elcoming in a new year usually comes with a handful of wrenching goodbyes: adios to ‘ever drinking that much again’; farewell to guilty pleasures (and, admit it, frequent indulgences); so long to bad-but-beloved habits, the things you turn to when juice cleanses and mindfulness and taking a deep breath and counting to 10 aren’t going to cut it; adieu to the time-wasting and empty kilojoules and shit-talking and moneyspending. By the time you’re done figuring out which habits to kick, it feels like all you’re going to be left with is a handful of kale, an expensive new gym membership and a yearning for ‘the good old days’. Good thing we’re not here to convince you to put down that beer and get off your butt! Forget the list of resolutions; we’ve hunted down the bad habits you can – even should – keep. ‘If you want to use this pain-lessening effect to advantage, you must do less casual swearing,’ he says. ‘Swearing is emotional language, but if you overuse it, it loses its emotional attachment.’ ‘The idea that we should drink a prescribed amount of water came from a wellmeaning campaign by health professionals to get people to choose water over sugary drinks,’ says Cape Town clinician Michelle Pentecost. ‘While you should definitely choose water, you only need to drink enough every day to quench your thirst.’ Before you forsake your caffeine fix and condemn yourself to being a foultempered, unproductive zombie every morning of 2017, consider this: a recent review of 1 277 studies on drinking coffee showed that the benefits outweigh the risks. That’s right. Coffee is practically a health drink; we should be earning Vitality points on this stuff. Regular, moderate coffee drinking (that’s three to four cups a day) is associated with a reduced risk of liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure… The list goes on. Barista, make mine a double! Moderate daily beer drinking can reduce your risk of heart disease, kidney stones, stroke, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Beer can even beat insomnia: an Indiana University School of Medicine study found that ale, stout and lager stimulate the production of dopamine in the brain, essential for feelings of calm. Even a sip will do the trick to help you doze off (although there are so many health benefits to be gained, it seems silly to stop there…). Pentecost says there’s no reason to stop falling asleep with your headphones on – if the soundtrack is right. ‘If you suffer from insomnia, there is good evidence to suggest that music may improve your sleep quality,’ she says. ‘Insomnia sufferers may still sleep for the same period, but report a subjective improvement in the sleep quality if they choose relaxing music at bedtime.’ Guess Lemonade is out of the question, then. We’ve heard the saying: the early bird gets the worm. Then there’s that ‘early to bed, early to rise’ one. But before you go trying to get to sleep by 9pm and dragging yourself out of bed at 5am, keep in mind that science reckons night owls might get the worm too. Studies have found that those who identify as night owls tend to have larger incomes and better cognitive skills, and report having more sexual partners than their dawngreeting counterparts. Don’t despair, morning people: you procrastinate less and are more proactive, agreeable and conscientious. Stop beating yourself up because your home doesn’t look Pinterest-perfect. While your messy living space may not be ideal for finding your car keys, impressing your parents or avoiding tripping hazards, it is good for creativity. A study published in Psychological Science found that participants in an untidy environment were better at coming up with creative, out-of-thebox thinking. So what if it’s out of the box and strewn all over your counters? Don’t go blowing your bonus in the supplement aisle just yet – especially not on vitamin C. You may think you’re doing your immune system a service but, says Pentecost, ‘There’s no conclusive evidence that vitamin C prevents the common cold. Once it’s begun, vitamin C may help it to resolve faster, but the routine use of supplements is not justified by current research.’ Studies have also shown that high doses of certain vitamins can be detrimental. Your best bet for meeting your nutritional needs is a balanced and varied diet.
Of course, shaking things up a little can be good for you too. As Pentecost says, ‘A habit is detrimental when it starts to impact on important areas of functioning.’ If it causes you distress or regrets, that is also a sign to consider kicking it. But until then, you do you. ■