I used to love getting new clothes. Besides all the advertising that goes on to make us buy them I think I liked getting new clothes because I didn’t get much new stuff when I was younger. And so when I went through my teenage years and early adulthood I went shopping regularly, thinking that I was making up for all the times I didn’t get new stuff. I was working so I had money, and I specifically budgeted money to go shopping. I wasn’t spending more than I had but I was spending a significant chunk of my small income. It was exciting to get new stuff. It felt special, however only for a little while until the things became familiar too. I was also not using what I got because I wasn’t shopping for things that I needed but in order to make myself feel good.
This buy nothing month has made me think more wider and deeper about why we like getting new things. Obviously, there is the vast amount of marketing that we are exposed that makes us feel lacking to make us want more and more. However, that’s not just it. Recently, I have come across a new piece of information that shows that our brain is also to blame.
“When we see something new, we see it has a potential for rewarding us in some way. This potential that lies in new things motivates us to explore our environment for rewards. The brain learns that the stimulus, once familiar, has no reward associated with it and so it loses its potential. For this reason, only completely new objects activate the midbrain area and increase our levels of dopamine.” - Dr Duzel
Research has shown that our brain gets excited by new things and gives us some of that tasty, tasty dopamine when we acquire it. This is because we have evolved to like new things because they could potentially have some rewards attached to it. However, the caveat is that excitement only lasts if there is an actual reward to trying the new exciting thing. Sound familiar? If you have a cupboard full of things you never use now that sounded amazing when you brought them, it should.
So, what does this mean for those of us who are trying to buy less crap and still have our brains giving us that tasty, tasty dopamine? Well, it means that we need to look for long term benefits instead of fooling our brains with short term lies. This way our brain gets a fix of the novelty it craves and an actual reward that satiates us for the long term. For example,
IF YOU USE SHOPPING AS ENTERTAINMENT…
… get a library card.
Libraries aren’t just for books anymore, they have DVDs and CDs. If they don’t have what you are looking you can make a request. Libraries also run really interesting events. You can also request your library to invite speakers who you want to hear from. If you are in Melbourne, ask your library to contact me to come and speak for free.
… become a volunteer
If you pick your volunteering position just right you get to make an actual difference, meet lovely people, and learn about your community, which is not so easy these days. You’ll have to do some research on finding good place. I recommend going to university volunteer fairs they usually have wide selection of organisations to choose from.
… get a hobby.
Learn a language, learn how to draw, go hiking. Working on your hobby is a wonderful way to pass the time as you entertain yourself and improve your skill in one area. You can add a social element to it by joining clubs and meetups that match up with your interest. I know people who have joined choirs, theatres, and acting troupes.
IF YOU SHOP TO FEEL DISTRACTED/ OR RELAX…
Meditation is scientifically proven to be good for you. It helps you deal much better with stress, creativity, anxiety, focus, and as a result even your relationships. I have just started meditating seriously this year and I can see the improvements. I react to much better in stressful situation and my focus has improved vastly (although I still get incredibly angry when I’m hungry, which is why I need to meal plan because I will forget to eat if I am working on something interesting)
… get creative
When you create you lose that empty feeling that you may get from time to time. Figure out what stokes your creative fire. PRO TIP: Don’t let anyone make you believe that you are not creative. Everyone is creative. You just have to trust that is there and then embrace it.
IF YOU LIKE TO REINVENT YOURSELF WITH NEW CLOTHES…
… wear the clothes that rarely get worn
Often we forget how much we have. More often than that, we don’t let ourselves wear our favourite things because we are saving it for a special occasion. Unless we decide that every day is a special occasion, we will never wear those special stuff. I bet, that you have one or more of those feeling lonely in your closet.
… reinvent yourself by getting healthier and fitter
There is no better reinvention than to be actually glowing from the inside and feeling good. Dedicate time to eating better and being active, your brain will work so much better and you will actually have clarity. I had no idea what brain clarity was for good chunk of my teenage and adult life. I now know and I can feel it get foggy when I don’t take care of myself.
Pro Tip: Being active in the morning is the most excellent thing for the the brain and for the rest of the day
… reinvent yourself by learning new skills.
Go take that dancing class, singing lesson, drawing class, enrol yourself into online schools for something that you always wanted to. Small things with significant results like learning how to budget, learning to cook, and finding and exercise that you like can be done without cost and very quickly. Often when we want to reinvent ourselves it is because our current life isn’t fulfilling enough. Are you bored by your life? What do you truly need in your life. Once you figure that out you’ll never need to buy new crap to make yourself feel better.
If you like to buy new things because you think they are trendy or want them as status symbols, this is a sign that you believe that your value is determined by external things, and this is an issue. A car’s purpose is to get us from point A to B. Clothes keep you comfortable. A bag holds your stuff. They might be even extra nice but you don’t need brand name stuff and you don’t need to buy new ones when the old ones get boring. Being entertaining is not their function, and neither is making you feel valuable. Find out what makes you valuable so you don’t have to find value from brand names or compete with the Jones's.
NOW TO YOU
Do you want to find yourself searching for something new and better? Do you want to reinvent your life? Please share your ideas and thoughts with me.
Thank you for reading, supporting and sharing. It’s really rewarding for me to do this work for you.
With love and simplicity,