Home Mental Health & Well-Being Small Treats Can Have a Significant Positive Impact on Our Mood and Mental Health

Small Treats Can Have a Significant Positive Impact on Our Mood and Mental Health

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Little treat culture, a concept where people indulge in small, affordable pleasures, has become increasingly popular in recent years. It reflects a growing recognition of the importance of self-care and mental well-being in our daily lives. This trend involves treating oneself to simple joys, which can range from a favourite snack to a brief walk in the park.

Little treat culture not only brings moments of happiness, but also fosters a greater appreciation for the smaller things in life. It counters the notion that significant expenses or grand gestures are necessary for enjoyment and relaxation.

For many, this practice is a way to momentarily escape the stresses of everyday life and to cherish personal contentment. It also encourages mindfulness, as individuals become more present and aware while savouring these modest treats.

Interestingly, this trend resonates well with the digital age, where sharing these moments on social media has become a way to connect with others and spread positivity.

The psychology behind little treats

Psychological research suggests that small treats can have a significant positive impact on our mood and mental health. A 2011 study found that small indulgences, particularly those that are unexpected or novel, can lead to higher levels of happiness and reduce stress. These findings suggest that little treat culture is more than just a trend; it’s a viable way to enhance daily life.

Another aspect of little treats is their ability to act as a form of self-reward, which can boost motivation and productivity. According to a 2023 study, rewarding oneself with small treats can reinforce positive behaviours and establish healthier habits.

These rewards can serve as effective coping mechanisms during times of stress or low energy, providing a much-needed uplift. This aligns with theories of behavioural psychology, which emphasise the importance of positive reinforcement in shaping habits and behaviours. The sensory pleasure derived from these treats, whether it’s a favourite snack, a moment of relaxation, or an enjoyable activity, can trigger the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.

This neurochemical response not only enhances mood but also contributes to overall mental well-being.The act of planning and anticipating a treat can also be beneficial, as it offers something positive to look forward to, further reducing feelings of anxiety or depression.

Incorporating little treats into daily life

Integrating little treat culture into our daily routine is straightforward and can be highly personalised. It’s about finding small, meaningful ways to appreciate the present moment and give ourselves a boost. This might include taking a short break to enjoy a cup of tea, buying a small item that brings joy, or spending a few minutes doing a favourite hobby.

It’s important, however, to balance these treats with mindfulness. Being conscious of why we’re indulging and how it makes us feel can heighten the experience and ensure it’s beneficial rather than a form of escapism.

Practising this kind of mindful indulgence allows individuals to fully engage with the treat, savouring it and deriving maximum pleasure. It also helps in recognising the fine line between a healthy treat and excessive indulgence, which could lead to negative consequences. For instance, keeping treats small and not overly frequent maintains their special status and prevents dependency.

Incorporating variety in the types of treats can prevent monotony and keep the experience fresh and exciting. Finally, sharing these moments of joy with others can amplify the positive effects, as it combines the pleasure of the treat with the benefits of social interaction and connection.

The impact on mental health and resilience

Regularly allowing ourselves small pleasures can play a crucial role in building psychological resilience. A 2017 study highlighted that engaging in enjoyable activities contributes to better stress management and overall mental health. This can be particularly beneficial during challenging times, providing a sense of normalcy and a break from stress.

Little treats also encourage a positive mindset. By acknowledging and appreciating the small things in life, we can develop a more optimistic outlook, which is beneficial for mental health. This approach aligns with the principles of positive psychology, which emphasise the importance of nurturing well-being.

Embracing these small joys helps to foster gratitude, a key element in mental health and well-being. Gratitude has been linked to increased levels of happiness and reduced symptoms of depression, as reported in several studies.

This practice of seeking and enjoying little treats can act as a buffer against the negative impacts of stress, providing a psychological “breather” in a hectic world. It teaches the value of self-care and the importance of prioritising personal happiness, even in small doses. Additionally, this habit of focusing on positive experiences, however minor, can lead to a more balanced perspective on life, countering the tendency to dwell on negative events or stressors.

Finding balance and avoiding excess

While embracing little treat culture can be advantageous, it’s crucial to find a balance. Indulging in too many treats or using them as a primary coping mechanism can be counterproductive. Moderation is key to ensuring that these small pleasures remain beneficial and don’t lead to unhealthy habits.

Maintaining an awareness of our motivations for these treats and keeping them in proportion to other aspects of life helps preserve their positive impact. For example, if food is a frequent treat, it might be balanced with physical activity or healthier food choices at other times.

This balanced approach also prevents the development of a reward-dependent mindset, where treats become a necessity rather than a bonus. It’s important to have other coping strategies in place for dealing with stress and negative emotions, so that they complement rather than replace these methods.

Budgeting for treats, whether in terms of time, money, or calories, can help in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding excessive indulgence. Cultivating a diverse range of treat options, from simple pleasures like a walk in nature to more indulgent activities like a spa day, ensures that the concept of treating oneself remains both exciting and sustainable.

Reflecting on the joy and satisfaction derived from these treats can reinforce their value, encouraging a mindful and appreciative approach to life’s little pleasures.




James Ellison is a freelance writer and mental health advocate with a passion for exploring the intersection of psychology and everyday life.

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