How to reward yourself (with no regrets)

Rewarding yourself in the right way can have a positive impact on your life.

How to reward yourself

Every now and then it’s important to take your foot off the pedal, take stock of your achievements – or even your progress towards them – and reward yourself.

Go on! Give yourself a treat. Go to the beach, see that movie, get that pedicure. Whoever thought that rewarding yourself could be good for you? Well actually, it is … if it’s done in a positive and nurturing way that’s right for you and your health.

So, don’t feel guilty for taking a moment for yourself – know that it’s an important part of your health and happiness. Let’s look at how rewarding yourself in the right way can have a positive impact on your life.

Find a passion for self-compassion
While we live in a world of instant gratification – and most rewards certainly come with their dose of ‘insta-happiness’ – treating yourself to something special plays a role in a practice with longer lasting and deeper effects: self-compassion.

Self-compassion is about being kind to yourself. It’s different from self-esteem, self-pity or self-indulgence. As Jean Hailes clinical psychologist Gillian Needleman explains, “Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness and care that you would treat a friend. It’s about being gentle, caring and non-judgemental of yourself, thinking of yourself as part of a larger humanity.”

Making self-compassion part of your daily life can be challenging; however, as Ms Needleman tells us, the benefits can be transformative.

“Self-compassion and kindness are simple concepts, but are so difficult to practise consistently,” she says. “Compassion is a gentle gesture, but when it becomes a regular part of the way you treat yourself, it can be such a powerful one. And remember, compassion shouldn’t stop, even when you aren’t 100 per cent happy with something you’ve done.”

Gear up for a positive cycle
While some of us think that we need to be hard on ourselves and cut out rewards to achieve our goals, research has shown that being kind to yourself does not lower your standards. In fact, self-compassion promotes good mental health and can actually help you to achieve your goals.

By rewarding yourself in the now, you are reinforcing positive behaviour. So not only are you celebrating and acknowledging what’s happening in the present, you’re also helping yourself along to more rewards and positive outcomes in the future. Sounds like a pretty great cycle!

But as with most things in life, rewarding yourself is all about balance; how you choose to reward yourself is an all-important consideration. Let’s delve into ways that you can reward yourself that are positive, nurturing and fulfilling – in other words, treats that will make you feel good, not regretful!

Striking a balance
When we think of rewards, we may automatically think of favourite foods or drinks; dessert, pizza, chocolate, chips, milkshake, wine, champagne or a favourite cocktail. It’s understandable, when so many of our celebrations are associated with eating and drinking!

But as we all know, eating too many of these types of treats, too often, is not going to improve your health or happiness levels; in fact, it will have the opposite effect.

Jean Hailes dietitian Stephanie Pirotta agrees that, while avoiding all treat foods (also known as discretionary foods or ‘sometimes’ foods) is the best for our body, “this is not realistic and no fun”.

“A state of a happy medium that promotes positive mental health, having a good relationship with food and enjoying a balanced diet is the best result,” says Ms Pirotta. “Let's face it, ‘sometimes foods’ can be yummy! It's all about moderation, for everything.”

Ms Pirotta says physical activity levels are also key when it comes to discretionary foods.

“It’s best to aim for 30 minutes of daily, moderate physical activity,” she says. “If you are not meeting this on most days, it is best to keep discretionary foods to a minimum, with a maximum of one serve every few days, especially if you’re actively wanting to lose weight.”

If you are meeting your recommended activity levels, and not trying to lose weight, then one to two serves of ‘sometimes’ foods every few days is acceptable. Examples of one serve include:

  • 2 scoops of ice-cream
  • 5-6 small lollies
  • 60g of fried hot chips
  • 200ml of wine.

“However, every person is unique,” says Ms Pirotta. “It’s best to speak to an expert to really know how many serves of discretionary items are recommended for you to meet your goals and needs.”

Go-to alternative rewards
So, with all this in mind, it’s a good idea to have some go-to alternative rewards up your sleeve, so you can keep the good times and benefits flowing, without the unhealthy drawbacks. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take some ‘time out’, just for you
  • Give yourself permission to take a nap
  • Visit the library or bookstore for an afternoon all by yourself
  • Pamper yourself, run a bath, do an at-home manicure/pedicure, light some candles
  • Read a book
  • Have a movie/Netflix marathon night
  • Buy or pick yourself a bunch of flowers
  • Be a tourist in your own town; visit the museum, the zoo, the gardens, the waterpark

Taking it back to basics
It’s also important to realise that rewards can be as simple as thoughts. Ms Needleman recommends taking the time to recognise a “win on the inside”, even if it’s a small one. “I call this practice ‘finding your inner cheerleader’, pom-poms and all,” she says.

“It’s as simple as taking the time to actually notice that there are things you have achieved; ask yourself, what exactly was it that you did?, what was the skill?, what are you proud of?,  what does it say about you? All this adds important fuel to confidence and self-esteem building.”

So the next time you have a win – be it handing in an assignment, going for a walk, making it to work on time or just scraping through a tough week – find your inner cheerleader and pass her the megaphone! She deserves to be heard, loud and clear.

Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women's Health



    To make a comment, please register or login
    26th Jan 2018
    Jean Hailes of Women's health thinks women should reward themselves more. I think they should show more discipline, self control, accept more accountability for their decisions. At least some attempt at long term goals would also help. I think they reward themselves way too much for very little, a little less self entitlement would help. But if you decide to reward yourself with more food until your backside doesn't fit through a door and spend till your bank account is empty fine I just hope your not married.
    26th Jan 2018
    Oh dear, Tib. To arrive at this point in your life and feel so bitter is rather sad.
    Some people are greedy, some people dedicate their lives to giving to others.
    Giving is only rewarded if it is no sacrifice for the giver. It sounds as though you either begrudge what you have either had taken from you without thanks or you resent giving.
    If you are married offer your wife a drink she enjoys and present it to her gracefully. I guarantee her smile will be well worth the generosity of your gesture.
    26th Jan 2018
    Rosret your comment is completely unrelated to mine. I am suggesting women should be less concerned about rewarding themselves and be more concerned about the consequences of their behaviour. Your comment doesn't address that.
    26th Jan 2018
    Tib's first girlfriend rejected him when he was 11.

    Two years later his mummy spanked him for being naughty.

    When he was 15 his sister dobbed him in for stealing his daddy's condoms.

    When he was 30 he got his 2nd girlfriend, but she/he turned out to be a tranny ..... after Tib tried to use one of those old condoms.

    Then his cranky old aunty moved in with him, and he had to put up with her for the next 30 years.

    Then finally when he was 66 Tib got married to a lady pensioner. But he soon discovered that his age pension was reduced a bit because he was married. So he divorced her.

    There ya go folks. That Tib's experience with females. He really doesn't like the ladies anymore. Tib now has a boyfriend, but he's not going to "marry" him (for obvious reasons).
    26th Jan 2018
    Jim ha ha that's terrible , you're still grumpy because I told you to sit somewhere else on the bus. :) No boyfriend but I will agree I have yet to meet a woman that wasn't a greedy selfish biatch, yes including my mother and sister.
    26th Jan 2018
    You are so on the money, Tib.
    26th Jan 2018
    I hate generalizations, there are many good and kind women in the world who have solid control over their finances, and reward themselves and others when they know they can afford it.
    26th Jan 2018
    Vin if you find this woman please get a photo because none of us have seen one. It would be like getting a photo of a Tasmanian tiger.
    26th Jan 2018
    Of course, vinradio. Even if this article was not gender specific it wouldn't matter. It's important for everyone to spoil themselves or someone else who is special to us. It makes the world a nicer place to love and live.
    Tib is actually self indulging in his hate for 50% of the population.
    26th Jan 2018
    Rosret God I only asked for a picture, we would all like to see one. A good one though not like those supplied for Bigfoot.

    26th Jan 2018
    Genuine achievement is its own reward.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles