Imagine you are sitting at your computer and you have an important deadline looming for work. Your ideas are not flowing and you begin talking to yourself negatively. You begin to tell yourself that you are not capable of such a taks, or you begin blaming co-workers or your spouse for your late start. You feel as if you have no control of the situation. All of a sudden a thought of brilliance appears, you have a dinner party planned this weekend and you do not possess a single article of clothing that would suffice. So you open a shopping app and hit the buy with a click option. Now that you have that off your plate you can begin getting back to work, but you have a discomfort in your upper back, so you must purchase a new foam roller with another click. In the midst of 30 seconds you have solved your wardrobe and your body aches. You are now complete and adequate enough to be accepted by society.
Retail therapy has been a consistent modality for anxiety for years, but the problem has only been exemplified by the convenience of online shopping. If you want a good laugh, watch George Carlin’s skit on “stuff.” The endless pursuit for more stuff that puts us back in control of our anxiety only creates more anxiety because now the stuff we have hoarded has caused chaos in our homes. We now need to make more money to buy more stuff or buy more space to store our stuff. The truth is that if you are searching for stuff to make you happy, happiness will never be found because there is an abundance of stuff to be purchased.
There is a new movement called minimalism and studies are showing that minimalists are reaching a state of happiness and positivity that transcends its constituents. Minimalists are shown to experience a heightened well-being and find more joy while owning less things and this all makes logical sense on a neurological and anthropological basis. Humans were designed to be nomadic beings, and the majority of our neurology is designed to identify threats, find food, and discover mating opportunities. We were not designed to accumulate things that were unnecessary for our survival.
The accumulation of things is an association of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and compulsive purchasing is associated with anxiety. OCD and anxiety are both identified in brain scans to affect the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula. The anterior cingulate cortex is important for decision making, and the insula is important for controlling autonomic function. A pattern of behavior that chronically affects these brain areas can lead to decreased well-being, and pathology over time.
There is never a better time than now to experience true happiness in the human experience and not in material goods. When the thought of purchasing something arrives, ride that wave of emotion for at least 15 minutes. Also a mediation practice helps to bring awareness to your forefront. The more aware you are of your mind the more control you can have to compulsive purchasing.