Chocolate Cake

Our guilty pleasures keep our lives interesting; and sharing those delights just adds to the fun. So, do your friends a favor and share with them in a way that inspires them to discover life’s hidden gems.

The pop star Rihanna showed us just how to do this a few years ago following her Grammy win for her hit “Umbrella.” In the middle of a media interview she was eating a brownie. At one point, she stopped mid-sentence, looked at the camera, pointed at the brownie, and said something to the effect of: Screw you, Personal Trainer Guy. I earned this. I’m eating now.

While our indulgences vary, good friends support one another to every last brownie bite – or even better, point them to the exact location of the best brownies in town.

Why Does “Bad” Feel So Good?

The Huffington Post asked close to 80 celebrities about their favorite guilty pleasures. Most of the answers were pretty standard: reality TV, chocolate, ice cream, burgers. But, then a few bucked the system, like Lenny Kravitz, who said, “I don’t have any guilty pleasures. Whatever I do, I’m all right with it.”

No matter your vice, the beauty and power of a guilty pleasure is that it’s your own. A rebellion. A secret shared by you and that 57th gaming session of Halo. A guilty pleasure is something you should whole-heartedly own up to. Consider it self-perseverance.

Kelly Goldsmith, an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, looked at how guilt often enhances pleasures. Her research was inspired by a dalliance with Weight Watchers, which made her ask: Does food taste better when you feel guilty eating it?

Of course, it does. After some research that hopefully involved a crude amount of Twinkies, beer and a hostile rejection of point-based eating systems, Goldsmith found that guilt is linked with pleasure “because oftentimes when we experience guilt, we experience pleasure.”

Furthermore, the greater the guilt, the greater the pleasure. Goldsmith says, “When pleasure’s activated, guilt is activated, and so in our brains, over time, those two become connected.”

Own Those Indulgences, and Share Them

Why do we feel guilty about the things we like the most? According to research, it’s connected. So, let indulgence be the essence of the “work hard, play hard” trade off. You’ve earned. Own it.

Acknowledge the little things that inspire you to work harder and to persevere through any number of life’s many responsibilities, knowing there’s a carrot at the end.

Guilty pleasures are our own personal rebellions. Be a rebel and eat that brownie. Better yet, share your favorite guilty pleasures with others.