Most people swear. Even people who say they don’t swear have likely uttered some curse words in their day. People who say they never swear are probably not being entirely honest. If they have never sworn in their life, though, they might be missing out on some great benefits. It turns out that swearing can be good for you according to science.
Swearing and Pain
Let’s look at an example of how science backs up the benefits of cussing a blue streak. Dr. Richard Stephens, a behavioral psychologist from Keele University in the UK, looked into why people swear when they are in pain. Many in the medical field have said that swearing is bad for you if you are in pain, but Keele wanted to know why people keep doing it if it’s so bad for them.
His research was simple. He took volunteers and had them put their hands in ice water and randomized whether they would use a neutral word or a swear word. He then compared how long they were able to keep their hands in the water before removing them. When swearing, people were able to keep their hands in the water for longer. It seems as though swearing can be good for helping people to withstand pain for longer periods. In many cases, they were able to keep their hands in the icy water for up to 40 seconds longer than without swearing.
There was another study done in 2011 at the University of Bristol. They found that when people said the words “fuck” and “cunt” out loud, it created a silent emotional reaction from the people who said them. This was detectable as an increase in conductivity on their skin. When the participants in the study said the words “glue” and “dumb”, this increased conductivity was not present.
Dealing with Emotions
Experts also say that swearing can work as a coping mechanism when faced with unpleasant events in your life. This can be especially helpful when there are events that happen where you have little to no control over what happens. It can work well in cases where people feel that they were treated unfairly, when they are disappointed, when they experience pain, etc.
When suffering from events that are out of your control, you will often have a welling up of emotions. It can be difficult to handle and release these emotional reactions and stress that you are feeling. However, researchers have found that swearing can help to relieve some of the stressful feelings. It won’t make the problem go away and it won’t improve your situation, but it could help to make you feel better about the situation, at least momentarily. It can work well as a way to regulate your emotions for the short term.
Creative Expression and Relationship Development
Swearing can be boring. It could be just a litany of bad words that you’ve heard in your life and that you utter at different times. However, swearing can also be poetic and expressive. You can string together various words among the swearing to come up with your own unique way of swearing. Believe it or not, it can be quite creative. Think of some of the funny and inventive ways that you have heard people swear, or how you’ve used curse words yourself.
Swearing might also be able to help with relationship development. Most of the time, you talk differently when interacting with people that aren’t your close friends or family. This can create two competing identities. However, when you allow yourself to swear in front of others—not at others—it can help them to see more of your real personality rather than the polished veneer that “doesn’t swear”. Swearing can act as a signal to others that you can be relaxed and comfortable around one another. It shows that you can speak freely with each other and without fear.
Of course, this is not possible in every relationship. You might not ever feel comfortable swearing in front of your sweet elderly aunt that knits you a terrible sweater every year. That’s okay. She probably doesn’t want to hear your fucking shit, anyway.
Using the Power of Swearing Wisely
Even though it’s true that swearing can provide quite a few benefits, you do need to be careful about how and when you do it. Although you can say whatever you want, you still need to be cognizant of how it can make others feel, especially in certain situations.
For example, you probably wouldn’t want to start an interview for a job by swearing. You wouldn’t want to address an audience of potential clients by swearing either. You always have to think about the context of swearing and whether it’s okay or not. Of course, there are plenty of people who ignore this rule and swear wherever they please. To each their own, but don’t be surprised at the results.
Even though swearing is simply words, there are still a lot of people out there that clutch their pearls and feign outrage when they hear or see “bad” words. These are often people who do and say other things that are far more terrible than a “fuck” here or a “shit” there. Still, paying attention to where you are swearing can help to avoid dealing with these types of people.
Additionally, swearing can be good for you, but swearing at others and putting them down with your curses is not good in most cases. You want to swear with others, not at them. Swearing at people, such as the person who delivered your food or who is working in the grocery store is the sign of a person that can’t communicate. Funny enough, some of those people who profess swearing as profanity are the same ones that will curse out their waiter for not bringing them enough French fries.
Of course, there are times when you can and probably should swear at other people. Some people-- well, some people are assholes and deserve to be told as much.