Ahh, consumerism. Black Friday may have passed, but the shopping season has only just begun! Department stores everywhere are extending their hours with their competitive prices and an influx of Holiday goodies. But how much of this stuff do we actually need? Do we really need the same sweater in 5 different colors? Could we really live without the newest Apple product? Sure, there is nothing wrong with treating yourself or buying your niece her favorite doll. But, sometimes consumerism can take a negative toll on our mental health. Our guest this week seems to think so as well.
We interviewed our good friend, Sara Sullivan. Sara is a long time practitioner of essential living, a yoga instructor, and more recently, a potter/artist. She has a passion to make every breath, dollar, and action have a purpose and to exist intentionally. So we talked to Sara about Black Friday shopping, consumerism, the importance of mindfulness, and how to live an essential life.
Too often we buy things we don’t need when the things we already own work just as well! How many times have we gone to Wal-Mart to buy something just because we didn’t feel like looking in the pantry for it? Sara teaches us how to slow down and actually pay attention to our surroundings. Do we really need the newest iPhone if the one we already use operates just as well? I think it all comes down to evaluation. When we reflect on why our society feeds on consumption, we are able to understand our culture. When we buy things just to be buying things, it always seems as if we never have enough. We are never truly content with our current resources.
During the episode, we talked about how consumerism can have a negative effect on our mental health. When we are constantly trying to buy things, we aren’t allowing ourselves to simply be “bored”. We aren’t able to truly live in the moment. It seems like the Holidays bring this idea that if we have the latest gadgets and the newest clothes, our lives will be fulfilled. But this creates a mindset of constantly living in the future, which can cause anxiety and even depression. When we buy things without conviction, we end up trying to please other people. We try to make ourselves seem more popular because we have the biggest televisions or the most expensive shoes. But when will it ever be enough? How can we find gratitude in the things we already have?
Well, according to Sara, the best way is to first re-evaluate where your priorities are. There isn’t a problem with shopping and buying new things. But when we focus all of our attention on material things, we aren’t able to process our emotions and the world around us. Sara believes that the best way to avoid overconsumption is to have a purpose for all things. Let there be a true conviction to what you allow in your life. Sure, this can apply to healthier choices for food and drinking more water.
But, this can also apply to the things you consume on a financial level. There is no reason to max out your credit card for something that isn’t going to be worn or played with more than once. Instead, set goals for yourself. Decide today that if you’re going to go shop, try buying something local to help support someone else. Instead of buying a bunch of mediocre gifts that won’t be thought about after the newness wears off, try buying something useful that will everyone on your guest list will truly thank you for. Maybe you could even donate your kids’ old toys they don’t play with before buying them new ones. There are countless ways to limit our overconsumption that allow us to pay attention to the more essential things in life.