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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tamara C. Hill

Did you ever think you'd read... Mindfulness and Consumerism in the same title??

Mindful shopping. How to overcome consumerism and be mindful when it comes to purchases.

Mindfulness and Shopping has been a topic of conversation for many people as the insight into economical and ecological convergence has grown. People are now becoming aware that what we buy has an impact on the environment.

But shopping also has an impact on us, as the consumers. The first thing that came up for me when i googled "mindful consumerism" was ways in which companies could market to people with various psychological techniques. And it is out there, tons of information as to how corporations can take advantage of our psyche in order to get us to spend more. And the fact is, we will indeed spend more with these psychological mechanisms of marketing.

Like i always say, awareness is our greatest tool. If you start becoming aware of what is happening behind spending, it can possible change the way you approach spending.

The topic of psychology and marketing is vast - with several psychological phenomenon happening at once when we make purchases. There is also the verb of mindful shopping and intervention or practice. In addition, a third component of mindful consumerism that has to do with external factors of impact. Since there is so much to cover, i plan to write several posts on "mindful consumerism" to begin sharing some of the scientific facts behind shopping, ways in which to practice being mindful when shopping while also sharing some great small business, artists and nonprofits that i come across that really embrace these mindful values.

Some of the psychological phenomenon behind purchasing:

1.) Release of the feel good chemical, dopamine.

In scientific research studies with lab mice, researchers were able to get an animal to press a lever again and again for receiving various rewards - and dopamine has been found to be the crucial ingredient to help with reinforcing these lever pressing behaviors. When applying similar research to human subjects, scientist have found that dopamine acts the same in humans.

When we receive a reward, something that we like - such as buying a new pair of shoes - dopamine is released. This neurotransmitter is released into the areas of the brain that send the message "this feels good" and thus behaviors that release dopamine are then reinforced. People will most likely want to do it again and again because it feels good.

If you ever heard the term "shopping therapy," this release of dopamine is the scientific basis as to why shopping can sometimes feel "therapeutic."

A few important things to note: one being that these shopping behaviors do not become problematic for other areas of your life - for example cutting into budgets for staples like food and shelter or making purchases that contradict your values of living. It is also important to not to rely solely on shopping as a way to feel better. When we have multiple ways to cope, it allows us more flexibility to face the challenges we face in life.

2.) The marketing also plays on that emotional response.

Experts say that marketers actually play on consumers’ subconscious by toying with emotions, pitting our own emotions against us. On top of the pseudo-urgency ads create, advertisements are designed to edge thinking out of the equation. As a result, consumers act hastily, without thinking, to quickly resolve whatever emotional response is plaguing them at the time.

Research out of the University of Southern California (USC) shows that 31 percent of successful advertising campaigns appeal to emotions rather than rationality. Ads and stimulation are aimed at triggering a purely emotional response. In an analysis of more than 21 thousand banner ads, StopAd foundation uncovered that 41.6% used strong, emotional language like “Warning,” “Save,” and “Stop.” The most effective advertisements were ones that appeal to emotion.

Now to practice being mindful about shopping:

Given what was just discussed about the release of dopamine and the play of marketing on emotions, one of the best practices is to

1.) slow down - before any spending take a step back. Ask yourself a few questions.

2.) ask yourself, "do i need this or do i want this?" - the famous question that my mother always asked me, but it comes in handy in this case... Particularly when knowing that marketing will at times play on our emotional states.

3.) why am i buying this item? are there other ways to feel good? - it is best to have multiple things, activities and relationships that allow us to feel good and release dopamine. If we rely solely on spending or making purchases for rewarding ourselves, it hinders our overall flexibility to respond to challenge.


Stay in touch because there are more mindful consumerism posts coming! And if you try this practice out, comment below, i would love to hear your experience.

be well,


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