Your ‘Bad’ Winter Habits — Sleeping In, Eating Candy, Etc — Have Surprising Health Benefits, Scientists Say

Does all the news about learning good, healthy habits make you feel like you’re falling short? We all have “bad habits” that make us feel ashamed or guilty, from eating sugary foods to sleeping in late. But are those habits really that bad? Research shows that some of the things we consider bad or unproductive are actually good for us. Below, check out seven seemingly bad habits that turned out to have a number of benefits, including staying in your pajamas, playing phone games, reading novels, sleeping in, and more.

Cozy winter sweet potatoes can help balance blood sugar levels.

Do you love potatoes? Simply swapping sweet potatoes for white potatoes can help you balance your blood sugar levels. The richly colored spuds have an ample supply beta-carotene (an antioxidant that gives them their orange hue), which reduces insulin resistance and keeps insulin-secreting beta cells in the pancreas healthy. Proof? A recent study in Advances in nutrition found that regularly eating foods rich in beta-carotene reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Other good sources of beta-carotene include winter squash, carrots and spinach.

Another form of sugar that might help? Sweetheart. Adding 2 tablespoons of acacia, clover, or raw honey to tea instead of sugar can help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, as long as the rest of your diet is healthy. While honey contains natural sugars, these types are also rich in compounds that can lower blood glucose.

Wearing pajamas can increase your attention to detail.

Winter is the perfect excuse to laze around in your cozy pajamas or sweatpants. And when you do, there’s a surprising benefit: It can be easier to focus on small details during tasks. That’s the word from a study conducted by Columbia University scientists who found that wearing casual, comfortable clothing improves the brain’s local processing, making it easier to focus on the small details of a task. While the study authors noted that more research is needed to support their findings, it’s a good excuse to stay warm in your pajamas.

Playing phone games can help boost your memory.

When it’s too stormy to go outside, video games are a fun way to pass the time. Bonus: Scientists at the University of California, Irvine found that study participants who played games that immersed them in an imaginary world (such as Angry Birds and Super Mario 3D World) for 30 minutes a day improved their memory in four weeks. How did it work? The researchers theorized that the games stimulated the brain’s memory management sea ​​Horse.

Bonus tip: play games with your friends. Regularly playing games with friends elevates you, even on days when you don’t spend time together, says Being playful with others increases resilience and reduces stress, creating lasting joy.

Reading thrilling mystery novels can improve immunity.

Curled up with a whodunit in front of a crackling fire is the perfect way to spend a winter’s day. Plus, that creepy excitement it creates can help boost your immunity. A recent study published in Brain, behavior and immunity found that a short period of stress increases immune system output monocytes, white blood cells that fight off viral and bacterial invaders. While the stress created in this recent study isn’t the same kind of stress you might experience while reading a novel, it’s still a good excuse to dive into a good book.

Soaking your feet can lower your cortisol levels.

In a study published in Complementary therapies in clinical practice, researchers found that volunteers who enjoyed warm foot baths experienced lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and entered a relaxed state, compared to the control group. So the next time someone asks you why you spend so long in the bath, let them know it’s to reduce your stress levels and improve your health!

Sleeping in can lower your blood pressure.

There’s nothing like cuddling up under a warm blanket on a cold day. In addition, sleeping for at least 30 minutes longer than usual can lower elevated systolic blood pressure (the top number) and diastolic blood pressure, according to research published in The Journal of Sleep Research. Experts suspect that too little sleep causes a spike in arterial-constricting stress hormones, such as noradrenaline, while more Zzzs reduce their output for better blood flow.

Knitting can lower your heart rate.

Knitting is more than just a quiet activity and it is not a waste of time. A test conducted by a group called “British and the Fitbit” found that knitting slows heart rate. Why? The rhythmic movement relaxes you, taking the pressure off the blood vessels. Other top leisure activities, according to the test, were fishing, blogging, calligraphy and painting.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your doctor before following any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine Woman’s World.

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