With evidence mounting that fun has tangible health perks, it's worth dropping the guilt and dialling your inner hedonist.

Celebrate without the guilt

1. Eat dessert
In stressed rats, eating foods that are high in sugar/fat has been shown to trigger the brain's pleasure system (dopamine again), thereby reducing their stress. So at a chemical level, eating sugary or fatty foods may 'work' to reduce negative feelings, and give us a sense of pleasure. Which means that you no longer need to feel bad about scooping the raw cookie dough straight out of the bowl!

2. Sing in the car

Known to activate powerful emotions, singing can rival other stress relief techniques in the chill-out stakes. Studies at Harvard and Yale Universities showed that singing promotes the release of mood-enhancing endorphins and lowers heart rate – the perfect recipe for stress reduction. Stockholm University researchers also found that singing releases oxytocin, which may help to relax muscles responsible for pain in conditions such as IBS. What's more, singing works out lungs, tones abdominal muscles, stimulates circulation and encourages deeper breathing.

You know endorphins boost your mood, but did you know laughter is one of the better ways to release them? Aside from feeling chipper, laughter may be good for heart health, University of Maryland Medical Center researchers found. In the 2005 study, subjects who watched funny movies had more relaxed blood vessels, meaning better blood flow. Some studies have shown that laughter may increase the body's infection-fighting antibodies, meaning better immune function. To benefit you'll need to ROFL a lot. Study authors put the benchmark at 15 minutes' daily laughter plus 30 minutes' exercise three times a week for favourable vascular impact.

4. Have sex
Amazing sex isn't a luxury or mundane detail of evolution; it's been medically proven to rival pain killers, the treadmill and psychotherapy. It can even boost immunity and steel your ticker against disease. The pleasure systems involved in satisfying sex are exceptionally powerful, Adams says. For one, orgasm is like a factory of feelgood hormones.

"In women these feelings of pleasure associated with orgasm can last longer than just the afterglow, giving us a sense of wellbeing and meaning." Oxytocin is another star that fosters feelings of love and tenderness towards a partner and has been shown to lower pain perception of a specific physical trauma by more than half.

5. Sleep in
Hitting the snooze button may be the best prescription going. Not only does proper kip improve daytime energy, but over time, staying longer in the land of nod can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and depression. According to Dr Anup Desai, a sleep physician at Prince of Wales Hospital, humans require eight hours' sleep each night to set conditions for optimal health. Inadequate sleep may lead to low energy, fatigue and daytime sleepiness, affect work concentration and contribute to depression and chronic illnesses, he says. Research by German and Swedish experts investigating the effect of short-term sleep deprivation on hunger, physical activity and calorie metabolism found that too much time awake adversely impacts calorie consumption and body weight control by disrupting the delicate balance between sleep and hunger hormones. Overtired bodies also slow their calorie-burning rate, compounding the effect of extra intake. Researchers in the Netherlands recently reported that sleeping less than six hours a night can increase the risk of stroke by 4.5 per cent, compared to seven to eight hours. Dr Desai advises adopting a regular sleep routine and engaging in daily exercise to facilitate better sleep quality, which is up there with quantity.

6. Have a break...
Have your favourite dark chocolate bar. "For women, eating chocolate releases chemicals similar to those released during orgasm," Adams says. The effect doesn't tend to occur in men, however. "Chocolate contains more than 500 natural chemical compounds, many of which have been categorised by scientists as mood-elevating and pleasure-inducing, giving us plenty of good reasons to indulge." On the physical front, eating small amounts of chocolate can reduce the chance of a heart attack or stroke by as much as 39 per cent according to a German study. Clinical Associate Professor David Sullivan, chemical pathologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, attributes potential cardiovascular benefits to the presence of isoflavones – a type of antioxidant – in dark chocolate. Isoflavones bolster the blood's nitric oxide levels, improving the endothelial lining function of blood vessels. Choccie's antioxidants may also positively impact insulin resistance and blood lipid levels. To account for its calorie density, keep portions under 30 grams.

7. Pop the bubbles
Next time you're contemplating how many kJs are in a glass of Krug, throw caution to the wind. It may just improve your health. Reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke are among champers' suggested perks. They help to dilate blood vessels and optimise blood flow. What's more, the antioxidants (polyphenols) in the grapes from which bubbly's made may help to dilate blood vessels and optimise blood flow according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2009. Before you fill the bottom fridge shelf with Bolly, bear in mind that long-term health benefits have not yet been conclusively established, so stick to two standard drinks per day, max, with two days off per week.

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