Parks and Recreation was right: Here's why treating yourself is good for you

Journalist Colette Sexton on why treating yourself is good for you.


The hilarious TV show Parks and Recreation introduced the phrase 'Treat Yo’ Self" to the world in 2011. What does Treat Yo’ Self mean? It is a phrase that two of the show's characters, Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford, invented to mark one day a year where they treat themselves. What do they treat themselves to? Clothes, fragrances, massages, mimosas — everything basically. Yes, it sounds wonderful, and as Donna and Tom declare, “it is the best day of the year”. Parks and Recreation has certainly been responsible for many the impulse buy and shopping trip ever since.

And it turns out that Donna and Tom might have been on to something.  Experts have found that consumers are happier after an indulgent purchase if there is no good reason for it.

The science of indulgence

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While previous research has shown that having a reason to indulge, like a big birthday or to mark a significant achievement, makes for a happier customer, research from marketing academics at ESMT Berlin business school showed that some consumers are actually happier after purchasing when they have no reason to indulge at all.

But before you whip out the credit card, you should figure out what kind of shopper you are. Do you have high or low levels of self-control? The study from ESMT Berlin showed that consumers with high levels of self-control were happier after indulging with a reason for doing so, but it was those that said they have low self-control that were happier after indulging without reason.

It makes sense. Those among us with high levels of self-control tend to be more rational and disciplined, so they value rational indulgences. In comparison, those of us that have low self-control are often more relaxed and easy going, and they can enjoy the spontaneous indulgences.

I wouldn’t recommend running out to buy that designer handbag or a new car if you are going to spend the next three years lying in bed at night regretting your decision. But there is definitely something nice you can do for yourself. Research says it’ll make you happy, and who are we to argue with research? Just don’t go too crazy — I don’t want to be responsible for any missed mortgage payments. Maybe a cup of coffee from the nice local café or a magazine is enough to put a smile on your face. Maybe you just set aside an hour and treat yourself to a bubble bath. Maybe you need to skip the gym, get an ice cream and sit out in the sun. A little indulgence and TLC can go a long way in improving your mood. So go ahead and treat yo’ self.

Featured image: Jason Lloyd Evans


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