Over the past 5 weeks, I have been reading The Joy Diet, by Martha Beck. Each chapter has a theme with exercises to work through. The first weeks were easy focusing on doing nothing, seeking truth, finding desire, and creativity. Then came the tricky ones, Risk and now Treats.
“Every day, give yourself at least three really good treats: One for every risk you take, and two just because you’re you. No exceptions, no excuses.”
The reason to reward oneself with treats is to positively reinforce one’s behaviour so that risk-taking becomes less scary. Taking risks can also be emotionally draining, and usually associated with fear, so knowing that there will be a treat at the end of it, makes the process easier and more likely that we will do it again, thereby changing our behaviour and helping on the learning curve of delayed gratification.
The Joy Diet Definition of “Treat”
TREAT: Anything that makes you feel like smiling.
In explaining this definition, Martha quotes monk Thich Nhat Hanh “If a child smiles, if an adult smiles, that is very important.” There is also a difference between the social smile and the one that appears spontaneously.
The work in this chapter starts with noticing when one feels a smile coming on, and the circumstances around how the smile is triggered. This is where the hard part of this process came for me, and what made me do some processing. My list of items was small, and I realized how easily I am brought to tears, but how hard it is for me to smile. There have been times when I have laughed loud and long, but they have been moments that caught me by surprise.
Resting Bitch Face
In my day to day life, I would say that I am usually in various states of “resting bitch face”. Not mad, but not happy, and I’m sure my face displays that emotion. I am quick to tears and slow to laughter. When I do laugh, I don’t stay in that space for long. It feels uncomfortable. There is family history of me as a young child crying and holding my breath when people laughed at something I had done. When everyone on Facebook was laughing at and sharing the “Chewbacca mom” post, I couldn’t for the life of me see what was so funny.
I do enjoy smiling and feeling happy. It is my greatest wish that there is more of it in the world. In fact, I go out of my way to ensure that others are happy, often at the expense of my own happiness. Why does this feel more natural to me than treating myself in ways that make me smile? I carry the pain and suffering like a badge of honour, showing how “strong” I am. Yet, this has led me to deep sadness and shame.
“If you have been watching carefully and your list is still short, you have probably been denying yourself treats far too long”
My list is short. I have some work to do to get past the standard indulgences of hot baths and scented candles. When I started the chapter my idea of treating myself was ordering makeup from bh cosmetics. Now I must go deeper, to determine what makes me smile, even if it only to myself.