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Why you might be happier if you don’t buy anything in Cyber Week

I delight in finding the perfect gift for a loved one and experience joy in thoughtful personal purchases. But I bristle against spending for the sake of spending, especially for manufactured “holidays” like Black Friday.

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 us to 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 revealed how vulnerable our economic system is to any kind of disturbance in people’s appetite to shop, MacKinnon noted. “We have created a system that is dependent on us acting as consumers. It’s almost as though 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 drive a person’s need to make purchases 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:

Acknowledge that biology is in play

If you are feeling bad about compulsive spending habits, you are not alone.

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

Lembke, who refers to smartphones as the modern-day hypodermic needle that delivers digital dopamine 24/7, noted that when people feel they belong to a tribe and share experiences and emotions with other people, dopamine is released.

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

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Skipping Black Friday shopping this year helps counteract overconsumption.

Shop with intention

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

I recently asked on Instagram Stories whether people were opting out of Black Friday shopping and if they were doing something else instead. Many people shared that they were choosing different ways to shop this holiday season.

Carolyn Kornwitz of Boston wrote that she is opting out of Black Friday and any sale shopping altogether. “I’m going to source the majority, if not all, gifts for the kids from my local Buy Nothing Facebook group, as well as secondhand stores.”

Others shared that they were focused on supporting local businesses, independent sellers on Etsy, or putting their maker skills to use. “My pandemic hobby is knitting so everyone is getting ornate hand-knit items!” wrote Anna Brakeman of Madison, Wisconsin.

MacKinnon agreed that all spending is not created equal. “There are definitely better and worse ways to consume. Support smaller scale businesses, particularly ones that don’t have shareholders to answer to … when you spend your money, spend it in your local community thoughtfully on products that will be meaningful to you or whoever you are giving to.”

Counteract overconsumption with people and experiences

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

“If we really turn towards 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.

Indeed, many people shared that they were bypassing Black Friday shopping and opting for connection time in the form of hikes with family or friends, epic games of tag, pickleball, tennis, cycling, or relaxed time at home.

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

Think back to lessons from last year

Evidence for non-consumerist holiday contentment may come from your own memories.

“Last year forced us to opt out of the traditional Thanksgiving thing and got us thinking 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 items get overwhelming quickly. This Thanksgiving, her family is intentionally choosing experiences over things by traveling to camp out and watch the sunrise over the sand dunes in Utah.

MacKinnon is eager for people to shift back to the mindset that it’s enough to spend time together and concentrate on making that time a rich experience.

“Last Christmas everyone wished they could just be together; that would have been more than enough,” he said. In contrast, he noted that this season people feel like company alone is inadequate and they need to show up with armloads of gifts.

People are capable of change

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

“What we saw as people moved into quarantine and lockdown was that they turned towards other values really quickly. People reached out to old friends they had lost touch with. They were bird watching, mastering new skills, planting things. It took a matter of days for people to find their way to a new value set,” MacKinnon said.

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

There is considerable work to be done to figure out the balance of consumerism as it relates to the planet and our economy, but one thing is clear: Our relationships, experiences and well-being are things worth investing in. And we don’t need to be held to a day on the calendar or a line around the block to do so.

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

By Christine Koh, CNN       Fri November 26, 2021


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People Who Spend Money On Experiences Instead Of Things Are Much Happier

Chris Riotta  in WORLD   Mar 31, 2015

When it’s payday and that direct deposit hits your account, you tend to swipe your card more in a day than your thumb swipes through Facebook, Instagram and Tinder combined.

The instant gratification that comes along with the hefty price tags on new clothes, trendy sneakers and expensive jewelry is satisfying enough to be considered an actual addiction.

But it’s crucial for us to remember the importance of investing in our life experiences even more so than splurging on the next big thing from our favorite designer; it’s true that money can’t buy you happiness.

In fact, it seems the happiest people in this world have found a way to distance themselves from shopping addictions and unnecessary spending.

Instead, those people put their money toward travel, experience and memories, and it certainly pays off.

If we all start to invest in our futures more than our sneakers, our lives will be more beautiful than anything money could buy.

Life is about memories, not diamonds.

Just think about it: At the end of your life, are you going to be reminiscing about the fact that you had an iPhone 6 Plus while everyone else was still using the 5, or are you going to recall golden memories you shared with the people who shaped who you’ve become?

A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology shows people who made expensive purchases on products rather than experiential investments often devalued a new item’s worth directly after buying it, according to the Huffington Post.

The researchers from San Francisco State University found people do, in fact, understand life is all about the memories we create, but we get so caught up in trends and demand that we cave and make purchases we’ll inevitably regret.

Before they even made the purchases, study participants said life experiences would be more beneficial than buying the latest and greatest items on their wish lists.

After buying whatever their heart temporarily desired, participants soon realized they would much rather have put that money toward an experience, which would have increased their happiness for a more sustained amount of time.

Focus on what makes you happy, not what makes you famous.

Research from Cornell University shows Millennials are tempted to make many of their purchases from society’s influence, which makes things like diamond watches and gold chains not only super expensive, but appealing and trendy as well.

We are just as much a product of our society as the shiny, expensive gifts and toys we exchange on a daily basis, if not more.

moments_travel

What sets us apart from our ancestors is that we are enveloped in the world of social media, and just about anything we buy is photographed for shameless self-promotion.

Dr. Thomas Gilovich is a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been looking for a link between money and happiness.

He says,

We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.

Gilovich makes a great point here.

I’m not saying you should never reward a couple of hard weeks at work with a new outfit and a night out, but our larger investments should go toward experiences that create lifelong memories rather than an item that will lose its “cool” factor within a few years (if it’s lucky).

Gilovich tells Fast Company,

Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.

Lose the price tag and explore the world around you.

The Next Web reports there are 79 million Millennials in the United States, three million more than the notorious Baby Boomer generation that is responsible for many of the jobs, industries and government programs at our disposal.

But industries are going to have to re-evaluate Gen-Y if they want to target us in their advertising. Most of us are starting to realize the priceless advantages of spending our hard-earned money on things like travel, education and creative activities.

Researchers say companies will need to adapt to this shift in mentality in order to compete and survive in this generation’s new world.

Ultimately, these are longer-term investments in our own individual happiness.

By spending more of our money on things that enhance our life — filling us with golden memories and unforgettable adventures — we aren’t just changing the industries that surround us, we’re shedding some much-needed positivity and light on the world.

Each day we’re convinced to buy things we don’t need, spend money we don’t have and purchase garbage that loses its value within a matter of weeks.

Generation-Y is one of the largest, most influential groups of society, and we have the unique ability to control the fate of our wallets and investments in life.

Why buy the latest phone when you can put that $400 toward a plane ticket to a country you’ve never been before?

People who constantly live with their future goals, investments and happiness at the forefront of their minds tend to live much happier lives than the rest of consumers swamped in products and bullsh*t.

It’s time to stop swiping the cards every time we get paid and start thinking about the memories we could be making with just a little bit of extra savings and a road map.


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6 Things You Must Know About Money and Happiness

August 20, 2014     By Amanda MacMillan

If you were offered a well-deserved raise at work or a no-strings-attached wad of money, would you take it? You’ve surely heard that money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly get you closer to an enjoyable life, right?

Yes and no, says Elizabeth Dunn, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. “It turns out, what you do with your money seems to matter just as much to your happiness as how much you make,” she says; good news for those of us without a sudden windfall or promotion in our near futures.

Here are six facts that may surprise you—and tips on how to live the good life, no matter how much you’ve got.

Don’t sweat the six-figure job

“There is definitely a correlation between income and happiness,” says Dunn. “But actually, money buys less happiness than people assume.” And in some ways, it buys happiness only up to a certain point: A 2010 Princeton University study found that emotional well-being—defined by the frequency of emotions like joy, anger, affection, and sadness—tended to rise with salary, but only up to about $75,000. Beyond that, people continued to rate their lives as more satisfying, but they didn’t seem to experience any more happiness on a day-to-day basis.

Spend on experiences, not things

Material goods may last longer, but a 2014 San Francisco State University study shows that life experiences—like trips, fancy dinners, and spa treatments—provide more satisfaction in the long run. Researchers interviewed volunteers before and after they made purchases of both types, and found that afterward, most people viewed the intangibles as a better use of money. However, they add, an experience has to fit a person’s personality in order to have benefit; someone who doesn’t like show tunes, for example, probably won’t see the value in a Broadway play.

fat-cat-money

Donate to charity

Giving to people or organizations in need “has a direct correlational effect on happiness that is basically equivalent to a doubling of household income,” says Dunn, citing research from a Gallup World Poll. How you give matters, too, she says: You’ll get more of an emotional reward by supporting groups you feel closely connected to, or when a close friend asks for your help. (In other words, accept that Ice Bucket Challenge already—the giving money part, at least!)

Pay it off early

“The pleasure of consumption can be dragged down by the pain of having to pay for it,” says Dunn. One way to get around that? Put money down for things as early as you can, even if you won’t actually experience them for a while—book trips months in advance, pre-order books and albums you’re excited about, or purchase credit for a service you can redeem at a later date. “Research shows that what lies in the future is much more emotionally evocative than what lies in the past,” she adds. “If we paid for something last year, it’s almost like our brain forgets we ever spent money on it.”

Give thoughtful gifts

When money gets tight, it may seem wasteful to splurge on presents and tokens of affection—but Dunn’s research shows that spending money on others, especially a loved one, is one of the happiest things you can do with your money. (In one study, people who had been asked to spend $5 on someone else felt better at the end of the day than those who’d been asked to spend it on themselves.) It’s the thought that counts, too: Both givers and receivers are happier when a gift is a good fit for the recipient’s personality.

Use a debit, not credit card

Being in debt is negatively associated with happiness, and is linked to health problems such as depression and anxiety. It may be hard to avoid all forms of debt, but one way to keep from falling deeper into it is to make everyday purchases with debit accounts, rather than charging them. “Debit cards are way happier plastic,” says Dunn. “They provide a lot of the same conveniences as credit cards, but don’t have the same long-term problems associated with them.”

source: health.com