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Why you could be happier if you don’t buy anything today

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Why you could be happier if you don’t buy anything today

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Decisions about dollars are complicated. “The consumer dilemma is the idea that the planet clearly needs us to reduce our consumption, but our economy needs as we consume more and more every year,” said James MacKinnon, author of “The Day the World” Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves. “

The pandemic has revealed how vulnerable our economic system is to any kind of disruption in people’s appetites for shopping, MacKinnon noted. “We have created a system that depends on our action as consumers. It is almost as if it limits our freedoms to choose how we want to live and determines what our social role will be.”

There may be financial circumstances that cause a person to shop on big sale days, but if you experience the financial freedom that allows you to spend, you might even be happier if you don’t buy anything on Black Friday. Here are some realities to consider:

If you feel bad about compulsive spending habits, you’re not alone.

“One thing about Black Friday that makes it even more pernicious is that not only can shopping release dopamine into the brain’s reward pathways – thus becoming potentially addicting – it also manipulates the herd’s source of dopamine. social, “explained Dr Anna Lembke, psychiatrist and author of” Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence. ”

Lembke, who calls smartphones a modern hypodermic needle that delivers 24/7 digital dopamine, noted that when people feel like they belong to a tribe and share experiences and emotions with others people, dopamine is released.

“This feeling of oneness or immersion is a huge source of dopamine and also serotonin,” Lembke said. She noted that these primitive brain circuits can hamper the ability of the prefrontal cortex to make rational decisions, such as realizing that you can’t afford to spend the money you spend.

Buy with intention

If you are looking for a different tribe, an intention-based buying herd exists.

I recently asked on Instagram Stories if people are turning down Black Friday shopping and doing something else instead. Many people said they choose different ways to shop this holiday season.

Carolyn Kornwitz of Boston wrote that she is completely opting out of Black Friday and all sale purchases. “I will be getting most, if not all, of the gifts for the kids from my local Buy Nothing Facebook group, as well as from thrift stores.”

Others said they focused on supporting local businesses, independent sellers on Etsy, or using their creative skills. “My pandemic hobby is knitting, so everyone gets hand-knitted items!” wrote Anna Brakeman of Madison, Wisconsin.

MacKinnon agreed that not all expenses are created equal. “There are definitely better and worse ways to consume. Support smaller scale businesses, especially those that don’t have shareholders to answer for … when you spend your money, spend it in your local community thoughtfully on products that will be meaningful to you or the person you’re giving to. “

Countering overconsumption with people and experiences

Overconsumption can result from people trying to escape their situation, a tactic that is understandable but ultimately doesn’t work, Lembke noted. “A potential antidote is to do the opposite and immerse ourselves deeply in our lives.”

“If we really look to our lives, everything becomes more interesting. When we reinvest in relationships and experiences, we create new energy and new meaning and it becomes transcendent,” Lembke said.

Why you could be happier if you don’t buy anything today

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Indeed, many people have shared that they bypass Black Friday shopping and opt for connection times in the form of hikes with family or friends, epic games of tag, pickleball, tennis, biking or cycling. relaxation time at home.

Others shared that they were immersing themselves in the holiday spirit through activities such as Christmas tree cutting and experiences like “The Nutcracker” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. “My parents are in town for Thanksgiving this year. We bought tickets for a nature walk / light show at Crystal Bridges, which is an art museum near us,” explained Liz Fernandez from Fayetteville. , Arkansas.

Think back to lessons from last year

Evidence of non-consumer vacation contentment may come from your own memories.

“Last year forced us to retire from the traditional Thanksgiving and made us think this year about how we actually wanted to spend those four days off together,” wrote Kaci Lint of Mesa, Arizona. Given that she has five children, Lint noted that material objects quickly become overwhelming. This Thanksgiving, her family intentionally chooses experiences over things by traveling to camp and watch the sunrise over Utah’s sand dunes.

MacKinnon is eager for people to return to the mindset that just spending time together and focusing is a rich experience.

“Last Christmas everyone wished they could be together; that would have been more than enough, ”he said. On the other hand, he noted that this season people feel that company alone is insufficient and that they have to show up with armfuls of freebies.

People are able to change

One of the most dramatic and surprising observations amid the pandemic in MacKinnon was how quickly people found their way from a consumer value system to a new set of values ​​centered on relationships, experiences. and capacity building.

Why you could be happier if you don’t buy anything today

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“What we saw when people went into quarantine and lockdown was that they turned to other values ​​very quickly. People reached out to old friends they had lost touch with. were watching birds, mastering new skills, planting things. It took a matter of days for people to find their way to a new set of values, “said MacKinnon.

That said, depending on the circumstances, behavior change may take longer depending on the severity of their addiction, Lembke noted. “People have to refrain from behavior long enough for homeostasis of the pleasure-pain system in the brain to be restored. Eventually, people will then be able to enjoy smaller rewards,” she said.

There is considerable work to be done to find the balance of consumerism when it comes to the planet and our economy, but one thing is clear: our relationships, experiences and well-being are things in which it is worthwhile. to invest. And we don’t have to be held to a day on the calendar or a line around the block to do it.

Christine Koh is a former music and brain scientist turned author, podcaster and creative director. You can find her work on and on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at @drchristinekoh.

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