When faced with challenging times, we are inclined to turn toward the activities that bring us comfort to brighten our moods. This might include well-read books, binge-worthy television shows and the music of our favorite artists.
A study from researchers at the University of Buffalo has found that these activities, our so-called “guilty pleasures,” actually can fulfill our emotional and social needs as much as family connections, romantic relationships and strong support systems.
To conduct the study, the researchers surveyed nearly 200 participants about their well-being and social connections. The participants were asked how 17 different methods of engagement, including direct person-to-person social interaction and nontraditional strategies like binge-watching television, fulfilled their emotional needs.
The researchers found that most participants reported it was as important to engage in their favorite guilty pleasures as it was to spend time with family and friends.
The results of the survey, published in the journal Self and Identity, are the first to provide evidence that people can be as emotionally satisfied by pleasurable activities as by social interactions. This finding is important because it suggests people can turn to activities they enjoy to find fulfillment — something that is particularly important at a time when social distancing has become a common phrase used in our everyday lives.
So, when you’re feeling down, engage in your favorite guilty pleasure. Pet the dog, listen to pop music and watch a lot of reality television — whatever rings your bell! Research shows this may indeed make you feel happier.