Do You Reward Yourself in Ways that You Later Regret?

If you reward yourself with sweets or spending, you may do more harm than good.

Posted Jun 28, 2017

Source: Fotolia/blanche

I always cringe when I see a well-meaning grandma, or anyone for that matter, say to a little child: “What a good girl you are!  Here’s a cookie!”  Most of us, early on, learned to see sweet foods like cookies, ice cream, or candy as a “treat”, a reward for good behavior or hard work, or perhaps something to make us feel better whenever we have an “owie”.

It’s not much fun to be the one to point this out (calling out sweet, well-intentioned, generous grandmas is not usually a popular move), but these associations may set us up for problems later in life.  Think about it - do you reward or comfort yourself, as an adult, with sweet rich treats? Where and how did you learn to associate the two?

On the other hand, maybe you’re more likely to treat yourself by going on a buying binge at the mall with your credit card (the one with the burgeoning, unpaid balance).  Or perhaps you prefer to celebrate by going out for a martini marathon?  If any of this sounds familiar, read on…

These behaviors (rewarding ourselves with sweets, spending, or alcohol) are so deeply bred into our culture, that few of us stop to think about their effect on our lives.

When something good happens in your life, how do you celebrate or reward yourself?  I’m all for celebrating, don’t get me wrong, but not if it leaves you worse off than before the celebration-worthy event came along in your life.

One of the ways to stress-test your personal reward system is to ask yourself this: when you reward yourself in your preferred fashion, how do you feel after the fact?

I know the feeling well, of being on a high on a particularly good day, and hitting my favourite store to reward myself with some wonderful purchases. Later, when I consider the reality of my  budget, it doesn’t feel as good as it did on that happy, “spendy” day. The things I bought don’t seem so shiny or necessary anymore. Thankfully, my favourite store accepts returns, as I often end up bringing stuff back! Not quite so easy, when it comes to food or alcohol that’s already been consumed.

When you think of your favorite ways of rewarding yourself, or celebrating, are things, or behaviors, truly rewards that benefit you?  Or are they celebratory treats that you’ll regret, once the brief moment of indulgence and enjoyment has passed?

I encourage you develop an awareness before you “reward” yourself, or “celebrate”.

Is what you’re about to do really consistent with what you want for yourself and your life?  Will you feel happy afterwards, or guilty?

What are some ways you can reward yourself, that you can still really look forward to, without feeling bad about it, after?

If I want to celebrate with food, I’ll go for something that is delicious and still feels indulgent, like all-you-can-eat sushi (my favourite!) or Thai food.  Yummy, but generally not the type of food I end up regretting having consumed.

If I want to go out with friends to celebrate something, I’d rather go out for a nice meal and have a glass of (comparatively healthy) red wine, rather than hit the bar and have too many (for me, more than one drink tends to be too many!).

I know myself well enough now that I don’t let myself reward myself by going to the mall, but perhaps instead I’ll order a book that I’d really like to read (or better yet, treat myself with a trip to the library), or put some money aside towards an upcoming vacation.

There’s room in life for everything – a cookie here, a martini there – but develop an awareness about how it is that you use these “treats” in your life.

You deserve rewards that really reward you!

Susan Biali, M.D. is a medical doctor, wellness expert, life and health coach, professional speaker, and flamenco dancer. She has been featured as an expert on the Today Show, as well as other major media outlets, and is available for keynote presentations, workshops/retreats, and private life coaching.

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Copyright Dr. Susan Biali 2017

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