Be Naughty! 6 Ways a Little Decadence Is Good for Your Brain

A happy woman putting a piece of chocolate in a man’s mouth
DjelicS/Getty Images

Lose weight, exercise, stop eating Twinkies — good health can be such a chore. But indulging in these six guilty pleasures may be good for us.

1. Have sex — frequently!

In a study from two English universities, frequent lovemakers outperformed their less-aroused counterparts on tests that measured verbal fluency and visual processing. The improvements could be due to higher levels of hormones such as dopamine.

2. Eat chocolate

Consuming cocoa flavanols may improve working memory and boost attention and processing speed in older adults, an Italian study found. Flavanols also reversed age-related memory decline in a Columbia University Medical Center study. When cocoa is processed, the flavanols are often destroyed, so eat dark chocolate, which typically has more flavanols than milk chocolate, and buy cocoa powder in its least-processed forms.

3. Listen to Mötley Crüe (or any kind of music)

In a study at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, scans showed that the music people liked — not the type of music — increased brain connectivity.

“Few human experiences activate so many circuits in our brains as music,” says study leader Jonathan H. Burdette, M.D.

Take a variety of brain health assessments, play fun games, discover new recipes and more with AARP Staying Sharp

4. Take a nap

Chinese adults 65 and older performed better on a series of mental tests if they took an hourlong nap after lunch, one study showed. A 60- to 90-minute nap even beats coffee as a mental pick-me-up: Nappers outperformed non-nappers on memory tests in another study.

5. Go to a bar

Being a barfly may have a Cheers effect: In an Oxford University study, regulars at pubs were happier than those who chugalugged at places where people didn’t know their name. Pub regulars had more friends, felt more embedded in their communities and were less likely to binge-drink (ask the bartender for red wine — moderate consumption may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, another study found).

6. Get a massage

A rubdown may improve stress-related insomnia and ease headaches, according to the Mayo Clinic. And when couples completed a three-week massage course, their massage sessions reduced their stress, improved their well-being and increased satisfaction with their relationship, researchers in England found.

Learn more about ways that decadence is good for your brain

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

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