Treats vs. Rewards
Last week I was listening to an episode of Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier (which I highly recommend) about giving yourself treats. Rubin explains that a treat is a pleasure you give yourself “just because” and a reward is something you earn. I had honestly never made this distinction before. And as I’ve thought about this for the past week, I realized it’s hard for me to stop thinking that these little extras need to be earned.
Many of us perfectionists and high-achievers are stingy with the treats and only give ourselves rewards. We make ourselves earn all these special goodies through “good” behavior or accomplishing goals. And even then we may be stingy with the rewards, too.
We need treats
According to Gretchen Rubin, “When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which in turn boosts self-command. When we don’t get any treats, we feel depleted, resentful, and angry, and we feel justified in self-indulgence.” It makes sense that treats increase both happiness and discipline.
Have you ever tried to deprive yourself of treats? It doesn’t work very well. That’s why really restrictive diets tend to backfire. When we feel deprived, it’s inevitable that we’ll eventually over-indulge and give up. Small treats along the way keep us satisfied and motivated.
So, what is a treat?
It can be confusing because the same things can be treats or rewards depending on the situation. The other stumbling block I find is that I associate treats with food, especially sweets. If I treat myself to unlimited cookies everyday, I don’t think I’m actually treating myself well.
We all have to identify our own treats. To some people it’s a treat to walk the dog and for others it’s a chore. Here are a few of my suggested treats:
- a nap
- a bubble bath
- time alone
- a new lipstick
- take out for dinner
- watching your favorite TV program
- listening to a podcast
- letting the cat sit in your lap
- going to the movies
Today I treated myself to a nice walk by myself. It was an absolutely beautiful Fall afternoon and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yesterday I treated myself to a coffee from Starbucks as I did some shopping. I’ve listened to financial guru Suze Orman scold many callers to her show for their expensive Starbucks habit. It left me confused about whether these are really O.K. or not. If you feel guilty about buying yourself expensive coffee (or any other treat), read this great post on Huffington Post.
Treats aren’t selfish. Having treats (even every day) isn’t spoiling yourself either. As Rubin points out, treats are actually good for us.
So, don’t make all your treats earned rewards. You need unconditional treats, too, because you are worthy just as you are.