Author: Justin Mckibben
As someone in recovery from one of the worst habits one could possibly have, drug and alcohol addiction, I can always be the first to admit that even once we get sober there are still plenty of bad habits to choose from, and there are plenty of everyday people who have some of these same bad habits without the prerequisite of a severe substance abuse issue.
Bad habits are not exclusive to anyone, we all have some pattern we run in our lives once in a while or chronically that just seems gross, annoying or even dangerous, but the truth is there are always two sides to every story. Some of the bad habits are actually good for you, to some extent.
- Chewing gum
This is definitely one I can relate to, and I’ve heard more than once that watching someone chew gum is not a pretty sight. However, there are those that advocate that chewing gum is a stress relieving activity with apparent cognitive benefits.
In the book Senescence and Senescence-Related Disorders, Kin-ya Kubo and colleagues noted that chewing gum immediately before performing a cognitive task improves task performance because chewing gum actually increases blood oxygen levels in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. This is an area of essential brain structures involved in learning and memory.
- Another study by a research team lead by Yoshiyuki Hirano indicated:
- Chewing gum boosts thinking and alertness
- Reaction times among chewers were 10% faster than for non-chewers
- Up to 8 areas of the brain are affected by chewing, particularly areas concerning attention and movement
Those little leg shakes or quirky foot tapping movements we call fidgeting might be annoying to people around you, or even you when they seem to go on all by themselves, but fidgeting actually expends energy and burns calories.
Fidgeting is one activity that falls into a category known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). A number of studies carried out by obesity expert James Levine at the Mayo Clinic have shown that fidgeting speeds up an individual’s metabolism by stimulating neurochemicals in the body, thus increasing the ability to convert body fat into energy, so individuals who fidget burn up about 350 kcal a day!
Most people (namely your parents) still consider that swearing (cursing/cussing) is a bad habit, even though now it is a lot more common than a few decades ago. Now while it can be associated with being rude or even downright disrespectful, research has shown that using bad words may be the cheapest painkiller on the &$%#! market!
Richard Stephens of Keele University (UK) recently pioneered and published a cuss-worthy study in Neuroreport. The results of the experiments by Stephens and his team compared individuals who swore to individuals that didn’t, and displayed the former could endure the pain of putting their hand in a bucket of ice-cold water nearly 50% longer than the latter.
- Almost 2 minutes for those that swore
- 1 minute 15 seconds for those that said a neutral, non-swear word instead
The researchers speculated that swearing might trigger our natural “fight-or-flight” response by downplaying a weakness or threat in order to deal with it, but the stipulation is that swearing may only be effective in helping reduce pain if it is a casual habit, with the researcher warning that swearing is emotional language but if individuals overuse it, it loses its emotional attachment, and is less likely to help alleviate pain.
I was the most happy to read this one, since I basically live in a perpetual state of daydream. Creative types can be like that, there’s not much else to it. Sometimes daydreaming can occupy up to 1/3 of our waking lives, it can become nightmarish and evolve into anxiety, and generally is often viewed as a sign of laziness or inattentiveness.
So when I saw something that said the “executive network” in our brain is highly active when we are daydream, I knew there was a reason why I stayed stuck in my imagination most days.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was conducted by Kalina Christoff established the presence of rigorous activity in numerous brain regions while daydreaming, including areas associated with complex problem solving, to the point where these regions were even more active during a daydream than during routine tasks.
What is possible is that when we use conscious thought our thinking becomes too rigid and limited, so daydreaming is an important cognitive state in which we can navigate our attention from immediate tasks to unconsciously think about problems in their lives.
Eric Klinger of the University of Minnesota also supported the amazing positive attributes of the daydream, asserting it also serves an evolutionary purpose by triggering reminders of additional concurrent objectives when we are doing something else so that we do not lose sight of them, like it opens a little memory or hope to remind us why we are moving forward.
Sure, the present is where beauty often lives, but that doesn’t mean that the beauty in our deepest daydreams is any less real or necessary.
Some of the things we do the world tells us are irritating impulses or harmful habits, but in reality some of these things are the things that keep us growing and evolving, or serene and grounded. Feel free to fidget and embrace those twitches and subconscious tactics once in a while… I’ll be here daydreaming.
Habits haven’t yet “hijacked” the brain circuits that play a part in addiction, such as memories, emotions, and impaired decision-making; all of which are not yet intricately linked to the substance or the behavior as they are with a full-blown addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling from a habit that has become a dangerous or deadly addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135