Making something a treat makes it special. When it is not a treat, we get tired of it, even the things we think we love. So say researchers Dunn and Norton in their review of research on money and happiness (Dunn & Norton, 2013, Ch 2). Based on the wisdom of this observation, the common suggestion is to limit yourself. Said another way, scarcity of what we love is better than abundance of it.
Ecosynomics suggests an alternative perspective. Is giving yourself a treat about (1) limiting how much you can have at any given time (the lack of things in the moment) or (2) living into the co-existence of possibility-development-things of the treat? “The French use the verb se réjouir (to rejoice – to have joy again, to be delighted) to capture the experience of deriving pleasure from anticipating the future. The se réjouir period provides a source of pleasure that comes free with purchase, supplementing the joy of actual consumption” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, pp. 80-81).
“Our tendency to derive more joy from things coming to us in the future than from things already received extends far beyond toys. In a study of more than one thousand people in the Netherlands, vacationers exhibited a bigger happiness boost in the weeks before their trip, rather than in the weeks afterwards.” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 81; Nawjin, Marchand, Veenhoven, & Vingerhoets, 2010)
So, when you approach a treat from the perspectives of the future potential, the experiencing of it, and the actual thing, then you give yourself an abundance of treats. This is completely different than trying to maximize your enjoyment of the treat by making it a scarce thing. While the amount consumed, in the moment, might be the same whether starting from abundance or scarcity, the human experience is not, at least according to this research.
Dunn, Elizabeth, & Norton, Michael. (2013). Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Nawjin, Jeroen, Marchand, Miquelle A., Veenhoven, Ruut, & Vingerhoets, Ad J. (2010). Vacationers Happier, But Most not Happier After a Holiday. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 5(1), 35-47.