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Addictions – Retail Therapy

We’ve discussed the ventral striatum in this blog before. It’s a component of the brain involved in processing rewards in the brain. When you do something that makes you feel good, it helps to release a positive neurotransmitter such as dopamine.

Scientists believe that this rewards mechanism served an evolutionary purpose in that it helped reward people for trying and exploring the unknown. When the world was full of obvious harm, such a feature was dangerous, but it also helped to develop the drive to explore that helps to define humanity. However, in a modern world, where the wildest place many of us explore is the local mall, such instincts cause problems for us.

Marketing and sales build up products so they take on grand proportions. New and novel, these products play on that ancient brain response, triggering a positive sensation. Some indications link this response to stress relief, which can be addicting in itself depending on your personality type.

Our defense against this is the conscious brain. If something makes you feel good, ask why? Are you buying because of novelty? The tragic part of novelty is that it does resemble drugs. Eventually you build up a resistance, and you require more and different types to break through that resistance. That new novelty often costs more and more to achieve.

Don’t buy for novelty, buy for value and true pleasure, the results last much longer.

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2 Responses to “Addictions – Retail Therapy”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been on a no-retail diet for financial reasons lately, and while I was never much of a shopper, I found myself craving it the other day. I went to a thrift store and picked things up, then put them back. (I did walk out with one book.) It helped ease the craving some, but I did feel a yearning to be able to go to the mall and pick out some bright shiny new toy.

  2. Alex says:

    It really is amazing how much our personal satisfaction has been linked to the concept of purchasing new things. Thrift stores are a great place for shopping sprees. You can spend $20 there and feel like you got a lot, while $20 doesn’t go too far normally.

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