Health

When bad habits make you happy

Last week, I spent four glorious nights at two beautiful resorts in Jamaica: Round Hill Hotel and Villas and Jamaica Inn. Both were spectacular, luxurious, relaxing and allowed me to fall asleep every night to the sound of lapping waves.

sun

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Last week, I spent four glorious nights at two beautiful resorts in Jamaica: Round Hill Hotel and Villas and Jamaica Inn. Both were spectacular, luxurious, relaxing and allowed me to fall asleep every night to the sound of lapping waves. I ate jerk pork and fresh lobster, gorged on tropical fruit I had never heard of before (how is it possible there are still fruits I’ve never heard of?), drank icy pina coladas on the beach, stared blankly at stunning sunsets, and quickly forgot all about the rain and wind back at home.

So that was all great, but here’s what I really wanted to do in Jamaica: lie in the sun. I just wanted to stretch out (rotating every 15 minutes) with a couple of trashy magazines and a pair of sunglasses. I wanted to feel the sun on my face and the immense heat all over my body. I love, love, love the sun. It thrills me to sit in the sun. It makes me happy in a way that nothing else can. And what’s so wrong with that?

Well, being fair of skin and blue of eyes, the sun is sort of like poison for me. And, as I probably could have predicted, after spending my first day lying on the beach in beautiful Jamaica and liberally applying a waterproof SPF 30, I ended up with a sunburn so bad that the spa at Jamaica Inn had to come up with a special cooling treatment for my body. (Lots of aloe and cucumber and yogurt. I smelled like an amazing party dip.) I spent much of the rest of the trip lying under a beach umbrella — which was still lovely, but seemed to miss the point a little. I only recently stopped peeling.

Of course, sun is just one of the many things I love but that aren’t so hot for me. Other things? Glasses of bourbon, straight up. Artisanal doughnuts. Saturday morning bacon. Going braless. Playing hooky. Buying yet another pair of boots. Sour candy and all-dressed potato chips. Going to bed without washing my face. Planning yet another vacation without considering how I’m going to pay for it/how I will be able to get any work done. Drinking coffee all day long. The list goes on and on — and is largely food-based, as it turns out.

These things all make me happy, at least in the short term, and so I tend not to consider some of the negative consequences — the anxiety and sleeplessness that comes from my love of coffee, that gross, sluggish feeling that comes from eating junk food, the fuzziness that invariably arrives the morning after too many Manhattans, the light regret I feel when I look at my dozen pairs of boots lined up in the hallway.

I guess it might seem like it’s time to reevaluate. But not all of my habits are bad. I put spinach in my berry smoothies. I sock away money into a savings account. I only have access to artisanal doughnuts every few months. And I spend most of my time starved for sun. The thing about my bad habits is that I like them as much as I like my healthy habits. So maybe there will come a time when the fuzziness of the morning will outweigh the fun of bourbon the night before. (And the burn I got on vacation was a bit of a wake-up call to exercise more caution.) But until then, I’m going to enjoy the bad habits that make me happy.