VICE #1: Sleeping in late.
It is free, natural and has no drawbacks. More than giving you energy, getting enough sleep boosts your immune system, your memory, and may even help you control your weight. Lack of sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, glucose intolerance, and abdominal fat, factors known to be risk factors for heart disease. You should aim for research supported 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. If you always seem to drag yourself out of bed, no matter how much sleep you got the night before, talk to your doctor. A good night’s sleep is not a luxury… it is necessary for your health and well-being.
VICE #2: Mental health conferences.
Who doesn’t like to sneak away to enjoy a well-deserved rest? As it turns out, research has shown that taking time off relieves stress, lowers blood pressure, and therefore the risk of heart disease. It also aids creative thinking and can help with symptoms of depression. The good news is that the length of the vacation doesn’t matter at all in terms of how happy it will make you. The best part is the anticipation.
VICE #3: Enjoy intimate pleasures.
A vice in some eyes to be sure…sex is, after all, the most pleasurable form of activity there is. It releases feel-good endorphins and oxytocin, the hormone that helps promote attachment, which greatly benefits mental health. One study found that those who were sexually active once or twice a week had elevated levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A which is believed to protect against colds and infections. As with many vices, sexual activity carries the possibility of unintended consequences, such as infection and pregnancy, so it doesn’t top the list.
VICE #4: A daily serving of chocolate.
A worthy vice, much loved. One or two squares of the dark kind, without as much sugar and fat as milk chocolate, will do wonders. Dark chocolate and cocoa (75% cocoa content) might help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke, and provide other cardiovascular benefits according to more than one study. Dark chocolate has flavonoids that are believed to improve the flexibility of blood vessels, making them more resistant to plaque buildup.
Another study published last year found that eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate a day for 14 days lowered stress hormones in highly anxious people.
VICE #5: Guys and girls nights out.
Finally, do your research to back up a vice we all enjoy. Several recent studies have shown the great impact that friends and family have on our behavior. From what we eat and drink, to how much we weigh (for better or worse). Strong social ties have also been found to bring benefits like fewer colds, better brain health, and a longer life. Friendships are very good for you, as long as you are in a well-balanced relationship where give and take is equal. Avoid those who are toxic to you.
VICE #6: Full-Fat Dressings/Sauces.
When it comes to vices, anything complete will surely make the list. The thing is, there’s really no need for you to deprive yourself of the full-fat variety of your favorite dressing or sauce. These “loaded” versions not only taste better, but also remind us that fats have a real purpose for health, as long as you get the right kinds in the right amount. Aim for 10% (no more than 30%) of your daily fat intake to come from monounsaturated fats (vegetable oils, avocados, lots of nuts and seeds) which reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon and tuna, flaxseed and walnuts) also reduce the risk of heart disease and may even help alleviate symptoms of depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and other problems. A meal that has a little bit of fat makes you feel more satisfied, so you actually end up eating less.
VICE #7: Your morning coffee.
One of the best known vices, coffee is still popular. If you’re like many who need that cup of coffee to get going in the morning, don’t feel guilty. There is plenty of research to suggest that coffee not only cheers you up, but also fights heart disease and some cancers. It could also help you get through harder, longer workouts. Moderate coffee consumption in midlife has been linked to lower risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Plus, each additional cup of coffee you drink each day reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 7%.
VICE #8: Getting a massage.
They can be an expensive luxury, but massages (by a professional or a loved one) are a vice worth the blame for. Being touched regularly leaves you healthier. Women in a 2008 study noted less pain, depression, anxiety, and anger when they received weekly massages from their partners. Their partners also reported better mental health.
VICE #9: Sunbathe.
Although we all know the dangers of excessive sun exposure, this vice, in moderation, has its good side. Those sunny days act as a natural antidepressant and really work to improve mood. It causes our bodies to shut down production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin so we feel alert, energized, and ready to take on the day. Letting the skin soak up the sun (without sunscreen) also triggers the natural synthesis of vitamin D, which is believed to reduce risks of cancer, heart disease, brittle bones, and other conditions.
VICE #10: Wine with dinner.
Last but not least, the ‘good’ vice that relies the most on moderation. Although researchers don’t know exactly why it works, wine does have some impressive heart-healthy properties. Antioxidants can keep blood vessels flexible, or alcohol could help raise HDL (the good) cholesterol. All you need is a 5-ounce glass a day to enjoy the benefit, more than this can increase your blood pressure and cause you to gain weight. Women who drink a lot also increase their risk of breast cancer.