Many of us associate food with comfort, security, and celebration. Think of some good memories you’ve had around a dinner table. Who was there? And what was served? Bring to mind the feelings you have about the occasion.
Sweet memories, yes. But when we tie all those good feelings to the food itself, it can be easy to turn to food and overdo it when times are tough and we want those good feelings back. We may find ourselves doing some emotional eating.
Also, we may revert to past conditioning and experiences that often led us to food when it was time to celebrate. For example, were your good grades rewarded with ice cream? And how about as an adult, celebrating professional and personal milestones such as job promotions or finishing school? For many of us, food often has been a big part of that.
But food doesn’t have to be our go-to or our only reward.
It’s possible to shift our focus to non-food rewards. And that can be particularly helpful when you’re being really intentional about creating healthier habits that stick.
So here are 25 reward or “treat” ideas, ranging from free and low-cost to a couple of bigger-ticket items, to help you celebrate your next milestone.
Free and Low-Cost Non-Food Rewards
- Explore a new-to-you park
- Visit a nearby museum (most have ‘free’ days)
- Call the Peptoc Hotline, where elementary students share pre-recorded advice and encouragement
- Give yourself permission for a nap
- Connect with a good friend you’ve not talked to recently
- Send an encouraging note to someone else
- Listen to music for 15 minutes (or whatever time you’d like)
- Play a guided meditation from an app like Insight Timer or Second Breath
- Make your own playlist on your favorite music streaming platform
- Spend time coloring or doodling
- Sit and watch the sun rise or set
- Find a new book to read, from your favorite bookstore or the library
- Look through old photo albums
- Watch that movie you’ve been wanting to see
- Journal about your healthy habit progress so far, including the difficult moments you overcame or still are working through; if you need a new journal, used bookstores and thrift shops also sometimes sell them – unused!
- Go for a walk in nature; Meetup is one way to find a hiking or walking group near you
- Declutter a small area that always makes you think “ugh.”
- Buy a pair of fun socks
- Acquire a new houseplant
- Buy yourself fresh flowers, or cut something that’s blooming in your yard
- Schedule a time to enjoy a hobby or craft
- Acquire a new clothing item that you’re excited about; if one of your goals is physical activity, it can be really motivating to get new workout clothing
- Schedule a massage, manicure, and/or pedicure or have an at-home spa day
- Spend a day playing tourist in your own town
- Sign up for a new class or activity that’s been catching your attention
So which ones of these do you like best?
Treating Yourself Well
As you consider what non-food rewards might work for you, what other ideas come up? They might be activities or experiences that you enjoy alone, or with others. What fits your life? And when could you substitute a celebratory trip to the refrigerator or bakery with one of those?
It can be a challenge to shift old habits, especially unconscious ones that affect those we’re consciously working on. But it is possible. And small changes add up to a healthier you.
Amy Hoogervorst, a national board-certified health and wellness coach, offers grace and space for a healthier you. She works with individuals and in groups to help people pause for a moment to focus on themselves, align their actions to what they want most, and create healthier habits that stick. So schedule a discovery call here if you’d like to know more about coaching with Amy and if it’s right for you right now.