Tuesday, April 15, 2014

*My Confessions as a Shopaholic*

I'm not the type of addict that is continually buying anything and everything, but I do have certain vices and I do behave like an addict when I'm ready for my fix. I'm a sporadic addict. This isn't a real thing, in fact, an addiction is an addiction, mine just seems to come in waves. The truth is, just like Diet Coke, chocolate, and sports, I'm addicted to shopping. The first steps are of course realization and acknowledgement. I know it's hit me before, but this time it really hit me.  

I was engaging in a little Spring cleaning (and by little, I mean a complete purging of all the crap that has accumulated in my room over the last semester) and it became very clear to me as I was noticing a trend: a closet full of clothes, bottles and bottles of perfume, a vanity full of makeup, a pile of shoes in front of my shoe stands because there are too many to fit, stacks of books in front of the book shelf because there are too many of THOSE to fit, columns and columns of CD cases, and tons and TONS of movies/tv seasons. When did this happen? When did I become addicted to shopping? 

I immediately thought of Confessions of a Shopaholic, the book series by Sophie Kinsella and the movie starring Isla Fisher, and I realized I felt just like she did. Rebecca Bloomwood has to be one of the most relatable characters, ever.

 "Retail therapy" is not a new idea, I mean come on, how many times have we heard women use this term? (I'm not excluding that guys can't be shopaholics, but I'm sticking to the gals for this one) Is there merit behind the feeling that you get when you spend money? What happens in our brain that makes us feel that way? Does it have emotional ramifications? These are questions that first popped into my head. I know, I know, but as a psych major, I can't help it. Psychology is my life, you guys. 

I realized that I had been making excuses for a while. I need those sandals because I don't have any that color! I need them. I also need ones in black and I'll take those red strappy ones too. I realized that sometimes I wanted to shop, but not because I wanted anything specific, but because I wanted to spend money. It didn't matter what it was on, I had money and by golly, I wanted to spend it! I also realized that it was the feeling I got when I shopped that I liked so much, okay and the actual stuff too, but I really enjoyed the feeling of spending money! 

It seems like when you have extra money and you're not used to it, you just feel the need to SPEND IT. I'm actually a saver, but I didn't used to be-I was always over-spending and racking up debt. But for the last couple years, I've been an excellent saver and budget-er. But lately those good habits and good behaviors have gone out the window. I tried to keep walking, tried to ignore the sale signs and the enticing new clothes and purses and shoes...but to no avail. I went into a straight spending frenzy. And a beast came out.

I know I'm not alone. I know there are many women out there who feel the same way about shopping as I do and who suffer from the need to do it, just like me. But I LIKE to do it. I might feel guilty after I spend money on myself because I could've saved even more that month, but I NEVER regret the products that money buys! I think of Carrie Bradshaw when she says:

 The truth is that I love all these things! I love shoes, purses, clothes, perfume, music and movies. I LOVE how they make me feel and I feel like they're apart of ME! Shopping makes me HAPPY. At first, I couldn't explain it. It made me feel so materialistic and shallow. Until I started doing research into the psychology behind it... Turns out there's physiological reasons WHY shopping makes feel so good!

In an article written by Dan Tynan and published in Women's Health magazine in 2008, he suggests that it's actually good for your mental and physical health. "It releases mood-lifting endorphins, boosts your immune system, keeps your brain nimble and even fulfills basic social needs." Physiologically, it actually releases these feel-good chemicals into your blood, which then sends signals (neurotransmitters) to your brain that tells you that you're happy. Nancy Irwin, a Doctor of Psychology, suggests that those endorphins can significantly boost your mood. No wonder it's an addicting habit, it's hard NOT to feel the urge to shop when your brain knows it's going to deliver those feelings.

A paper published by researchers from Brunel University in the UK found that shopping is linked with an increase in activity in the part of your brain linked with pleasure and positivity (left prefrontal cortex), as well as increased levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that's released when we experience joy or gratification. And in a study done by Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and MIT, when shoppers saw pictures of something that they wanted to buy, dopamine flooded into the brain's reward center (nucleus accumbens). So there are real biological processes going on here! I'm not gonna lie, that made me feel so much better. 

Not that it makes being a shopaholic okay, it just helps me to understand what is going on in my brain when I'm doing it. The stimulation of endorphins and dopamine into your system makes you feel good, it boosts your mood and provides that "high" that most of us look for when we feel blue. Some find it running, others find it shopping. It CAN be a good thing, but if we let it get out of hand, it can be a very awful thing. 

You see, when you realize how much you've actually spent, those little endorphins and dopamine monsters are nowhere to be found. So while it felt great walking out of the store, bags in tow, it doesn't always last. But Becky Bloomwood was onto something when she tells Luke Brandon that the "world gets better" when we shop, because it really, really does. At least, it feels that way. And sometimes that's all we have. That's it. Those 60 minutes of shopping bliss we experience before we head back into the harsh and cruel world. Life doesn't always (or almost never!) go according to our plans, things happen or don't happen, we lose jobs, people, and opportunities. Our hearts break and because life has to go on, we have to struggle to quickly put ourselves back together, because we have jobs and school and things to do! We can't stop time to slowly and gently fit the puzzle pieces back together, we have to pick them up and fashion it together on the run! 

So while shopping isn't the greatest bad habit, it's definitely not the worst of them. Sometimes after I beat myself up about it, I just remind myself that it could be worse. I'm not making excuses. I am working on it and getting better, but sometimes we're so CRITICAL of ourselves, we have to give ourselves a break! And instead of saying "NO SHOPPING AT ALL", I've created a budget that has all my bills paid, money into savings, and then the rest is for play. Because while I may be a recovering Shopaholic, I can't quite cold turkey. 

Plus, you've gotta have a little bit of fun, RIGHT?!


Buy the Shopaholic series here:

No comments:

Post a Comment