It takes a lot of energy to resist all your naughtiest impulses and be good day after day. So if all that eating of kale and being polite and productive has drained your energy to a puddle, here's an idea from psychology for you: maybe just stop (at least a little).
In a fascinating recent post on The Conversation, psychologist Richard Stephens points out that most classically "bad" behaviors actually have upsides. Some of these benefits are modest. A few beers will improve your foreign language skills, for instance. I can personally attest that's true, but it's usually useful only at exotic bars.
Other benefits, which I run down below, are more significant. That doesn't mean you should go hog wild with your vices, of course. But it does serve as a helpful reminder that if your brain keeps nudging you to do something "bad," it's worth considering whether fighting those impulses is always the right way to go.
Sometimes being a little bad isn't just easier--it also offers psychological upsides. Giving in and being naughty every once in a while is actually smart.
It's not just your imagination, studies confirm that swearing really does help you deal with frustration and bond with friends. "There are many well-documented benefits of swearing, including improving pain tolerance, boosting physical strength and helping social cohesion," writes Stephens. One recent study showed people coped better with road rage-provoking incidents if they were encouraged to curse out loud in their cars.
If you still feel guilty about swearing, be aware that using profanity is linked to higher intelligence. And parents, fret less about your potty mouth. No one suggests letting the four-letter words fly, but research shows slightly older children at least are better able to understand when it's appropriate to swear than parents think. So if you accidentally drop an f-bomb in front of your second grader, they probably won't repeat it to their teacher.
2. Getting bored
"Boredom compels us to try and establish meaning, which can trigger creativity. One study has shown that deliberately making people bored by watching dull videos (for example someone hanging out laundry) produces measurably improved performance of subsequent creativity tasks. So, actually, boredom may be a state to be embraced as a condition of possibility and opportunity," Stephens asserts.
3. Being a rebel
Rebellion is a big umbrella, and some transgressions (such as, say, storming a government building and bashing a cop on the head with a fire extinguisher) are clearly very bad. But smaller everyday acts of rebellion can have big upsides.
"In a wonderful study, researchers dared hundreds of undergraduate students to go into the world, break a minor social norm and record the consequences. One ran up a downward escalator in a shopping center. Another lowered their car windows and sang loudly. Another sat next to an old lady on an otherwise empty bus," explains Stephens.
Not all of these adventures ended well, but a large majority did. "Passersby cheered and joined in with the automotive singing, and the old lady welcomed the opportunity to chat," reports Stephens. "There is something to be said for low-level social transgression as a tool for breaking free of convention and prompting some genuine human warmth and interaction."