Props if you sang that out! (If you know, you know). That reference is old now...yikes. Nope, this isn't about treat yourself day and buying expensive things, this is a different kind of treating yourself.
I've referenced Gretchen Rubin a few times; she's a really awesome person with great ideas (seriously, give her a google). I was first introduced to her when she featured on James Altucher's podcast, the topic was of course happiness. Here's the link as I'm nice.
Wanting to be happier is a universal desire I think, so it's no secret why Rubin's research and words are so interesting.
Treats vs Rewards
One part of the podcast focused on short term happiness versus long term happiness. The idea being that some activities that provide short term happiness, can ultimately cause a lack of happiness long term; excessive eating of cake or unhealthy foods for example could have negative long term happiness consequences (you become unhappy about weight or health).
Other activities might bring a short term boost to happiness but also provide long term happiness; going on a short walk for a happiness boost promotes health and well being.
Happiness is a complex issue. It's not just smiling or doing nice things, but its feeling productive, feeling like your life is going in the right direction and that you're not wasting time. In that frame of mine what constitutes a treat broadens out.
Gretchen also spoke about the difference between treats and rewards. In her mind a reward is not a treat. A treat you can have as many times as you want, at any time of day (in theory). A reward is something you allow yourself for achieving something. So yeah, you can buy yourself a big cake as a reward for doing your first 10 mile run (but maybe share some with your family), but doing that would not be considered a treat (its expensive, not always practical and can long term have negative effects). I suppose rewards go against the long term happiness rule because they have been earned.
Gretchen mentioned she had a long list of treats and its something I scribbled in an old notebook (which is somewhere I think), but now I feel like cementing my treat list for my own good so I can reference it when in need of a boost.
My treat list
I recently took a work sabbatical; I had the summer off. It was great overall. I completed or made progress on pretty much most of what I wanted to. But of course having much more free times and lack of structure there were times when I thought "shouldn't I be happier?" or "I wish I were being more productive".
So below is my treat list. A go-to quiver full of feel good treats and productivity hacks. Exactly what a treat is can be confusing so I hope that reading a few of mine will make it clearer and that you'll give a thought to making your own. Ultimately its about listening to yourself. If you're feeling a down is there something you are doing that is making you feel that way or something you haven't done that you should?
- Listen to your favourite 80's songs - That always makes me feel happier, true. It costs nothing and I can do it anytime or anywhere.
- Walk the dog - It's a shame when I overlook this. But without needing to ride anywhere, going a walk with my dog round the streets or in the local park makes me feel like I'm having a worthwhile experience and strengthening the bond with my dog.
- Listen to a podcast - Some of my happiest moments have been laughing along to a podcast I love or having my mind blown by Invisibilia.
- Bake and cook - Since I moved home I cook and bake a lot less. I've started again in the summer and if I feel a bit frustrated I find it gives me a sense of being productive to create something from scratch.
- Tidy a small space - I do love tidying. It might sound silly but it gives me a sense of being in control and makes my environment cleaner and easier to use. Feels good short term and benefits me long term.
- Watch Twitch or Youtube - Yeah, I enjoy watching other people play video games. It's free and fun, great to pass the time whilst working or whatever
- Pay someone a compliment - I actually used to do this a lot at work. I would always be saying nice things about people or their outfits. It was genuine but over the top at the same time, it made people smile and it made me smile in return.
- Read something - I rarely do this of late. But stopping to read an article puts you in a nice, quiet frame of mind. Learning things and encountering new ideas if great for long term happiness even if its not always the most thrilling of present activities.
- Create - Well duh. If I'm ever in a rut I should consider if I should create something. It feels good and I have something to show for it.
- Write - Sometimes its good to write introspective in a notebook, scribble out an idea or write something for the blog.
What about my troubles?
What is the opposite of a treat? Well it could be a pain, but I like how trouble sounds. These things aren't explicitly bad, but I thought a short list of "Dan if you're doing these too much think about stopping" might be a great way to examine the other side of happiness.
- Watching shows on autopilot - It's amazing when you've been looking forwards to watching something all week, and its really nice to relax and binge on a favourite series. But if I'm doing this too much I gotta ask myself why that is and if there isn't something better I could be doing.
- Decision fatigue - Getting trapped between multiple decisions is one way I waste a lot of time and brings me a lot of frustration.
- Procrastination - When I find myself avoiding something and replacing one task with another; if I don't acknowledge the reasons why I'm procrastinating it won't be good for long term happiness.
What's the point?
For me its simple. I've encountered the treat concept and I think its one I should hold onto tightly. I don't want to allow days to pass by with me feeling unfulfilled or unhappy. If I've got a checklist of uplifting things to try, and a few things to avoid then I feel like it's something I should create and make us of.
If it can tip the balance to have more days where they feel worthwhile then that sounds like a positive. A treat could be as simple as looking out at the world through a window, or thinking of three things you're grateful for.
Over and out - Dan (stay happy).