to quality restaurant food. Don't let your anxiety about weight gain prevent you from enjoying meals from some of the best restaurants in America.

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Eating cholesterol

Don't be alarmed when you see that foods such as eggs and shellfish are high in cholesterol on a nutrition label. Cholesterol gets a bad rap because people often confuse dietary cholesterol with the cholesterol that's in your blood. Eating dietary cholesterol doesn't necessarily worsen your cholesterol count - in fact, some healthy foods with cholesterol could improve your cholesterol count and improve your overall health.

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Drinking wine to relax

No one's endorsing downing entire bottles of wine under the guise of relaxation, but sipping on a glass or two at the end of a long day is fine in most cases. In fact, drinking a glass of wine now and then could actually improve your health because of all the antioxidants. Winding down with a quality glass of red isn't as damaging to your health as you might think - though if you feel you can't go without it, that could be a sign of a bigger problem with alcohol.

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Taking naps

You might think that naps are a waste of your daylight hours, or that naps mess too much with your sleep schedule. But some evidence shows that taking naps may actually be good for you. A study from the American College of Cardiology showed that those who took naps experienced a dip in blood pressure, while those who skipped their afternoon snooze did not. Daytime naps can also improve mood, productivity and stress levels. If you do nap, though, the amount of time you spend asleep makes a big difference. There's science to the length of your perfect nap.

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Snacking

Snacking is seen as a bad habit because people tend to think it will lead to eating too much or eating lots of unhealthy snack foods instead of nutritious meals. But according to registered dietitian Meg Salvia, who talked to The Active Times via email, snacking doesn't deserve the bad rap it gets. "Snacks between meals can be incredibly helpful in managing hunger, and they can prevent hunger from getting too unmanageable." Salvia recommends choosing snacks with combinations of food groups to ensure they're both nutritious and satisfying. "A protein and/or fat, paired with a carbohydrate such as a grain or a fruit," she advises. Examples include fruit and nuts, cheese and crackers or peanut butter with toast.

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Tanning

Tanning beds are, without a doubt, bad for you. So is skipping sunscreen - you really need to be wearing it every day. But sitting in the sun (with the proper UV protection) offers some very real health benefits. Sunshine helps your body to produce vitamin D, a nutrient that's essential for regulating mood and ensuring the health of your cells. Research published in the Lancet showed that after just one week of increased exposure to sunlight, participants' mood improved significantly. So long as you're not suffering through a sunburn, your time spent outside could improve your life.

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Drinking beer

Beer does contain calories from carbs and alcohol, and it can make you bloated. But there are health benefits to drinking beer, too. Beer contains nutrients, largely from the grains used to brew it. Some beers are healthier than others, but nutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium can all be found in your brew.

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Saying no

Especially for those who tend to want to people-please, it can be tempting to just say "yes" to everything and figure out the logistics later. But you're not a failure if you decline an opportunity every now and then. Saying "yes" all the time may look impressive on the outside, but it's going to feel awful on the inside. You're likely to overcommit, increasing stress levels and taking away important time you could spend recharging alone. Being overworked and stressed can be caustic to your mental health and your physical health. Say no when you need to!

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Failing at your diet

Falling off the wagon and "failing" at a diet isn't always a bad thing, and it could break you from the cycle of yo-yo dieting. "Ninety-five percent of people who attempt weight loss will eventually regain that weight within the next two to five years," says Melainie Rogers, a registered dietitian and founder of Balance Eating Disorder Treatment Center. As a result, yo-yo dieting can cause weight cycling, where a person repeatedly loses and gains back weight. Weight cycling is correlated with negative health effects such as increased insulin, blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. It is also connected to a slower metabolism. Additionally, you may be quitting a diet that's harmful for you, which could reduce the likelihood you'll experience one of the negative side effects of popular diets.

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Eating at night

The idea that nighttime eating is somehow worse than eating during the day is a myth. If that's when you're hungry, that's when you're hungry - and it can be much harder to get a good night's sleep on an empty stomach. Research published in the journal Appetite suggests that those who eat late at night tend to eat more overall, but that seems to be the only perceived downside. When the amounts of food you're eating remain the same, timing doesn't seem to matter. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that changing the time people ate dinner to either before or after 8 p.m. had no effect on weight.

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Salting your food

Eating high-sodium foods too frequently is definitely bad news - especially for your blood pressure. But when you cook at home, don't hesitate to sprinkle a little salt on your plate. For one, ensuring that you're cooking food that tastes good can help you keep up with the habit and prevent falling into an actual bad habit: relying on takeout. Your Chinese to-go box almost certainly contains more sodium than your salt sprinkle ever could. Additionally, there's a reason the American Heart Association doesn't advocate eliminating salt entirely. Eating moderate amounts of salt can actually be good for you.

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Skipping a shower

If you just came from the gym or you smell for some other reason, you should definitely take a shower. But if you feel clean, don't sweat it. Showering every day can dry out your hair and skin. Your hair naturally produces healthy oils, and by showering every day you're often stripping them away.

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Eating dairy

"Dairy-free" has become quite the buzzword for health food products, but don't let these labels fool you. If you eliminate dairy from your diet, you could be missing out on key nutrients - not to mention risking other adverse effects. For those who are intolerant or allergic to dairy, cutting it out is a good call. But otherwise, there's no reason to forego eating your normal, dairy-filled products. If you do cut out dairy, you might be surprised at the ways quitting dairy affects your body.

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Being selfish

Putting others before yourself can be a virtue, but it can also be taxing. It's OK to be selfish and put yourself first. Of course, it's important to be wary of when this comes at the expense of others. And this doesn't mean that you should be selfish all the time. But a study from Stanford showed that those who act in their own self-interest are more likely to be recognized for their accomplishments and gain leadership positions. Knowing when to prioritize yourself is a strong aspect of character, and is actually one of 50 little things you can do to be a kinder person every day.

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Not keeping track of your calories

You might think that not keeping track of your calories increases your chances of overeating, but that's not actually the case. "One of the pitfalls of tracking your calories, especially on food-tracker apps, is that the default setting can drastically underestimate what adults' nutrition needs are, setting people up for feeling either consistently deprived or like a failure when they can't stick to the calorie limit," says Meg Salvia. "While some people benefit from being aware of what, when and how they feel about what they're eating, others get sucked into an obsessive relationship with these trackers and spiral into an unhealthy place of anxiety and restriction." So calorie tracking may be a "healthy" habit that's actually not.

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