Yes, it’s okay to have that slice of chocolate cake.
Guilt literally weighs on you. According to a study in the journal PLOS ONE, subjects reported feeling physically heavier when they thought about past unethical acts than when they recalled ethical acts. So take a load off! Here’s your permission slip to stop feeling badly about these common guilt-inducers:
1. Indulging in dessert
Treating yourself to the occasional slice of chocolate cake should not make you guilt ridden, says registered dietitian Lisa DeFazio. “When you constantly deprive yourself, you end up binging on sweets,” she points out. Monthly PMS symptoms may make it particularly hard to stay away from treats, so just eat the cake, urges DeFazio. “Enjoy it and move on without worrying about the fact you ate it.”
If you worry about whether you left the iron on or wonder if you should wash your hands again, you’re actually quite normal. A study in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders uncovered that these unwanted thoughts pop up in 94% of people. “But feeling guilty about the thoughts increases their intensity,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD. “Simply acknowledging ‘I’m having an obsessive thought, and it’s normal’ reduces its power.”
3. Craving time to yourself
When all your extrovert friends go out together, feel free to stay home with a book, says Dr. Lombardo. If you prefer calm one-on-one interaction, embrace it. Doing what’s comfortable for you reduces stress, and that can lower your blood pressureand boost your immune system, says Dr. Lombardo.
4. Not being a good enough friend
Remember that because friends are different people, there will be times when one falls short of meeting the needs of another. If you constantly feel like you aren’t good enough for one pal, she may be too demanding. And, your wellbeing needs to come first. If the feeling occurs with other friendships, though, you may not be giving enough. Take time to pinpoint the problem to make the relationship better for both of you, suggests Irene S. Levine, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine.
5. Sleeping in
Weekends seem made for sleeping in. If you rest an hour or more past your usual wakeup time, but have no problem falling asleep at your normal time the following night, enjoy your guilty pleasure, says Peter A. Fotinakes, MD, medical director of St. Joseph Hospital. Sleeping a full eight hours may even boost brain health and prevent loss of brain tissue, according to a Swedish study.
6. Dreaming about cheating on your spouse
Whether it’s sex with your boss, a celebrity, or a friend, “you may believe that on some level you want to jump into bed with that person,” says Dr. Lombardo. “But a sex dream may just mean you have unresolved issues.” For example, if your boss is the star, perhaps you want to make changes in your job. Rather than feel guilty, simply remind yourself that one fantasy doesn’t equal real feelings.
7. Skipping workouts during vacation
No need to turn your getaway into a guilt trip. “If you exercise daily or almost all days, it’s good to give your body a break once in a while to recover,” explains Nara Yoon, a physical therapist. Even if you opt to just chill out the entire time, give yourself permission for a complete rest and recovery, physically as well as mentally, says Yoon. “Once you’re back, return to your regular routine as soon as possible to avoid muscle atrophy.”