Health Tips Have to pee? Here’s the weird reason why you should hold it in

Running errands, but have to take a leak? You may want to hold it in.

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A growing body of research on pee suggests that waiting to relieve yourself can actually boost your willpower.

So when you go to Target to pick up a gallon of milk, you won’t leave with five new T-shirts, a pair of workout shorts, a poncho, and a bag of marked-down Halloween candy, too. 

Here’s why it works: It all has to do with impulse control, says Iris Blandon-Gitlin, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at California State University, Fullerton, who has conducted research on the benefits on your brain when you have a full bladder, including one that found it’s easier to tell more believable lies.

Not urinating activates a part of your brain that helps resist sudden urges—like not peeing yourself, obviously, she says. But because you’re triggering that self restraint, it can help you fight off other kinds of impulses—like the snacks in the checkout line.

This impulse-reducing effect may also help you concentrate better. 

In another pee-related study, Dutch researchers found that people who had to take a leak scored higher than those who didn’t on confusing mental tests. 

Instead of getting sidetracked on the test, the full-bladder folks were able to direct their attention to the question at hand. In effect, it gave them laser-like focus. But don’t guzzle a gallon of water and put off peeing for hours at a time.

“In this research, we’re making people wait long enough where they have an urge to go, but they’re not dying to go,” says Blandon-Gitlin. 

Besides, there are some Surprising Dangers to Holding in Your Pee. In the short term, holding it in too long can increase your risk for urinary tract infections, and may even lead to long-term scarring on your bladder wall.

You shouldn’t feel lower abdominal pain or low back pain, says Blaine Kristo, M.D., a urologist with The Urology Specialists at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. That signals you’ve held your pee for too long.  

So the next time you’re shopping or you have an important project to complete, wait just a little longer than usual to use the restroom. It’s crazy advice, sure—but it just might work.

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