…well, you’re allowed to curse your a** off about about it. Encouraged, even. Why? Because science says so!
Thank Richard Stephens, a professor of psychology at Keele University in the U.K., who published a study last month in NeuroReport that found profanity eases your pain.
Here’s how it worked: The study had participants put their hands in buckets of ice-cold water, and measured how long they could keep their hand in, and how much pain they were able to endure. The catch? They told half the group to repeat a curse word frequently and as loudly as they wanted; the other half were told to utter banal, neutral words. The result? The cursers were able to keep their hands in the ice water for 40 percent longer and reported feeling less pain than those talking about, say, toast.
Cursing, Stephens found, raises the heart rate, and induces a fight-or-flight response, which, as The Week explained it, “temporarily mutes the sensation of pain, so we can respond quickly to a threat.”
Now, the pain the study talked about was physical, it made their knuckles ache. But in my opinion, the words that ease the pain in your hands may also help ease the pain in your heart or spirit on a given day. I mean, hell, I’ve been there when a man I loved told me he just wanted to be friends. I’ve been there when a guy I liked turned away from me and hooked right up with someone else. And in life, I’ve had projects fall through, payments not come, and failing technology destroy ten hours of a good day in four seconds flat. And that pain is not imagined; that’s real hurt, real anger, real heartbreak. So if cursing helps lessen the pain—even for a few seconds—and gets you that much closer to taking the weight of a bad moment off your shoulders, I say let loose! (Provided you’ve first scanned the area for superiors or small children.)
So for those of you worrying that too much “cheerfulness” is required to be optimistic about life and love, fear not…cursing like Gordon Ramsey can help you get there, too. So go ahead, you have my bleeping—I mean, my blessing.