What are guilty pleasures really? The Urban dictionary says that a guilty pleasure is something that we shouldn’t like, but we like anyway. I think this is contradiction in terms. If we really like doing something, we shouldn’t feel guilty about it, right? I agree that superficial pleasures cannot bring us lasting fulfilment, but making room for the occasional indulgence may do us more good than we realise.
So, instead of describing my five guilty pleasures, I will talk about five guilty pleasures you should stop feeling guilty about.
1. Soaps on television: Apart from pure entertainment value, TV soaps can provide comfort and reassurance, and they sometimes even have educational value (even if the lessons are mostly limited to “what not to do”). As much as these shows may seem woefully out of touch with reality, they do often capture universal human emotions that we can all relate to, particularly the pain of rejection, failure, and humiliation. We’re drawn to trainwrecks in part because we see ourselves in them. Witnessing others’ suffering, though upsetting to watch, reminds us that we’re not alone in our personal suffering, a feeling that psychologists refer to as common humanity. These shows also provide opportunities for vicarious joy, as witnessing other people overcome obstacles and succeed in the end can give us hope and inspiration.
2. Sleep: Somehow this fundamental biological need has become a guilty pleasure for many people, who feel ashamed of needing naps or failing to stay up late on a weekend night. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” seems to be the mantra of my generation, though ironically not sleeping can decrease longevity. Sleepiness while driving, for example, can dramatically increase the risk of accidents. When your body tells you it’s time to sleep, there is no shame in listening, even if it’s 3p.m. on a Monday. A good night’s (and day’s) sleep is definitely something you can knock off your guilt list.
3. Gossip: For everyone who has ever resolved to avoid gossip, but then found themselves unable to resist whispering about someone else’s business, take heart: recent research suggests that gossip serves an important social function, and that gossipers may actually have others’ best interests in mind. In their studies, the researchers found that a majority of participants were willing to anonymously divulge incriminating information about another participant’s bad behaviour if this information would help a third participant avoid becoming a victim, even if they had to pay to do it. This kind of gossip is useful in that it holds offenders accountable and protects innocent people from exploitation by toxic friends, unfaithful romantic partners, or corrupt employers. Of course, not all gossip is altruistic. Spreading false rumours or bringing someone down out of jealousy, spite, or prejudice is unlikely to help anyone–or bring you much genuine pleasure.
4. Sex: Premarital sex, though not accepted in our society, is not unheard of anymore. We all have our guilty sexual pleasures, those things that make us feel oh so good, but also oh so bad at the same time. Is it something one should not do or feel guilty about? I am not so sure. It is after all a basic instinct in every human being and as long as you are being careful about protection, it’s alright. It is a beautiful act one shares with someone special, and listening to your heart is surely the way to go. Refraining will only cause sadness and regret later. According to recent study, sex directly affects happiness. A good sex life leads to happiness everywhere else. So, don’t feel guilty, follow your instincts!
5. Junk food: How many times have you seen the word “chocolate” linked with “sin”? Junk food (and drink) is the ultimate guilty pleasure, and unfortunately the guilt often outweighs the pleasure, which in turn may lead us to further indulge. By this I mean, how many of us decide to go on a diet but so often end up breaking it. Isn’t it easier to just eat in moderation? We tend to get so caught up in the morality of overeating (and the virtue of restraint) that we forget to pay attention to our bodies’ signals–they will usually tell us when we’re eaten enough. Furthermore, many so-called comfort foods are comforting for a reason. Many comfort foods contain chemicals that increase our serotonin levels, making us feel calm and happy. So eat away, just avoid overeating.
So, take the guilt out of your guilty pleasures and enjoy them.