Retail therapy: when you really have to buy something
I’m sure you’ve had one of those moments when you really had to have something. A new car, new phone, new TV, new jacket…there always seems to be something that you desire and must have. It doesn’t feel like a want — it feels like a need. What we are talking about here is retail therapy.
The problem is that, whether you are aware of it or not, you are putting your happiness on this object. At the time you may think, “I’m not doing that, I don’t care either way”, but I’m sure if the object was taken away you would find yourself disappointed.
It’s normal to want. The subconscious mind’s job is to perpetually come up with new things that we could use, need or have. That’s why when you get something new the shine often wears off quickly as you move onto the next thing in line.
In a way we can’t help it, especially when objects is flaunted in our faces all the time on billboards, TVs, the internet, shops and in other people’s lives. It’s easy to look at what you have and wish it was bigger, better or different, and to think it might impact your life positively if you had it. In addition, retail therapy is an accepted habit that people don’t take seriously.
Many people today get caught in this cycle yet they cannot afford the new things they are purchasing. They are buying on credit; never actually taking stock and realising that they are spending more than what they are earning (a common problem).
It’s easy to also become stuck into subconsciously thinking that maybe this new object will make you happy. Maybe if you get that new car it will make you happy. It’s not like you would consciously think that, but that’s often what happens in your brain unconsciously.
That’s why it is so hard to pass up that new dress, even when you know you don’t really “need” it. In that moment of excitement you have to have it, and somehow feel fulfilled, alive and exuberant with your purchase.
There’s nothing wrong with buying things but you don’t want to buy something thinking that, somehow, it will make you happy or improve your life in some critical way. This is what leads to disappointment as when you get that thing you thought you so desperately needed it doesn’t take long to start focusing on the next thing. Before long that once treasured item is forgotten at the back of the closet or replaced by something else more desirable. You then also lose gratitude for what you do have as your focus is on what you don’t have.
What follows is a never ending merry-go-round of unfulfilment and dissatisfaction. There is no fulfilment possible on this ride: it will always be the same and it will never end. What you need to do is get off that ride! As I said, it’s okay to buy things but make sure you spend your resources on what you really need and what you can afford.
Next time you buy something notice how you feel. You shouldn’t feel alive, amazing and excited. It shouldn’t be a main focus of your life. You should just feel glad and grateful.
There is a difference: if you just feel glad it means it can go either way and if for some reason it doesn’t work out, it won’t be a big deal. If you are finding you are disappointed then it’s a sign to look within to find the true cause of that disappointment.
Why not try the following exercise for a month. Every time you go to buy something, ask yourself:
- Do I need this?
- What happens if I don’t buy it?
- Is this retail therapy I am participating in?
Then, try doing the following:
- Put off buying the item for a day or two and see how you feel about it
- Notice if you have to have it or make excuses for needing it
- Let yourself feel disappointment about not making a purchase: at least you are then being honest
If you can find true happiness within, just the way things are right now with what you have right now, you have truly found the path to enlightenment. All the masters taught about the joy of not having possessions, going without and just having yourself, and they were right.
You can still have things! But don’t let your possessions be all that you are. Allow them to be bonus items you are grateful for — not part of what makes you happy and not retail therapy.
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