There are 21 strategies for changing habits, says author Gretchen Rubin. The most fun is one that incorporates the usage of treats. But “treats” isn’t synonymous with small rewards. In this interview, Rubin explains strategies from her new book Better Than Before.
Gretchen Rubin: There’s 21 strategies in habit change and they’re all very useful, but there’s one that is the most fun strategy and that is the strategy of treats. Now it’s very important to know what a treat is. A treat is not a reward. It’s not something that you get because you earned it. You don’t have to justify it. A treat is something that you get because you want it. And treats may sound like kind of a selfish, self-indulgent strategy to use, but treats are very important because the fact is treats help us get self-command. They energize us. They make us feel comforted and cared for. And when we are like that, then we can ask more of ourselves in other ways. So when we give more to ourselves we can ask more from ourselves. And you often hear people when justifying a bad habit with like I need it; I’ve earned it; I deserve it. So and a lot of times people go for unhealthy treats because they feel like they need to recharge their battery and so they use an unhealthy treat. But if you load yourself with healthy treats — if you have a large, a lot of items to choose from — and it’s not as easy to come up with a long list of healthy treats as you think. Then you’re going to be able to recharge your battery. And there’s some treats that are often unhealthy. Food treats, technology treats, and shopping treats. A lot of times these can become unhealthy treats very quickly, so if you use them, you have to be very mindful and use them judiciously and know that they’re not going to spiral out of control for you. You know, giving yourself a brownie is probably not the best treat, but things like wearing perfume or buying new music or, you know, fur therapy. A friend of mine has fur therapy, which is when she just spends a half an hour like playing with her dog. If you have a long list of these healthy treats then when you have that feeling like I need it; I deserve it; I earned it, then you can give yourself a healthy treat and that way you keep your self-command high.