Rubin proposes that treats are a valuable strategy in developing habits. She explains that forming good habits can be draining and treats can play an important role in their development. She believes that a treat is a form of self-regard. When they help us feel energetic and happy, they can play a key role in habit formation.
She defines a “treat” as “a small pleasure or indulgence that we give to ourselves just because we want it. ” Unlike a reward it doesn’t have to be earned. We don’t have to be “good” to get it. When we deprive ourselves of treats, we feel depleted, resentful, and angry. This state often results in “justified self-indulgence.”
Rubin recommends creating a menu of healthy treats but she illustrates the wide variability of what each person perceives as a treat. She contends that peeling a hard-boiled egg could be a treat for some (I get what she’s saying but I really don’t identify with that example). One of Rubin’s own examples is sleep – that’s one I can definitely relate to. Reading for pleasure is another example for me.
One point she makes is that we make something a treat by calling it a “treat.” This perspective is about awareness. It’s very easy to overlook how much we enjoy something. “When we notice our pleasure, and relish it, the experience becomes much more of a treat.”
An interesting example is someone who shifted her perspective about a daily walk from something she “should” be doing to time for herself. That shift made all the difference and it became a treat to have that daily walk.
Rubin offers a word of caution about the lure of unhealthy treats. Three categories of treats can even be dangerous: food, shopping, and screen time. (I think the implications here are obvious!)
She concludes this chapter by talking about transcendent treats gleaned from reading a thousand-year-old guide for monks titled The Rule of St. Benedict. The monks referred to this time as lectio divina, or spiritual reading. Rubin translates this idea as time for beauty, creativity, service, and faith. These activities are frequently pushed aside for more urgent demands, but without them life is more apt to feel empty and purposeless.
I realized yesterday during an afternoon walk that this walk was something I really looked forward to, even though it was 88 degrees at the time. I’m glad that I was able to acknowledge this awareness. I’m curious what other treats might be on my menu. What treats are on yours?
Rubin concludes this chapter by sharing that until a habit truly comes easily and without decision-making, treats can give us a valuable little boost.