Making It a Treat

Temporarily giving up chocolate can restore our ability to enjoy it. After an initial chocolate tasting, students promised to abstain from chocolate for one week. Another group of students pledged to eat as much chocolates as they comfortably could, and they received a two-pound bag of chocolate to help them fulfill their pledge. The students who left with this reservoir of chocolatey goodness may seem like the lucky ones. But their sweet windfall came at a price. When they returned the following week to sample additional chocolate, they enjoyed it much less than they had the week before. People only enjoyed chocolate as much the second week as they had the first if they had given it up in between.

...Altering consumption patterns can provide a route to getting more happiness for less money.

--From the book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton

With all the caveats about the reliability and repeatability of studies, there are still plenty of ways we can apply this study's central idea to both save money and increase happiness.

Here are a few applications that crossed my mind as I read the above quote:

1) Don't bother going out to eat all the time. Eat out infrequently and you’ll better remember it and better enjoy it.

2) Scrap your daily latte, and instead make it a “once in a while special treat” latte. You’ll get far more pleasure out of it.

3) Don’t eat dessert every day. Make it a treat--not a regular thing. You’ll optimize both calories and pleasure.

4) Do you have a daily harmless vice? Make it a less-than-daily vice. Don't smoke every day. Or drink alcohol every day. You'll increase your happiness and save money too.

5) Cook something fancy every so often. Rather than cook a typical dinner on a typical night, make it a treat. Cook a favorite dish, put together something unusual or different, or try cooking something outside your comfort zone.

But don't give up chocolate. Not even temporarily. That's just crazy talk.

Readers, what ideas do you have to make treats out of the things we take for granted? Share your thoughts below!

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