Do you ever feel so angry, depressed, stressed, or sad that all you want to do is eat candy and online shop? Or have you gorged on Mcdonald’s fries before blowing half your paycheck at Macy’s?
If you did exactly that, then, guess what? Everything went according to plan. Companies make serious money by manipulating, and preying upon our emotions and, more importantly, how we react to them.
Here’s an example: you’re in the mall and glance over at the window of Victoria’s Secret. Realizing that you are never going to have legs like the ones on the (touched up) model, you experience a wave of self-loathing wash over and darken your mood. Luckily, Auntie Anne’s is two stores down, and you convince yourself that a pretzel with honey mustard will surely put you in a better mood.
It’s pretty simple, actually. You felt a strong emotion and, instead of addressing and processing it, you took the shortcut to feeling better by indulging in a sugar, fat, or shopping high. Eating unhealthy food and shopping feel good in the moment, but soon after the dopamine release bottoms out, you’re still stuck with the original source of your pain, discomfort, stress or [fill-in-the-blank].
(In case you weren’t already aware, companies purposefully use advertising methods to make you feel inferior and to make you feel not good enough. However, if you buy product X, you will then be pretty/thin/stylish enough to be loved and a worthy human being. That’s generally why you feel pretty crappy after reading a magazine or watching tv.)
Alternatively, let’s say you deal with the emotion in the moment. You take a few minutes to pause, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and focus on the feeling and where it’s coming from in your body. You experience a cathartic release through mindfulness, and the well of emotion starts to slowly subside. In this way, you’re taking back your power, and simultaneously freeing yourself from the control of corporate manipulation.
In a calm state of being you’re able to think more clearly and rationally, and use your dollars wisely. Wisely in the sense that each penny you spend is a vote. A vote that supports a specific company, organization, and set of values. Where, and how, you buy products and services is, in my opinion, equal to, or perhaps more powerful than casting a literal vote (not to say that you shouldn’t vote, because you DEFINITELY SHOULD). However, spending money is the equivalent to voting. Every. Single. Day. This is especially true in America where corporations wield unfathomable sway over our laws and elected representatives through lobbying and political donations.
By purchasing a product or service from any given company, you are either supporting or rebuffing that company’s policies and practices in terms of the wages and benefits it provides to its employees, the level of corporate social responsibility (or lack thereof) it exhibits, its environmental practices (or disregard for), its political spending, and the kind of individuals it hires and places in leadership positions.
Therefore, when you spend money, spend it consciously and in support of companies and causes that align with your personal values. One great place to start is Better World Shopper or Buycott, and check out this site for more ideas. Research local farmers markets and try to shop at local establishments whenever possible. A slightly higher price is worth the extra money that stays in the community instead of going straight into the pockets of millionaires.
Or, you can take it one step further, and really stick it to the man, by saving your money! Reduce your consumption by buying used, buying less, or not buying at all. Ever since I made the conscious decision to not buy any more clothes or unnecessary things for my house, I’ve felt a delicious sense of freedom and am motivated to declutter and get rid of things that I just don’t need anymore. As a result, I have fewer items to clean and maintain, and I have more time to spend with the people and activities I enjoy now that I’m not shopping in my free time.
If you have to buy new clothes, check out Poshmark, Ebay, or Etsy; for furniture and other house hold items, local thrift stores always have a lot of great options, as do Craigslist and Freecycle. Not only will you be saving a ton of money, reducing your environmental footprint, and getting more unique items, but you will also be putting money straight into individuals’ pockets, instead of corporate coffers.
The good news is that once you stop buying stuff and eating healthier, it gets easier and easier to form new habits that will leave you feeling happier, less stressed out, and with a bigger figure in your bank account. Not only that, but you’ll also be voting in support of your values and community and freeing yourself from the dangerous cycle of consumerism.
Imagine if all 323 million of us Americans bought like this? We could change the world.