The importance of treating yourself

If there’s one thing I gained from watching NBC’s Parks and Recreation, aside from hours of quality television, it’s the inspiring legacy of “Treat Yo Self Day”. For those who haven’t watched Parks and Recreation, I’ll briefly explain: in season 4, two of the main cast members reveal how they dedicate one day a year to ‘treating one’s self’, be it through lavish purchases, massages, drinking expensive alcohol or indulging in pricey food. The episode shows them introducing “Treat Yo Self Day” to their co-worker, who jumps on the hype and ends up buying a very expensive Batman suit. Whilst all of this is obviously aired for comedic effect, as the affair sets them very far back financially, the concept of “Treat Yo Self Day” has really stuck with me.

I’m not saying that we should all blow hundreds of pounds on superhero memorabilia just for the sake of it, nor am I encouraging devoting just one day out of the entire year to blowing your wages on cocktails. Rather, I was really impacted by how a TV show decided to latch on to the idea of treating ourselves for comedic value. I think it is really telling about today’s culture. Tom and Donna, the two self-treating individuals, were presented as laughable for indulging in things and buying what they want. I guess the extent to which they treated themselves was funny, but why should it be laughable that once in a while, we treat ourselves and do what we want?

The majority of the adult population spends most of their life working, and the majority of their wages is devoted to rent, bills, groceries and transport costs. Sure, a bit is left over for social activities (which could also be counted as treating ourselves) but I think it’s very important for everyone to indulge in some quality time, by treating yourself for you. You don’t have to go shopping and blow hundreds on designer clothing to treat yourself. It could just be the littler things. For instance, I can’t remember the last time I bought myself a latte without thinking “what a waste of £2.50”. But why was it such a waste? I wanted a nice luxury coffee, so why should I feel guilty for drinking it? I’m trapped in the mind-set that I shouldn’t spend my money on petty purchases like a nice drink and should, instead, be saving my money for the future. I should, so I used to think, be investing in my future self.

But what about my present self? It’s important to be frugal and financially careful. But it’s even more important to make sure you’re enjoying your present time and not holding back on doing what you want. I’m writing from a very financial perspective, as is to be expected in today’s consumerist culture, but treating yourself can also just be dedicating part of your day to listening to music, doing yoga or even taking a relaxing walk. You can’t spend every waking moment putting pressure on yourself to not enjoy yourself.

As students, this is a trap we often fall into; we feel bad when we’re not reading or revising and perhaps resent spending parts of our loan. But one thing I learned from CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, is that actions, thoughts and feelings are all interconnected. It sounds very simple when stated like that but in practice, it’s often hard to make the correlation between your mood and your day to day life. If you’re constantly refusing to do what you want or buy what you want for some future responsibility, you’re going to crumble under the pressure and feel miserable. You shouldn’t feel bad for allowing yourself at least half an hour of the day to relax and live in the present.

I’m not saying go crazy and blow all your money, or abandon your studies or job for the sake of doing what you want all the time. But I am a firm advocate that if you’re going to ever be happy, you have to start making yourself happy. Stop regretting staying for that extra drink at the pub with your friends, or drinking that expensive hipster coffee you just bought. If you want these things, get those things. Little and often, treat yourself.

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