“For example,” Rifkin said, “if you were offered a massage at the busiest time of the year, would you do it? We probably wouldn’t, because you’d think you’d be too stressed and distracted. You wouldn’t actually be able to relax.”
“The unfortunate paradox is that this mindset is counterproductive to health. It’s when we’re most stressed out that individuals can benefit most from self-gifting,” she said.
Researchers looked at time, money and mental health pressures, and how they can all make us less interested in giving ourselves gifts. In one experiment, they showed participants an advertisement for a fictitious product and measured their interest levels. For half of the participants, they added a self-gifting tagline that encouraged them to consume the product with a happiness-based intention, such as “Take me time” or “create a special moment.”
They found that when participants felt more stressed about tight budgets, busy schedules, or long to-do lists, they were less interested in gift-labeled products. They bought fewer products and were less interested in trying them. When asked why, people said they couldn’t really enjoy the experience.
Why is Giving Yourself Important?
Rifkin and his colleagues wondered whether this line of thinking was true, or whether people were inadvertently underestimating their happiness. They continued their research in which people experimented with gifting themselves, trying to create a special moment to see how it affected their happiness. They found that People who initially felt stressed were happier and more relaxed after self-gifting. They felt less stressed and less overwhelmed over time.
“I hope that understanding these findings can help people challenge some of their internal stories about when vs. “It’s not a good time to do something for yourself,” Rifkin said.