Many of us have been encouraged to focus on others before ourselves. While this mindset can absolutely bring you personal happiness and allow you to be a better worker, friend, and member of your community, a particular proverb comes to mind: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” In other words, if you’re always working for others and never taking time for yourself, you could become bored and boring. Extending from this idea, living a repetitive and uneventful life without taking time for yourself can lead to stress, depression, and burnout.
Because of this, it’s essential to do nice things for yourself from time to time. This could take a variety of forms, including something as small as allowing yourself to get that ice cream cone you’ve had on your mind or doing something as grand as travelling to another country or staying at a fancy resort.
Your budget will likely dictate how you’re able to treat yourself, but that doesn’t have to lessen the positive impact of whatever you choose. There’s a wide spectrum of things that can make you happy, and it may take time to save money or find the circumstances to accomplish some of your goals. While it might seem counterintuitive to force yourself to wait, the time you spend working toward a larger goal can motivate you to do better work and take pride as you understand what your hard work will earn.
Here are a few ways you could treat yourself, considering a variety of budgets and other potential constraints.
Take a Vacation
This may be obvious to those who have had a chance to travel, but exploring foreign lands can be a life-changing experience. You might tour one or several countries in order to immerse yourself in new cultures and traditions. Or you could seek adventure in exotic lands full of jungles, mountains, and beaches. If you have the resources to go all out, you might consider spending a week on a yacht, enjoying the sea and the beach in your own floating private resort.
For a more budget-friendly adventure, you could also visit somewhere within driving distance, taking a week or a weekend to visit a city you’ve never seen. Or you might find a spot in the wilderness to set up a campsite and enjoy the local wildlife and the sound of wind blowing through trees.
Whatever path makes sense for you, getting away from your normal day-to-day activities and locations can refresh your body and mind and may even give you a new outlook on life. The space a vacation offers can allow you to rest and play in ways you normally wouldn’t. This can show you things about yourself and allow you to return to your home and job with renewed energy and a better understanding of your goals.
Travel vacations may be at the high end of the spectrum financially, but treating yourself doesn’t have to be expensive. This is especially effective when splurging on practical purchases. In fact, when you weigh the value of some relatively smaller purchases, investing in a higher quality product might save you money over time.
Consider your bed, for example. A bed is something everyone needs, since you’ll spend about a third of your life sleeping. Your quality of sleep can have a major impact on your physical and mental health as well as everything you do in your waking hours. Investing in a higher quality bed may be expensive up front. However, you’ll likely get better quality sleep, which will make you happier, healthier, and more productive. A better bed will also last longer, allowing you to get a good night’s sleep for a decade or more as opposed to a cheaper mattress you might have to replace every few years.
Another example I try to keep in mind is investing in quality shoes. This took me a long time to realize. You can probably find a cheap pair of shoes that will fit you, yet if they’re uncomfortable or aren’t well made, they will cause you daily distress and fall apart quickly. This forces you to fall into a cycle of paying small sums of money, more often, for something you don’t really want. Instead, you could have bought well-made shoes that would pay for themselves easily over time. (I sometimes call this the “shoe tax,” and it’s liberating when I consider how little I pay each day for a pair of shoes I’ll enjoy for years.)
Consider the things you come into contact every day. What are any small or large purchases that could have a major impact on your happiness?
Eat Something You’ll Enjoy
This treat is tricky because too much indulgence can quickly lead to poor eating habits and could affect your physical and mental health. If you’re on a diet, you may be closely watching the calories you take in. Yet even in this scenario, it’s possible to plan certain food treats within your daily or weekly goals. An occasional indulgence can also combat the boredom that sometimes accompanies diets and could help you stay focused on your goals.
For you, a treat might involve going to your favorite restaurant. Again, with this, you don’t have to break the bank to have a good time. While a fancy restaurant might be exactly what you’re looking for, sitting down at the diner down the road with a few friends could be enough to shake off your daily stresses. For me, there’s a buffet in town that I visit once a month, either with friends, family, or just my girlfriend. Even though it’s not expensive, I budget for this visit. It’s probably not healthy to engorge myself with plate after plate of food, but allowing myself to splurge on this treat (within limits) is something I very much look forward to.
If you’re experienced with cooking or are interested in learning, you could also allow yourself to buy quality ingredients and take an evening to prepare your favorite foods. This is a relatively affordable way to treat yourself to a nice meal, and you may learn to make a better quality dish than you could find at local restaurants.
Many people consider certain foods strictly “good” or “bad,” yet this mentality can actually hurt your efforts to follow a healthy diet. Often, the worse you feel about an indulgence, the more you’ll be tempted by it and be unhappy forcing yourself to stick to healthier foods. This could result in unhealthy binge eating, throwing you farther off track from your diet than if you had just allowed yourself to enjoy a small treat on occasion. So while you shouldn’t eat candy bars and cake for every meal, planning these treats within a balanced diet is a safe way to enjoy yourself without losing control.
One final aspect of food indulgences might not come from eating a specific meal, but from allowing yourself to seek out more ethical food practices. Sometimes this can elevate the cost of foods you might be able to find at big chain grocery stores or fast food restaurants, yet the knowledge that you’re contributing to more sustainable systems can offer you peace of mind.
For example, the idea of the slow food movement involves seeking out local and regional foods and researching where the ingredients are sourced. Investing in locally sourced foods can help to avoid harmful production processes used by larger corporations, such as insecticides and growth hormones. This also cuts down on excess pollution and energy consumption caused by transporting products over long distances, all while helping you to connect to your food on a more personal level and contribute to your local community producers. This may take some time and research to track down sustainable food producers, and it’s possible you’ll spend more, but if this makes you feel better about your eating habits, it will be worth it to treat yourself this way.
You probably can’t treat yourself all the time due to financial limitations, health reasons, or time constraints. If you could, it would probably lessen the value of whatever treat you choose. However, setting treat goals and finding an appropriate limit in frequency and cost can allow you to get outside of your regular routine and send a reminder that you are special and worthy of good, even selfish things from time to time. So, find your own way to enjoy yourself.