(U.S. Army photo by Cara Nordin/Released)
If you like to let obscenities fly during times of crisis, we have some good news for you.
A potty mouth is a healthy thing. Swearing like a sailor–or a soldier, or a Marine, or an airman–is scientifically proven to improve pain tolerance.
Why the @#%& Does This Happen?
A Neuroreport study published in 2009 tested the affect of swearing on pain by instructing test groups to immerse their hands in freezing water. The subjects who repeated swear words during the test experienced less pain and a higher heart rate than those who did not. Potty mouths could also endure pain for 40 percent longer.
Researchers believe swearing has this effect on us because unlike other words, curse words are linked to the most primal functions in the right hemisphere of the brain. When we stub a toe and shout “Gold-digging llama sock licker,” the swear word activates a fight-or-flight response. Heart rates rise, adrenaline rushes, and the pain itself becomes more manageable.
Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker suggests that this response is similar to how a dog or cat might yelp when you step on their tails.
“I suspect that swearing taps into a defensive reflex in which an animal that is suddenly injured or confined erupts in a furious struggle, accompanied by an angry vocalization, to startle and intimidate an attacker,” Pinker said.
Richard Stephens, the psychologist who led the study, advises that people swear when they are hurt or feeling intense emotion. But don’t overdo it! Swearing too much lessens its impact on your pain tolerance.
The next time you are having a tough work out and you consider giving up, cuss a sh**ton. You’ll feel better afterwards.