Bad Habits That Are Actually Good For You

woman drinking wine

Yes, it's true: There are health benefits to some of our worst habits. So why does being bad feel so good? "'Bad habits allow us to act like children, which may be a good or a bad thing depending on the circumstances," Dr. Daniel J. Carlat, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, author of Unhinged and the Mental Health Specialist for AOL Health's Medical Advisory Board, told AOL Health. Read on to find out which of your "bad" traits you shouldn't break.

Cursing: Let's face it — saying a few choices words a la Martin Scorsese can feel really, really good when you're fed up, frustrated or just plain angry. But now researchers from Keele University in the United Kingdom have discovered that swearing may have a purpose, since it can help reduce physical pain. In the journal NeuroReport, scientists explained that they asked 64 volunteers to submerge their hands in freezing cold water while repeating their favorite curse word. Afterward, they performed the task again, only this time repeating a nonswear word. The end result: The volunteers could tolerate the icy water longer while using a four-letter word by nearly double the amount of time (two minutes compared to one minute and 15 seconds). While experts could not pinpoint the exact explanation, lead researcher Dr. Richard Stephens and his team believe that throwing around the F-bomb may trigger the flight-or-fight response, which can increase heart rate and aggression and help the body cope with pain.

Blasting your favorite music: When you find yourself being forgetful, go ahead and crank up the Bon Jovi. Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland believe that listening to rock music at a high volume can improve concentration and boost memory. During the study, which was published in the science journal Consciousness and Cognition, psychologists had 16 volunteers of rock music lovers take a simple memory test four times — once listening to classical music, another listening to rock, a third time listening to static and lastly taking in the sound of silence. Study participants showed an improvement in concentration and memory when both types of music were played, but during the rock portion of the test, their brain scans revealed they needed less brainpower to complete the test successfully. Music therapist Kimberly Sena Moore told AOL Health that it's not surprising that rock fans performed better when they heard their favorite tunes in the background. "It could be because listening to music they like put them in a relaxed and happy mood, but we still don't know if that's true." However, Sena Moore does warn against blasting too long or too often. "The hair cells in our cochlea (located in the inner ear) are sensitive and blasting any sort of music, whether at a concert, at home or even through headphones, can damage them and even lead to hearing loss or tinnitus later in life."

Enjoying happy hour: Bottoms up! According to the latest research presented this month at the annual American Heart Association, moderate drinking (one drink a day for women and up to two drinks daily for men) may be better for your health than not drinking at all. Researchers in Italy found that male heart bypass patients who drank five to 30 grams of alcohol a day were 25 percent less likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke compared to men who lived a liquor-free lifestyle. (However, those patients with left ventricular problems who drank four or more beverages a day were more likely to have additional health problems.) As for women, a separate 20-year study reviewed by the Nurses' Health Study concluded that females who drank between one and 15 grams of alcohol a day (about one drink) showed a 20 percent lower risk of stroke compared to women who didn't drink at all. Registered dietitian Julia Renee Zumpano, who works in the Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation Department at the Cleveland Clinic, told AOL Health to keep the calorie count in mind. "I would suggest drinking light beer, dry wine, or a mixed drink with one to 1.5 ounces of spirits mixed with a calorie-free beverage — like soda water, diet tonic or soda, or light juice — since each of these provide, on average, 100 calories per drink."

Written by Amy Capetta for AOL Health

This article was originally published at AOL Health. Reprinted with permission from the author.