Do you like shopping online, reading a romance novel, or snacking late at night? You find them pleasurable, but at the same time, you also feel you shouldn’t be doing them.

You have a guilty pleasure when you like and enjoy something that somehow also makes you feel bad. This is because guilty pleasures are more associated with shame rather than guilt itself.

Social norms define what one should be guilty of. You may feel bad when you don’t do house chores, because it is socially appropriate that you be responsible for your house.

In social media, the social rule is to be online and participativeas much as you can. Because of social norms, you feel guilt, and you avoid making any mistakes.

Reasons Why Guilty Pleasures Are Good

Engaging in guilty pleasure brings out your inner child. You engage in mischief and find it thrilling. You are testing the boundaries of how far you can go without being caught. You feel pleasure and a sense of relief when you allow yourself to give in to your guilty pleasure.

Guilty pleasure is simply the joy of doing something but at the same time feeling a little bad about doing it. This is society’s way of making people feel that their pleasures are not educational, informative, or purposeful.

An associate professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin states, “When we rest, we think we’re supposed to use that time productively.”

Guilty Pleasures as Pleasure

Focusing on your guilt will misguide you. If you find joy in doing some activities, then do it. You may enjoy a TV show that doesn’t make you any smarter but is definitely making you laugh really hard. That is very good for your mental health.

Eating a chocolate cake may ruin your diet, but every bite brings you happiness, and this makes you feel relaxed. Don’t focus on the pressure and guilt. Rather, focus on what can make you happy to be more productive throughout the day.

Guilty Pleasures and the Brain

It is a fact that leisure time should be spent wisely and productively. This is done to develop the mind and gain more knowledge. Your brain needs to rest, and indulging in pleasures engaging with a reward pathway are ways of easing brain stress.

Guilty pleasures bring positive emotions, reduce stress, and improve your mental health and well-being. Engaging in pleasurable activities is harmless and is considered healthy. You feel good and happy after sitting at least an hour watching your favorite movie or TV show. You get the same feeling when you travel to a new place or go to a concert of your favorite musician or artist.

Guilty pleasures don’t have to be grand and expensive. Simple everyday things can be guilty pleasures. Playing an interactive game on your phone before doing house chores can be very rewarding and motivating. You feel a sense of triumph when you allow yourself to have fun.

Pleasure and Liabilities

Enjoying some pleasurable time is good. But too much can cause problems.

It’s a big no-no if you have been postponing your work despite the strict deadline by binge-watching your favorite TV show; that’s procrastination. You may have serious health and mental issues that need to be checked if you procrastinate often.

Do you feel inspired and motivated to resume your work after doing something pleasurable, or do you feel drained and unproductive? If it is doing more harm than good, it is time to recheck yourself. 

No one should abuse any guilty pleasure. It should be considered as a gift because you can pause what you’re doing and enjoy a piece of chocolate or two before resuming your work. It should be used as a tool to relax and reset your brain to function better.

Guilt and Societal Judgment

You feel bad about the things you enjoy mainly because of the judging eyes of the people around you. Because of this, guilty pleasures fall into two categories:

  • Things that go into the body. These are basically the food and drink you enjoy eating but make you feel bad because they are unhealthy. Some people call these kinds of food comfort food.
  • Things that go into the mind. These are the things we enjoy on social media and the entertainment industry (movies, TV shows, etc.).

The guilt doesn’t only come from the judgment of others around you. It could also come from your belief that you have to be consistent with your personality or beliefs.

For example, if you are a classical singer or musician, you are expected to only listen to and appreciate classical music. But listening to rock or rap music makes you feel better and happy. You are a different person in public and another persona when you are alone.

Guilt and Identity

What is human identity, and how significant is it in understanding guilty pleasures? Identity is a complex and ever-changing concept that is an accumulation of a person’s life experiences. Identity is a social concept that can only be understood if you compare yourself to others.

It is part of human nature to make social connections. Having a social group and connecting with them is vital for your human survival. Because of this, there is a need to balance between your individuality and the group’s common personality. For instance, if the group commonly likes British shows, you should like them as much as you enjoy your favorite American TV series.

Everything is available on the internet with unlimited access. In other words, society’s landscape is changing. Society will try to dictate who and what you should like. Because of this pressure, you need to exert your identity all the more.

“What-the-Hell” Effect

Have you ever experienced enjoying a whole pizza and realizing that you ate more than half of the circle? You then hear yourself say, “What the hell?” Yes, you know that feeling. This phenomenon is called the “what-the-hell” effect and is the reason behind your inability to stop eating or doing what you like.

This effect tells you that when you associate pleasure with guilt, there is a high tendency that you will have poor self-control. If you are on a diet and feel bad about eating fatty and oily food, you will most likely have a hard time losing weight. But if you look at eating unhealthy food with excitement rather than guilt, you will most likely succeed in losing weight.

Research shows that it is best to focus on the benefits of the pleasures instead of feeling guilty. If you are happier, you can make better and healthier life choices.

Reality TV and Mental Break

Watching reality TV is a common guilty pleasure. It may not be intellectually stimulating, but it can be a very good outlet for emotional release. Watching these shows makes you feel a rollercoaster of emotions. Thus, yelling or screaming at the TV can be your emotional outlet, which is a good thing.

There is a stereotype as to what is considered appropriate to watch on TV. If you are an executive or a successful person, you should be watching the news, documentary channels, or sports channels. But, if you are an ordinary person with an ordinary day job, you should watch The Real Housewives. Don’t be fooled by this.

This is only an advertising stunt to attract as many viewers as possible. Liking reality shows doesn’t necessarily make you dumb or immoral. What’s harmful is your way of thinking that it is bad. The more you consider watching these shows as bad, the bigger the tendency to binge-watch them. 

Watching reality TV is good for some people. This type of pleasurable activity doesn’t demand too much intellectual work and focus. The brain can rest and reset to improve its function. Having a mental break helps you deal with stress better, and you become energized.

How Not to Over-Indulge in Your Guilty Pleasures

Indulging in guilty pleasures is good only if it is short-term and if you can control your urges. Constantly allowing yourself to give in to these pleasurable urges, especially the negative ones, can be damaging and harmful in the long run. The keys are self-control and balance. 

Mastering Self-Control

Being able to control yourself is important if you don’t want to feel guilty about your pleasures. According to research, those who are self-conscious have greater self-control. This means that if you are very conscious about yourself, what you eat, watch, or do and think about their negative effects on you, you are more likely to guard yourself against over-indulging.

Often, it is people who have poor control who feel the guiltiest. This is why you should master and control yourself. Guilty pleasures won’t make you feel so guilty because you are not enslaved by them.

Allowing yourself some guilty pleasures can help you recover more quickly and have a healthier disposition. If you know you are eating right and doing your best to be healthy; you don’t have to feel guilty about eating 2 or 3 slices of chocolate cake or a pint of ice cream.

“I” Should Come First

It is time to drop the shame and indulge in your guilty pleasures. These pleasures are good for your well-being and mental health. You are only productive and inspired when you are happy. 

Have more self-compassion and be free to enjoy whatever you want as long as you are not hurting anybody. Tell yourself, “I have closed a lot of deals this week so it’s okay if I reward myself.”

Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) can help you find balance with your guilty pleasures. KCC therapists can help you see if your guilty pleasures are good and offer strategies on how to control your urges if you’re indulging in them more than you should. Set an appointment now!

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