Guilty Pleasures That Are Good For You

Psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig dishes on common guilty pleasures, when they may be good for you and how much is too much.


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Retail Therapy
While shopping may take a toll on the wallet, it can actually be good for your health, especially when bargain hunting.

Studies show shopping releases endorphins, boosts the immune system, keeps the brain nimble and fulfills social needs. "Modern-day shopping is a little bit like old-fashioned hunting and gathering," E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says.

Dr. Travis demonstrates how shopping affects the brain. "If you look at MRI scans of shoppers," he explains, "[the] areas flooded with dopamine are the same pleasure centers [that are flooded when] you're having sex."

Research also shows that there is a difference between just browsing and actually making a purchase. When you purchase something you truly want and desire, your brain is flooded with even more dopamine and more endorphins are released. "If you're going to buy some lingerie and then you go home and that lingerie gets used, that's a lot of dopamine," Dr. Travis says. "Not a lot of complaints!"

Handbag Essentials

A woman's handbag can be more than just a storage device — it can be a lifesaver. Find out the essential items you should always carry in your purse.

• Do you feel guilty pampering yourself with a massage? Learn why you should relax and enjoy the time, and how a new massage trend can leave you feeling like you're floating.

Party On

A little partying can boost your health in a big way. Find out why getting your groove on is good for you!

Next time you're celebrating, don't be shy to toast with a glass of bubbly.
Champagne, a form of sparkling wine, has been shown to promote heart health, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Polyphenol, the plant chemical in champagne, helps to increase blood flow, decreasing blood pressure.

Always make sure to drink alcohol in moderation, which is one to two glasses per day for men, and one glass daily for women.

• Cheese is a popular party snack. Learn the health benefits, how different varieties are developed and which types are best for you.

Positive Health Scare

Are you a fan of scary movies? Learn the health benefits of watching a horror movie.

A Yale University study found that recreational gamblers age 65 and older reported being in better health than non-gamblers, with less alcoholism and depression, and are less likely to go bankrupt than younger gamblers.

Because gambling is rewarding and unpredictable, which is known as intermittent reinforcement, it can be extremely addictive. "That's why you keep pulling the lever, it's why you keep going back for more," Dr. Travis says. "So you need to control that, [because] there's excitement there.

"We're really talking about that friendly bet here or there, if you enjoy it recreationally." Dr. Travis says. "But if you're having trouble, you're struggling and need that reinforcement, there are much healthier ways to go about it, whether it's golf [or another, non-gambling activity]."

Gas Station Snacks
When you stop at a gas station or mini-mart for a quick snack, do you have trouble deciding which, if any, are actually good for you? The Doctors explain what to choose and what to avoid.

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OAD 3/8/11