Do you find yourself criticizing yourself for failures or short-comings more often than rewarding yourself for successes? Self-reward can be a powerful way to combat feelings of depression or anxiety, lack of motivation, or if you have been working really hard and need a little extra boost to keep going. Follow the steps below for creating your own self-reward program.
Step #1: Make a list of your desired self rewards
Make a list of all possible rewards that you could give yourself. Include things like self-praise and encouraging self-talk. For more tangible rewards, you may want to include things like enjoying your favorite dessert or purchasing an item that makes you feel good. Include a range of rewards, from small and easily attainable rewards to larger and more extravagant ones.
Examples of small rewards:
Praise yourself for a job well-done
Taking a relaxing bath (ask others in your household to refrain from distracting you)
Spend time enjoying your favorite hobby
Enjoy a cup of your favorite beverage or eat your favorite snack
Watching a favorite TV program or movie
Go on a bike ride or leisurely car ride
Take a walk
Examples of medium rewards:
Manicure or pedicure
Buying (and using!) some new candles, incense, or aromatherapy lotions or room sprays
Getting a car wash
Having lunch with friends
Buy some new music
Go to the movie theater
Buy a book you’ve been wanting to read
Examples of large rewards:
Enjoy a day with no plans or responsibilities
Take a half-day off from work
Step#2: Set the criteria for receiving your rewards
Create a list of the positive behaviors you must do in order to earn your self-reward. In other words, what criteria must you meet before you get your reward? Make sure to be specific and clear. Instead of only rewarding yourself when the entire goal is reached or project is completed, include in your list all of the smaller steps you have to take along the way to your ultimate goal or project. That way, you can give yourself a small reward each time you complete a step and then one large reward when you have completed the entire task. Research shows that smaller, more frequent rewards are more motivating than one large reward at the end. Make the reward size appropriate to the size of the task completed. For instance, you wouldn’t reward yourself with a massage every time you take the trash out (!).
Step#3: Give yourself the reward
Here’s where you have done the work and you get to enjoy the reward. Set aside time, whether it’s a few minutes or a few hours, to truly enjoy your reward; you’ve earned it! You may even want to keep a log of the rewards you give yourself. Remember to also reward yourself for those unplanned tasks and accomplishments that pop up throughout your week. A simple self-praise mantra is great for these moment to moment occurrences.
Parents: You may find that tailoring the program above to the needs of your child or teen helps with motivation for completing chores, homework, and other tasks.
Holland Miller, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist, provides individual and group therapy for adolescents and adults in Austin, TX. Specializing in the treatment of depression, chronic low mood, and chronic stress, she incorporates cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLCs) to enhance positive mood, healthy functioning, and overall well-being.
Dr. Miller is particularly passionate about working with adolescent girls and adult women who want to boost their mood and energy, improve their self-esteem and relationships with others, better cope with stress while reducing anxiety and tension, and develop healthy lifestyle habits for lasting wellness.
When she is not in the office, Dr. Miller enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, and two mischievous goldendoodles. She can be found discovering the latest Austin adventure, reading and researching, exploring the outdoors on hiking and camping trips, and trying out new recipes.
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