What Are the Small Treats You Give Yourself?

Assay:  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of small treats, small pleasures. They’re fun to experience, of course, and I think they also have a very important role to play in happiness.

When we feel depleted and drained, and when we have no time or energy devoted to the things that give us pleasure, we start to feel exhausted, resentful, and angry. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

But it can be surprisingly hard to think of what little treats you want to give yourself. So many pleasures come at a cost: cookies cost calories, movies and books take time and focus, a museum costs the price of a ticket. It’s good to have a list of treats and pleasures that have a very low cost in time, energy, or money.

For instance, I’ve become obsessed with the sense of smell, and I love the fact that a good smell can be enjoyed in an instant, with no cost. My latest favorite “treat,” which I save for moments when I need a bit of extra comfort or reassurance, is the fragrance  “Hay” from CB I Hate Perfume. It’s a warm, sweet, summer smell…of hay. I only put it on as a special treat. (Of course, it did cost me something to buy it, but not much, and never again.)

What small treats and pleasures have you found for yourself?  Be honest! Not things that you think you should consider a treat, or what you wish you considered a treat (you may or may not find going for a run to be a treat), but things that you actually do consider a treat. Even if these aren’t particularly estimable.

I want to lengthen my own list.

  • JackieDanicki

    I’m so glad you posted this, Gretchen. I’ve been trying to come up with treats for myself that don’t cost me in some way (my favorites are food, isolation, and shopping – ack!). I’ll be reading the comments eagerly. 

    Perhaps the problem is that I have taken indulgence and called it routine. For example, I have about 30 fragrances in rotation at any one time, so that I can select by mood. But I don’t think of spritzing these on as a huge treat. In fact, one scent is so much a part of my bedtime routine that I can’t go to bed without it.

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s one problem with a small treat: it’s small enough that you can have it often, and then it becomes less of a treat.

      • Kate

        i can see where doing something all the time reduces the “treat” factor.  But, in a larger sense, if  you are filling one’s life with all the special small indulgences you love, aren’t you just….living a good and happy life?  Isn’t that the goal?

        • gretchenrubin

          In my experience, sometimes yes. But sometimes no.

      • Peninith1

        Yes, I’m puzzling over this as I read–I do a number of the things listed here (and like some of the suggestions) but how do I keep this from becoming ‘routine’ and the treat a reminder of wastefulness? When I go to the grocery store, I usually end my trip by at least viewing the extensive magazine rack–a non-food treat. I greatly enjoy looking at magazines if I bring them home. But my recycling shows that I pretty often spend $5 or more for not much! Pinterest offers some of the same pleasure, but it’s not quite ‘the same.’  I do find that what is a treat to me is generally — pretty to look at, soothing to hear, gentle on the skin, pleasant to smell . . . in other words, treats are things that calm me down. Now maybe I should be looking for a few treats that give me a little jolt of surprise or energy!

    • Resaztrain

      This is why I don’t want to use food as a treat– I will almost immediately think of about twenty different ways that I can have this ‘treat’ and end up eating my calories in two hours!

      I have found though that intention and appreciation goes a long way. For instance, try spending one or two days without any scent at all. Then when you go back to using them, you will feel the specialness again. I do this with coffee. A week without caffeine is enough to help me appreciate that morning cup all the more!

  • Jami

    An afternoon latte (made at home, virtually free) while my youngest son naps and the older one gets his TV time. It usually only lasts about five minutes before the little one wakes up or the older one doesn’t really want to watch TV, but I really enjoy the process of making it (in a French press so that it’s a tiny bit of a process) and knowing that I’m doing it for myself almost as much as I enjoy getting to sit and drink it.  And as far as the calories it costs, it’s about 70 calories of skim milk, but it usually keeps me from wanting an afternoon snack before dinnertime. And I get the caffeine boost, so it’s a win-win-win all around.

  • Simple things: a warm bath, a good book (often borrowed at the library), a nice leislurely walk, a good workout, a long skype conversation with a good friend in a different country, sitting on the beach just watching the waves, a cup of my favourite tea

  • Carolyn

    Time alone! Going to the library, again alone. Sometimes just buying an edible treat is enough – I don’t even have to eat it myself…

  • Miriam

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. I’ve been stressed lately, and have enjoyed treating myself with lots of relaxing baths (complete with lavender-scented candles and bath salts) and the occasional manicure.

  • Arlie

    A pack of pretty/cute post it notes or flags. I don’t NEED them, but at the dollar store, or from the Target $1.00 bins …. ohhhhhh  … they make me so happy! (It also helps me to “spend out” – otherwise, my tendency is to hoard the pretty ones!

    • Erin

      I also love post-its!! it’s the little things…

      • Elise

        All stationary should be on this list!  Post-its included 🙂

  • Nancy

    Going for a morning walk after I drop my youngest off at preschool.  It’s alone time for me and the place I walk is in a beautiful setting with a stream running through the woods and a lake.  I hardly ever run into anyone and it’s a perfect way to recharge my spirit.

  • Nupur

    1. Reading a magazine. Even old issues from the public library are fine. (and a quirk: I like reading magazines from the last page to the front page).
    2. Dipping cookies into hot tea.
    3. Giving my baby daughter an oil massage. Her blissful expression when I rub her soles is so precious.

    • Imagine

      I always read magazines from back to front!  I wonder is this a common phenomenon.

      • Polly

         I do it too! Didn’t realise so many other people do the same thing.

    • Theresa

      I also read magazines from the back to the front.  I blame this on being very right-handed.  I also read the small articles first and then read the bigger ones later.

  • I consider it a treat to paint my nails. I just do it myself, and I don’t have an expansive polish collection, but for some reason I find it fun and satisfying. I don’t do it often, so it has kept its “treat” status. 

  • Hi Gretchen!

    Two or three years ago made up a list of “luscious indulgences” and I try to treat myself at least one per day!

    When I started out (and when I come up with new ones), I try to think of how I want to feel. Energized, pampered, playful, curious, warm, lazy… and then think of specific little things (my rule: less than 15 minutes and $5) that will make me feel that way!

    Some of my favorites:
    -basking in the sunshine
    -taking the pup to the park
    -dance party in my office
    -getting a hot chocolate
    -reading a chapter of my book in bed
    -looking at a family photo album
    -taking an extra long shower
    -stretching or yoga

    I find that thinking about the emotions I want to feel helps me open up to new possibilities (and align my treat with what I really want!)


  • Aliceorrseminars

    What I call a Soaky Bath that turns me soft and sweet smelling without going all Chanel on the budget limitations.. As the water pours in add a cup of the inexpensive powdered milk that comes in a bag from Costco… plus as much Johnson’s Baby Oil as you prefer… and bubble bath from the dollar store mostly for the scent like lavender which is my favorite… Fill that tub high and soak… Off come all the dry skin places with just a little scrub and the dry soul places with just a little time… or a lot. 

    • gretchenrubin

      I wish I found a bath a “treat,” because it’s such a good one, and people love them so much. Maybe I should give it another try.

      • @CircusofHumaniT – Tiffany

        I recently discovered “the bath” as a treat, too. It’s lovely with candles and my favorite music of the moment. Last week it was the Cirque Du Soleil station on Pandora.

        • Sara Brumfield

           Oooh… Cirque Du Soleil station on Pandora!  Great idea!  Listening now, thank you.

        • Guest

          Sexy music. Thanks for the tip! I never would have found it otherwise.

    • Jerome

      Thanks for the suggestion.

    • Love long baths! I usually just use bubble bath or scented oil – shall have to give powdered milk a try. I definitely make the bath a ritual… candles, glass of wine or tea, mud mask, and music or my favorite TV show on my ipad. I deep condition my hair, shave, exfoliate my whole body with a brush, pumice my feet, and do my nails. Then I rinse, oil my body, and blow out my hair. I typically do this Sunday nights to unwind before the week (and also get weekly grooming tasks that I’m lazy about out of the way in a relaxing way so I feel good going into the work week). But if I’m stressed out during the week I’ll take a less involved soak. 

  • Lynvz

    Every once in a while, I will go into the kitchen and just open a bottle of vanilla. It is inexpensive, smells great and can give mea little boost. In the summer, I am fortunate enough to have flowers growing outside, that I can cut and bring into my home. Currently, I am enjoying a beautiful vase full of lilacs!!

    • gretchenrubin

      I love the smell of lilacs and vanilla. And almond extract!

  • Chocolate is my absolute number 1 treat. But time to myself without any to-do-list, just me and a book or me writing or listening to good music are very nice treats as well. Thanks for reminding me, I will make sure to take out more time to do these things!

  • Erin

    iced coffee!! I don’t even care that I spend probably $10 a week on it. It is something I truly look forward to after work at 3pm. 

    • Iced coffee is awesome in the summer. I make Vietnamese iced coffee at home in the summer – really strong coffee + condensed milk + cinnamon and cardamom + ice. Really yummy. 

  • I too struggle with finding treats that don’t cost money (I do love a massage) or involve food. A bath is a good one – I do really enjoy them but I have to remember to heat the hot water first, which kind of takes the fun out of it. An elaborate dinner is sometimes a special treat – but that does usually mean higher ingredients costs. 

    • Scooze W

      And lots of dirty dishes. 🙁

  • Circusofhumanity – Tiffany

    I try not to use food too much as a treat but I do love my frozen yogurt and mochas as treats. Nail polish, flowers, a plant or garden flag from the 99 Cent store, lipstick…a new book or window shopping trip in a cute store where I don’t actually need anything…My favorite is a massage but that is a larger cost item. Plus, massage is so therapeutic that I see it as more than a treat. As a licensed massage therapist, I’m a bit biased.

  • Megan

    I recently bought some good tea. That’s a treat to me. As is a nap.

  • I guess food shouldn’t be a treat, but after a hard day of school in which I faced my fears I sometimes treat myself some chocolate, a hamburger or another small snack at the train station. 
    Other treats I use are rollerblading rides on the cycle path through the woods, watching a 30 rock or Law and Order SVU episode, and oh… Hot Baths (they’re my favorite!!!). Also reading on my way to and from school on the bus and train are quite a treat for me. It takes me 2 hours to get to my college so that’s 4 hours of uninterrupted reading. When I read at home I’m constantly thinking about everything I still have to do and get really distracted, that just doesn’t happen when there simply is nothing else to do. So I’ve been starting to really enjoy those reading times in a quiet train while rushing though a beautiful green landscape.  I genuinely enjoy it every time. Sometimes, when I have the day off, I get on the train just to read, any train will do, I’ll just take the train to Amsterdam and then back home and read and I will be completely relaxed.

    • Colleen

      Now that’s something that I could enjoy if possible where I live. Riding the train on my day off with a good book – that would be a treat!

    • gretchenrubin

      I love trains, too. Though I can rarely even read, just look out the window. There’s something about the motion, the changing view, and the sense of temporary separation from ordinary life that is so relaxing. I never use WiFi on the train, that’s for sure!

    • Jennifer

       I love reading on the train too. My commute is a 20 minute train ride followed by a half-hour walk through a pretty neighborhood, so I can actually say my commute is often a treat!

  • I have a few pieces of jewelry that  I don’t wear very often because I want wearing them to be a special treat. So, I wear a pendant that my grandmother left me on the first day of a new job, or a bracelet that I bought in Florida when it is wintery and dark. It is different from the jewelry that I wear every day, so people often comment on how pretty the bracelet or pendant is, then I get to tell the story behind it and that makes me happy too.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is a great treat.

  • Catherine

    I like to read books about writing poetry, though I don’t write poetry myself. I love reading lines authors have particularly enjoyed, out of context and used as an example of some principle or other. I also find that small instances of meter and rhyme are soothing on a non-rational level. Where a book of actual poetry might be too exhausting when I’m stressed, a book about poetry written for poets always relaxes me, especially since there’s no pressure to actually produce anything. 

  • ayearinskirts

    a cup of coffee+mindless internet time= treat

  • Deb

    Today was a great treat for me! Took an unplanned day off just to stay home, relax and run a few errands. Reveled in the silence after everyone left for school and work, drank my coffee slowly, watched an episode of Glee at 9 a.m. I highly recommend it if you can do it! But a normal treat for me is having my coffee and savoring a magazine from cover to cover.

  • I will …

    Make a cup of herbal tea.
    Apply Fresh Brown sugar hand cream.
    Get some fur therapy from my dog or if she’s not there look at picture of her on my phone.
    Look at pictures of Italy, France, and Spain.
    Play Samuel L. Jackson sound bites.

  • Mine is a half-hour in the sun 🙂

  • Lmcollina

    For me, reading magazines is a good small treat.  A friend and I trade our magazines and make sure we subscribe to a variety of titles.  Low cost, high interest.  When we’re done, they go to the staff room at work or to the free table at the library.

  • Erin

    Love this!  My treats?  A good book and a cold glass of white wine.  Happiness. 🙂  Now I sound like a wino!  But really – that’s the best reward for me.  Or sweet talking my husband into rubbing my feet!

  • ssam.see

    Can you stop advertising that your book is a #1 bestseller, and stop “plugging” it as a book to consider? Most of us are here because we know your book and are familiar with it. 

    • Julie

      Wow. Sounds like you might need to read it again. 

    • This is her livelihood. Lighten up. 

    • Andie

      A happy person wouldn’t take this tact. Because to be truly happy is to share the joy and accomplishments of others. Gretchen is a genuinely hard-working passionate person who deserves to tell the world about her book! She had a fair warning disclaimer!

  • Amy K

    I pop into an antiques store or home decor boutique while I am out running errands.  I almost never buy anything, but stylishly arranged stores with beautiful things are such pleasant places–like a small art museum. 

    • gretchenrubin

      This is an interesting idea—people love the aesthetic experience of shopping, but then there’s the pull to buy, which can detract from happiness. But if you view the store as a museum, with a mindset of pure enjoyment but not evaluation or possible purchase, then you can enjoy it on one level but not end up blowing a lot of money!

    • Jennifer

       I like popping into beautiful stores too. The more expensive the better, because then there’s no temptation to buy.

  • HS Wilcox

    sitting outside in the sunshine.  Free, you just have to have a nice day.  Sometimes I’ll double down and close my eyes and listen to the birds/wind through the trees.

  • Mainejunklist

    Gretchen, I LOVE this post as I’ve been fleshing out this idea….trying to get away from “costly” treats. I need instant gratification treats  for under 5 dollars in under 5 minutes…..calorie free!  My favorite treat: your web-site! Others: Lighting a candle, ordering libarary books on-line, putting on a favorite playlist on my ipod, sitting in the sun, hot shower, making lists of random things.

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes! Why is making lists of random things such a pleasure? I do EXACTLY the same thing. One reason I love my blog is that sometimes I can find a home for these odd lists here. I never thought of it as a “treat” before, what a great idea.

  • Ella

    A scented candle. The smell makes me feel happy and the warm light, at any time of the day but especially on a dark evening, gives me a feeling of being comforted and safe in my home.

  • I live close to a preserve, and I drive by it daily. I go slow and search for deer, egrets, cranes and other wildlife. Whenever I see an animal, I feel my entire being expand with gratitude. And fortunately for me, this particular preserve has abundant wildlife that wanders about close to the road. Actually, deer often stand patiently waiting to cross the road. I’ve seen a glimpse of a mountain lion there. Jackrabbits. Coyotes. Hawks. Even an owl at night.

  • Johnny’s girl

    Have never shared this with anyone…I still have a bottle of the perfume I was wearing the first time I was kissed, and by a boy so sweet the memory is still pleasant yes, more than 40 years hence.  And believe it or not – that perfume still smells exactly the same.  Smells and memories, they let us travel out of time. 

    • gretchenrubin

      What a wonderful treat!

  • Nicola

    cuddling my dogs, or training them – two of them are 13 years old, so it is extra special every time as I may not have them for long. It also helps me focus entirely on one thing – most of the senses are involved smell, touch, sight, sound.

  • Sarahwaldin

    I completely agree – it’s hard to find things to put on the list. I am working on it though 😉
    Hope no one minds if I harvest a few ideas from you all here – great great ideas! great topic too. thanks Gretchin. 
    sarah xx

  • Imogene

    Being near water — going to the beach if I have the time, going to the mall and sitting by a fountain, if I don’t.  People watching — endlessly fascinating.  Firing up Netflix and watching an old episode of Columbo.  Googling pictures of babies.  Watching youtube videos of babies laughing.  Finding a dog to pet and interact with for just a moment.  Putting peppermint lotion on my feet, then putting on a pair of cozy socks.  Going to the mall and trying out different perfumes.  Opening up my husband’s bag of ground coffee and taking a few long wonderful breaths in.  Listening to music.  Practicing line-dance steps.  Watching/listening to a relaxation video or tape.  Watching classic comedy videos, like “Who’s on First” on youtube.

  • Ester

    Putting on some make up or retouching it. Just a bit of blush or lipgloss makes me feel better…

  • nielmalan

    I’m so glad for this post. I was just working on a similar process, finding small, cheap, non-fattening rewards for achievements. I’ve figured out two so far: buying Shania Twain song tracks for my smartphone, and a bigger one: going to a car dealer and taking a new car for a test drive. I know Shania Twain songs are not estimable, but they’re so energizing!

  • discoveredjoys

    My ‘special’ treat is to take my camera for a walk.

    It doesn’t matter if I’m walking in the city, or villages, or fields, or alongside a river or canal. Walking with my camera satisfies so many things (exercise, fresh air, time to think long thoughts, exploration etc.). I take photographs of small striking things. It might be a picture of some ducks, the arch of a bridge, weeds growing on a wall, or some architectural detail on a building (look up when walking in town, you’ll be surprised).

    It’s the *activity of seeking* memorable photographs that is the treat;  each photograph is a ‘prize’. Even if I take no photographs just *really* looking for the opportunities is enough. I see the world quite differently, I’m more aware.

    And then (thank you digital technology) I can display the memories of my expeditions on my computer and enjoy my discoveries all over again.

    • Judy

      This is a great idea. I am going to do it too! It will make the walk have an entirely different focus as I look for some small striking thing that I would not have otherwise noticed.

  • wanttowallowinhappiness

    For years I have kept those post cards artists use to advertise their shows in my car visor. There are times, some in frustration and some in peace, when I will pull them down and flip through the lovely art another has created. My five year old has her favorites now too. She’ll ask for specific cards every now and then. I note which ones, try to imagine why she wanted that particular one at that particular time and when I look at them I have that layer of happiness added to the pleasure of looking at pieces I come to love.

    • gretchenrubin

      What an inventive and original “treat.” I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of: how do we bring the pleasure of high art into ordinary life? This is such a great way.

  • wanttowallowinhappiness

    Just read through more of the posts. My scent treat is the perfume my mom wore. It is a very inexpensive Avon product but I still feel her when I wear. Some days I wear it for comfort, some for strength, always with love.

  • Elizabeth

    One of my favorite small treats when I’m feeling down is to wear a special pair of shoes to work! I have several pairs that were expensive when purchased but are of such high quality, they will last forever–especially b/c I don’t wear them often. One pair in particular, a black/white spectator pump, makes me happy just looking at it! 

  • As a visual person I like to treat myself to browsing Pinterest and indulge in all the creative outfits that women have come up with. For that same reason I also enjoy a magazine and lying on my bed for a bit to read a book. And every now and then I indulge in my need for chocolate by just dipping a small spoon in the Nutella pot! And a walk in the close by Botanic gardens. Nothing too strenuous, just relaxing.

  • Petting my cat is soothing to me. The vibration of his purring against my hand reminds me to slow down and be in the moment.

  • Lynnel

    Hi Gretchen!

     Nice to get some ideas for new treats! One of my favorites right now is Pandora- it plays music stations I pick based on a song I like right thru my phone into my speakers. I love doing dishes to Frank Sinatra or cooking to Bach, dancing with my daughter to the Bee Gees- it is the perfect soundtrack to how I am feeling or want to feel- and free if you don’t mind the occasional commercial.  I like how you can thumbs down songs you don’t want to hear ever again, and mark the ones you really like. The way it comes up with others you will probably like is nothing short of magical to me!

       I realized this week I also find going to Open Houses on Sundays an energizing treat! Something about looking at the way other people live, and decorate, and picturing what I would do in their place is fun for me- like living in a before and after magazine feature! (always my favorite part- the wondrous transformation!) I am kind of looking for a new place, so that is the excuse, but I have been looking for a new place for over 5 years now and looking must be more fun than finding, for me.

     I also find a handsoap in a fragrance I really love to be a great treat- you have to wash your hands so often with little ones, if you get to smell something beautiful rather than adequate, it really helps.

     Also in the same line, I love to get fragrant potted plants like hyacinths and Easter lilies when in season for the house- so nice to walk into a room and have it naturally smell of flowers! Not quite as nice for my husband, since he has almost supernatural powers of smell, but if I put them in rooms he seldom goes into, it works out well for both of us. I also grow certain herbs- oregano, cilantro and rosemary, and love to smell them in the kitchen too! Plus they look green and pretty.

    Thanks for your books and website (the new one is great)- they are definitely a treat for me!

    • I love going to open houses with DH.  It invariably opens up a fascinating discussion about what we would do if we owned the place, what we like and don’t like.  He’s a quiet guy and doesn’t talk much so getting him rolling this way is fantastic.

  • Maxi

    Great idea to make a list!  I love all these ideas for quick treats.  Here’s a few I haven’t seen listed yet.

    I like to read cookbooks for just reading.  I can get as much sensual satisfaction reading a great recipe as eating it. I especially like it when the author gives a brief story about it.

    Make home made soup.  Takes more than 5 minutes but then I have a huge pot around all week and heating a cup up only takes 1 minute and I love it.

    Lubricating eye drops – make my eyes feel great!

    Planting ferns. They take no effort to maintain and look mysterious.

    Walking around my fern garden.

    Polish my smudged glasses so I can see clearly again!

    Give myself a foot massage.

    Sing a song!

    Read a travel guide. Not that I am going there, just to fantasize.

    Weed.  I love ripping weeds out.  Take that you weed!

  • The other day I ordered drive thru McDonald’s.  I haven’t done that since I was a kid.  It was a treat not only because I was eating forbidden foods (chocolate shake, fries and a burger) but because it brought back a lot of fun family memories.  When I was a kid, my mom and dad would allow us to have McDonald’s just once and while on a Friday night after school and oh what a treat!  My parents would fight over the stray fries that had fallen into the bag and we would all sit around the kitchen table sipping shakes and pouring our fries out over the hamburger wrappers.

    I wonder if  kids today still think of McDonalds as a treat? 

    • Julie

      How wonderful, you just triggered a very similar happy childhood memory for me that I haven’t thought about in years. It was the same rare treat for our family, and even more extra special if we bundled into the car early on a summer Saturday and were allowed McDonald’s and the accompanying play park for breakfast. I remember jumping out of bed on those mornings as excited as if it were Christmas!

      Today, I think of McDonald’s more along the lines of pretty gross junk food as opposed to delicious junk food. Like you, I wonder if fast food has gotten lower in quality, or lost the  novelty it had in the early seventies, or as a society we’ve just learned more about nutrition. Or is it just my adult perspective? 

      Thanks for the memory. 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      This is a good example of the difference between doing something as a special treat and doing it as a background activity of your life. As a treat, it’s great, 3 times a week, not so great.

      I think the “treats” of childhood keep their power. I could rarely have soda or buy books (use the library) as a child. What do I do now, with abandon? Drink soda and buy books!

      So what are the implications, for us, as parents? We should identify those treats wisely.

  • Heidi Moos

    Browsing the bookstore or library for hours. My daughter loves to do this with me, which adds to the specialness. We even have a theme album we play on our way, FAR by Regina Spektor. More recently we have added MYLO XYLOTO by Coldplay to the prebook browse.

     Going to the thrift store or a yard sale with less than $10. I  never feel like I have to buy, but I enjoy finding Vintage items. Nothing comes home that is not beautiful and/or useful. My house is quite clutter free. If I buy something and don’t use it then I donate it and hope that I don’t buy it again. 🙂

    Other treats include browsing Anthropologie and a local shop call Naked Art Gallery that features local artists’ work.

  • Jaso

    My treats are tidying up the house in silence.  Re-reading the notes and cards from my mother whom I lost last year.  She wrote so beautifully.  Reading cookbooks.  Looking and organizing my extensive photo albums.  Especially the ones of my kids.  A large mug of steaming Ceylon black tea, perfectly brewed into my favorite mug of that day.  Reading Rumi quotes and writing in my journal so fast I cannot think.  Watching foreign movies.   Massaging my feet with a minty lotion.  Stare at trees stretching to reach the sky.

  • Peej

    Hi Gretchen,
    I love washing my hands with Molton Brown hand soap – I use it every time I wash my hands in the powder room.  The bottle is very pretty, the colour of the hand soaps are hapy and the smell is very calming. Using this soap makes me smile everytime.  It is my special treat throughout the day.  It is a little expensive, but I truly treasure it.

    • gretchenrubin

      What a great treat! And how many of us have fancy soaps, bath salts, etc. that we are “saving” for some distant day? Use them now, give yourself a little treat!

      • Judy

        I have Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners’ Hand Soap in my master bathroom and everytime I use it I stop and smell my hands as I lather them up and smile. It reminds me of Christmas when I was a girl. My parents bought a Christmas spray one Christmas and this soap takes me right back to that very happy Christmas.

  • Kirstinbr

     Water tastes extra special when I take the time to toss in some mint leaves from my pot on the patio.  It tastes fancier that way and  I actually look forward to sipping it during my 5 minute “pomodoro breaks.” 

  • KatieB.

    -Lighting candles at the dinner table and all around the house. 
    -Taking a bath on Saturday or Sunday afternoon while my husband watches our baby and setting up the computer right next to the tub to watch “Grey’s Anatomy.” 

  • I give myself a day off from work and obligations.  I call it an Abby Day and its a day where I get to do whatever I want to do and most importantly, its a way to recharge my batteries. I don’t take them as often as I should but they really help keep me away from the edge of despair.  If I don’t have time for an Abby Day, a few hours of tv time or a nap also do the trick!

  • Crispy

    off the top of my head: purchasing fresh ingredients to make an exquisite meal and listening to Nora Jones and sipping on wine while I am cooking. But my ultimate favourite is catching an illegal nap, nothing is more delicious then grabbing a moment to drift off, but unfortunately this is something that just comes along more then I can actively seek it out. 

  • Impresaria

    As others said — reading recipes.  But also: tidying up a heap, i.e. tackling a pile of papers and putting them all away, or straightening up a drawer.

  • Elise

    It’s seems silly but I paint my toenails with bold colours all year round, even if I wear socks and shoes for more than 3/4 of the year!

  • Noelle Boughanmi

    My latest favorite treat is to art journal. I tell myself that if I am really disciplined about my work (both paid work and housework), I’ll reward myself with an hour of art journaling in the evening. It’s therapeutic to journal about my day, my feelings, but it’s also extremely fun and relaxing to play with paints, markers, collage, etc. It’s a great way to wind down at the end of the day–especially in a clean house!

    •  That’s a great idea – did you use any type of workbooks to get started doing it?  I always find the blank page so intimidating…

  • This isn’t a treat in my daily life now, but I used to live on the North Shore of Boston and had to commute in by car every day (transit just didn’t go where I was headed). 

    Traffic was snarly and awful, and I had my commute down to a science. But once in a while, I would drive home via Revere Beach, and crawl down the boardwalk watching people eating ice cream, watching the ocean. Whether it was sunny or the middle of winter, it didn’t matter. That little drive down the beach just melted the week away, and was all the sweeter because it didn’t make sense, wasn’t getting me home any faster. 

    Even the memory makes me smile.

  • beth

    Sitting in a darkened living room after everone else is asleep, slowly sipping a cup of hot, sweet, creamy cocoa.   Blessed silence.

  • I love this post, and the especially the comments. Reading them all was such a treat!

    My favorites: 

    1. Petting a dog I meet in the street
    2. Fresh flowers
    3. Incense
    4. Lighting a candle
    5. A cup of tea
    6. A face mask, especially a minty one
    7. A hot shower
    8. Going for a walk
    9. Reading cookbooks
    10. Writing lists
    11. Crafting
    12. Making my own bread, kneading is soothing
    13. Singing in the kitchen

  • Alison Goulding

    I let myself rest my head on the shower wall and pretend I’m under a very hot waterfall. An early night is a good treat. So is a glass of milk. I also like to smell my horses! It takes me back to childhood and reminds me that some things are timeless. 

  • Kat

    Is it just me, or does it seem that most who responded are women? I know men read this blog. Are women that much more in touch with their sensual side? Or do men not know how to treat themselves? Kind of sad…

    Gretchen, maybe you could ask your husband for his thoughts on this.

  • Jshellg

    Things that are treats for me: clean sheets on the bed, singing a song from songsheet outloud, lying on the floor in the sun on a Saturday and snoozing/meditating, colouring in, sorting my spice drawer, doing a jigsaw, putting my pyjamas on at 3:00pm

  • Peninith1

    Just wandering around the house picking up and had a little ‘AHA!’ about this ‘treats’ thing–It is a treat if you INTEND it to be. My goodness, like so much in life, we have to be conscious of the experience to actually have the experience. Mindlessly plowing through a pint of ice cream could be not-a-treat, while one spoonful of a dessert could be an exquisite treat. Background music could be the heavenly spheres, but you’re not having any more than an elevator music experience. You have to listen! I hereby resolve to say to myself — aloud, if I can!–“It’s time for a treat! I think I will enjoy looking at a pretty magazine right now . . . ” or whatever I choose. I think being conscious that something is a chosen treat and savoring it is the key part of the experience.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is a critically important point. NOTHING is inherently a treat. We MAKE it a treat by considering it a treat.


    • Love this.  I am a very fortunate woman and my whole life would, probably, seem like a treat to most.  Being aware of that is part of my yoga practice.  I am surrounded by peace and comfort and even beauty, every day, and it is VERY rare that I feel the need for more.  Lucky, lucky girl.

  • Tlschutz

    I like to buy a new color of lipstick. I get a new look and it’s not an expensive purchase.

  • Amy H.

    Many of my favorites have been mentioned below.  A few more:
    –  Belting along to the Dixie Chicks, Patty Loveless or Lyle Lovett while driving.
    –  Anna Netrebko’s “Sempre libera” album, esp. that aria (“Sempre libera”) from La Traviata.
    –  My Nana’s coffee cake.
    –  Iced Dunkin’ Donuts coffee with skim milk and sugar (this is an everyday treat).
    –  Really good cheese.
    –  Doing the NYT Sunday acrostic.
    –  Re-reading my favorite children’s books (esp. the “Shoes” and Betsy-Tacy books).
    –  Calling my mom.
    –  Walking a different way to work or coming home, especially through a park.
    –  Getting into bed when it’s just been made up with crisp fresh sheets.
    –  Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
    –  Fresh strawberries, raspberries or peaches when they’re in season.  And tomatoes!
    –  Having breakfast from a wooden tray with a linen napkin on it.
    –  A gardenia beside the bed.
    –  Mrs. Meyers’ Honeysuckle hand soap.

  • Catseye

    I just realized that when I watch videos on YouTube, I’m treating myself!  I love the ones involving animals – I’ve recently subscribed to the channel of an Alaskan resident who has bald eagles visiting her front porch on a regular basis.  Who knew there were eagles in Alaska?
    Also, I’m a Dancing With The Stars fan, so when I really need an emotional/energy boost, I watch several of those vids in a row.  It’s almost as if I’ve been doing the dancing, even if it’s only in my head.   

  • Burnsaal

    Crushed ice in a drink instead of cubes. With a straw.

  • Burnsaal

    Valet parking (sometimes it’s free and needs only a $2 tip); bird watching.

  • Sue O., Chicago

    When I’m stressed at work, especially when feeling unappreciated or overwhelmed, I’ll take a few minutes’ break to use the stairs (helping boost positive energy) to go to another floor and say Hi to one of the people who always have a smile and something nice to say. I have several similar resources in the building, so if one isn’t available, I’ll find another. After just a few minutes’ break, I go back to work recharged and refreshed, and maintain one or more positive relationships to boot!

  • Billie

    During “Thirsty Thursdays”, the local Dairy Queen sells all large drinks for 99 cents. I rarely drink soda, but every Thursday (whenever possible), I treat myself to a large Diet Vanilla Coke….such a simple (and inexpensive) pleasure.

  • Leith

    I have a special mug that I purchased at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. It reads, “I cannot live without books.” It is larger than our regular mugs and I only use it on the weekend to drink my coffee and read my e-mails. It signifies the beginning of the weekend for me!

    • gretchenrubin

      I love reading about all these small treats. So many good ideas.

  • mary

    My day starts with my favorite treat—oatmeal, with cinnamon, walnuts and blueberries. I eat the same thing most days and every time I do, I say to myself “this is so good.” Another special treat for me is to go to Trader Joe’s and buy flowers. For just under five dollars the flowers make me happy for a whole week…can’t beat that. There are so many little things in life to make you smile, just go looking.

  • Sharyn

    I love to quilt. I’m not very good at it, but I enjoy it. My “treat” is to go to the thrift store and buy some used clothing from the 50-cents room to cut up to use in my latest creation. I also LOVE the $1 a yard fabric at Wal*Mart which I use to back my quilts with.

  • Karna

    I think you really hit the nail on the head with
    this post! Thank you for being an original thinker. As an employee at The
    Institute for the Psychology of Eating I am constantly looking for new sources
    of inspiration – and you are definitely one of them! Great post…

  • Amy

    A glass of wine, Starbucks coffee, flowers to plant outside in my garden, candles…it doesn’t take much, and they always make me smile 🙂

  • Annie

    My husband gave me a wallet size photo album one year for my birthday. He filled the sleeves with pictures he found online of baby animals. We have a definite soft spot for pets, especially since we don’t have any. Whenever I’m having a bad day I pull it out of my purse and take a look at the pictures. It always makes me feel better to flip through the album. It reminds me of how much he loves me.

  • Andie

    I phone a friend, read blogs, text a hello to someone out of the blue, browse Barnes and Noble (an ultimate favorite). Listen to music, hug kids, color with kids. Keeping a jigsaw puzzle out on a table to plug away at any time is another fun activity.

  • Brenda Nelson

    Some of my little treats: latte, pedicure, massage, a good run, a nap, a drink with a friend, a new book, a walk with the dog, some new itunes. 🙂

  • Adele Bonnie

    and the 10 minute massages at the nail salon

  • Miz Loo

    Little treats:
    Brushing my hair
    Putting one coat of clear polish on my nails – I have to stop, sit still and it and it keeps them from breaking)
    Playing “I Am” by Kathy Sherman (4 min, I think)
    Massaging my feet (with lotion if I have time)
    Rubbing my feet with vaseline before I put on my gym sneakers (soft feet when i shower) and then rubbing the leftover grease into my cuticles before i wash – ahhh!
    Power nap (15 minutes)
    Baby lotion ALL OVER after my shower or bath – slowly if i have time
    Homemade frappaccino (takes time to make, but yum!)
    Reading an essay or a short story, especially an old favorite -” the best reading…”
    Opening a window (I’m on the 12th floor) leaning out and enjoying my view

  • martha snyder

    I know it’s not much-but whenever there is a Clinique offer with a gift, I indulge. It makes me so happy, it’s simple and affordable

  • Mary

    I buy phal. orchids, enjoy the first bloom and get many of them to re-bloom. The plants are relatively inexpensive, their blooms last a long time, and then at times I also get a plant to re-bloom and enjoy it all over again.

  • sheepherder

    Recently my biggest little treat has been what most call de-cluttering. It feels so good to me that It needs a heftier term – divesting, calving off (like part of an iceberg falling into the sea) shedding (like a snake’s skin). One thing I will never shed is the 3×5 index card hidden some place in every room of the house that says “Not one of them gave me half the pleasure of its absence.” I wish I could footnote that. I can’t remember where that came to me. Author! Author!

  • ResearchAddict

    I was looking forward to the comments here–expecting dozens and dozens of good ideas. So disappointed with the response to Gretchen’s article and request. I could really use some non-food treat idess! Thanks though to the 2 respondents below.

  • Lois Barth

    Gosh I have so many, too many to list but here are a few:
    I organize my bling bling, I literally have an earring forest, and I spend 15 minutes putting my stuff back.
    Going to a bling bling store, You and I, is a big one, and just trying on shiny objects.
    Test marketing outfits for different looks and occasions even if I never wear them, but know that they are there if I need to.
    Going to thrift shops and checking things out for 15 minutes even if I don’t buy anything.
    Carrying a pocket full of biscuits upstate and having multiple bonding experiences with the different dogs in my neighborhood.
    Hearing donkeys bray when I feed them carrots and apples.
    Trying on different hand cremes at Sabon, and smelling different scents.
    Taking that extra 5 minutes in the shower to exfoliate with my loufa gloves and Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap and then L’Occitane cream and Tea Leaf Foot Powder and Creme.
    15 minute (need to be careful that it doesn’t go on longer) a great story with a friend.
    Have compelling interesting conversations with total strangers makes me smile and fall back in love with New York City.
    Read an interesting article on the bike.
    This is a treat right now.
    Ok, off to my own newsletter.
    Lois Barth