Do You Make Time to “Treat” Yourself? You Should.

Last week, I posted a question: What are the small treats you give yourself?

I was very interested to see the range of “treats” people identified in the comments, and I got some good ideas for myself.

I do think it’s important to take time for treats, because treats help us to feel energized, restored, and light-hearted. Without them, we can start to feel resentful, depleted, and irritable. My younger daughter has “Choice Time” every day in first grade, and I think we adults need some “Choice Time” ourselves, at least occasionally.

However, in identifying treats,  I wonder if other people face the same challenge that I often face: making time for those treats.

People listed treats like rollerblading, making bread, and a hot bath–all great treats, for the right person, but they take some time and energy to set up.

In my case, one of my favorite treats is reading children’s and young-adult literature. Right now my stack includes Diana Wynne Jones’s Dogsbody, Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, and Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which I’ve read several times, but not for years). Nevertheless, I find myself saving these books for a “treat,” and instead, reading a lot of books for work. (Really, this is also a treat, because I love my subject so much, but it’s not the same level of treat). I remind myself: Read for fun! Make time for the treat! That’s what makes me happy.

I also remind myself of my personal personal commandment to Spend out. Don’t “save” those books, but enjoy them now, make time for them.

But while this is an issue for me, I was happy to see commenters suggest many treats (I’ve add them to my own list) which don’t take extra time or energy. Using a beautiful hand-soap, opening a bottle of vanilla, lighting a candle, petting a dog–well, I don’t have a dog, so I’ll have to  substitute family members. It’s nice to have several of these treats on hand, so you can give yourself a little lift, even when you can’t go rollerblading.

How about you? Do you ever struggle to make time for your treats? Do they keep slipping to the bottom of your to-do list? I’ve vowed to make time to treat myself.

Every Friday’s post proposes a resolution for you to consider for your own happiness project.

  • Rachel

    Sometimes taking a break while at work to read this blog is a treat!

  • Stretching my Imagination

    Your treat is very much like mine.  I love reading children’s/young adult books – all kinds.  They (well, at least the good ones!) are so imaginative, vivid, and just *real* and authentically engaging in ways that adult reads don’t seem to be.  Weeding out those that focus over-much on the angst angle, the rest give me such joy and let me feel like my real self.  Happy. (Wish I could find others like me out there.)  But like you, I find myself saving up those books, saving up those moments as a treat, rather than working them into my life as a component of overall happiness.  Somehow it seems that there has to be a special moment for them.  And then the rush of life and work and family comes in, and that special moment rarely comes.  Carving out time seems like a good idea – and I’ve tried so many of the techniques for doing so – but it is *hard* to put into practice.

    I think one way to bring slivers of the happiness in is to make time for quick reading moments.  A few pages when I need a boost in the day or a break from the whirl of the carousel.  (This leaves to the side the risk that I’ll get drawn into the book and forget about the rest of the day!)  Another ‘treat’ for me is crossword puzzles.  I’ve used the quick-moment approach there with relative success.  When I’m having a meal I’ll have the day’s puzzle there with me, filling in letters as I chew and letting my mind drift to the clues rather than the stress or tasks I’ve been doing before – and will return to after.

  • HEHink

    Trips to the library are always a treat.  I try to make time for these once a week with my children.  The colorful, yet calm atmosphere is energizing and relaxing at the same time.  Finding and checking out new material is exciting.  Plus, having a due date for the books I check out encourages me to make time for the treat of actually reading them.  I like children’s/ya literature, too.  Many are extremely well-written, and they are often faster reads, so making time to enjoy them is easier.

  • Susan

    Gretchen!  I didn’t even finish the posting, I jumped down here to rave when I saw you’re going to treat yourself to Robin Hobbs….I “inhaled” all 3 in that series and then the Tawny Man series straight through the first time they were recommended to me — then read ALL SIX FIVE MORE TIMES in the next 3 years.  Talk about a TREAT, it just never fails.  What a lovely, talented story teller!  My husband even got through all 6 books, the only fiction i’ve known him to read in 30 years.  So.  Indeed.  Hope you’ll post when you finish it and let us know what you think.  (I also share your love of children’s literature and young adult fiction, which are NOT “just” for kids….)  Enjoy!

    • gretchenrubin

      So happy to hear this! Now I’m even more eager to give myself that treat. Nothing, NOTHING, is as delightful as discovering a new author.

  • What a great article! Reading offers us such a wonderful escape from our hectic lives. I enjoy taking time to read each day. I always make sure to bring a book to my office to read in between my sessions with patients. It’s a great way to “reboot” our minds both cognitively and emotionally. 

    Dr. Paula Durlofsky

  • Tiffany

    I have been a stay-at-home mom for the last three years, and it was very challenging to find time to “treat” myself.  Not taking the time really took a toll on my happiness, so now I have scheduled out time to “treat” myself.  I have a babysitter watch my kids while I volunteer at a wonderful non-profit organization.  I get to use my brain in a different way and step out of the Mom role.  AND, I so look forward to the train ride into the city when I can read a book or magazine and pick up a cup of coffee and treat before going into the office!

  • mom2luke

    Words with Friends is my new “treat” … used to love Scrabble, now virtually playing with a few friends. It can take too much time if I let it and get greedy trying to get higher scores, and the last thing I need is more time in front of the computer…but I really enjoy it. 

  • This is my treat time: reading blogs, spending time on the internet.  I don’t watch much television at all, and I live on my own, so getting things accomplished around the house is a full-time job. Internet time is my treat time, what I consider an indulgence.   I also spend time with my dog, taking walks, enjoying nature, and going to the gym.  That sort of stuff falls into what I consider my personal stress maintenance program, although to some it could seem like a treat.  To me, it’s essential time.  I’m an OR nurse, so my job, by definition, is stressful.

  • JaneInAZ

    Just finished “My Life in Dog Years” by Gary Paulsen.  It was a YA book about memorable dogs he’s loved (from age 7 to recently, late 50s I think).  He’s also written about the Iditarod and when I was looking for other books by him I found out he’s written over 100, and won 3 Newberry medals.  You probably already know about him, Gretchen, but if you don’t (and like dogs) you’re in for a treat as I was!  (Love your book, read it two years ago, about to read it again, have recommended it, and also given it as a gift.) 

    • gretchenrubin

      Adding this to the list!

  • This is such a good point. I’ve made a short video about how I make sure I get some time for a break on my blog|:

  • Drpauladurlofsky

    We all seek to cheer ourselves up when we feel sad by way of treats and other feel good things. Sometimes feeling the normal “blues” can lead to a Happiness as well. Check out my blog, drpauladurlofsky@ or Google “Thinking Matters, Dr. Paula Durlofsky to read about how the “the blues” is not all bad news. Would love to hear people’s feedback.

    Dr. Paula Durlofsky

  • Apeztecorn

    I don’t know if you’ve read “Moon Over Manifest” by Clare Vanderpool.  Its one of my new favorite books.

  • Kate

    I think the whole “time” thing is why people can fall into the trap of spending a lot of money on treats (a latte here, a pair of shoes there) or eating mindlessly. I often feel like it is hard to schedule time for little treats (like reading a book for the sheer fun of it), and I can feel the pull of spending money or eating chocolate to make for that little “life sucks” tug I feel when I am, as you put it so well, “resentful, depleted and irritable” — when I feel like everyone wants a piece of me, so when is it MY turn? I need to keep a list of little treats that are don’t involve spending money or eating… and I need to find ways to make time for treats!

    • gretchenrubin

      This is one reason I love the treat of a beautiful smell. Many treats take TIME and a lovely smell just takes a second to enjoy.
      Along with treats that don’t cost money or eating, we need to have ones that don’t cost energy or time.

  • Dineke

    Years ago, someone said to me about my tendency to save my favourite treats (whether candy or books or whatever) for last: you should eat (or read) your favourite first and then the next favourite, etc. This means that you are always having your favourite of that particular moment.
    That was an eye-opener for me, as I was always leaving the one I was looking forward to for last, and getting through the others as quickly as possible to get to the favourite. Which, of course, meant that I was not enjoying the others as much as I could have.
    Now, when I have a stack of books that I want to read, I look at them and decide which one I want to read the most and that one I grab first. Much better!

  • Amy

    I often find that “treating myself” involves food. I think that’s not such a good habit. I need to replace it with something better, something that is good for my wallet and my waist.

  • KristieShackelford

    Assassin’s Apprentice is one of my favorites, too.  I’ve been thinking about re-reading the trilogy, but have the same problem presented in your article – finding the time.  It seems especially indulgent since I can’t justify it as something new.

  • ss

    It is funny how 5 years ago  (2008) you wrote 
    Clutter: One big tip – don’t “treat” yourself – plus eleven quick tips for keeping your home uncluttered. 

    and now you are encouraging people treating yourself. 

    • gretchenrubin

      Ah, that’s because “treating” yourself is much more complicated than it seems! Treats are good, when wisely indulged. But that’s the tricky part.

  • Jltlavanish

    a treat to myself is to take a moment to Zentangle, the little drawings are relaxing and I love the flow of process oriented art without the pressure to make something realistic.