If you're feeling unhappy, grumpy, upset, shocked, or in a funk, don't go shopping. In fact, shopping should be your last resort when you get bad news, a day isn't going your way, or you feel like crawling back in bed. Go for a walk, go to a movie, go for a long drive - just don't go to the mall. Why? It won't work.
Research shows that we're collectively just as happy as we were in 1972. But, over those last 40 years, our spending has increased by 96%, meaning we're spending a lot more money and not getting any happier. We Americans fork over about $1.2 trillion a year on stuff we don't need.
If you want to be happy, don't go shopping.
We're happiest when we accomplish something, like achieving a goal we set for ourselves. I'm willing to bet you remember the feeling you had when you dropped those 10 pounds, finally got that promotion at work, or launched your new side project. I'm also willing to bet you don't remember everything you bought that time you went to Target six months ago.
Stuff rarely creates memories. People and experiences do. And memories serve as a nice reserve emotional currency for us to draw down on when we feel sad, lonely, upset, or angry.
That's why, if you want to be happier, instead of going shopping, do these 10 things instead:
- Get active. Go for a walk. Run, even. Ride a bike, hike around a lake, or play on a playground.
- Cook. You still don't have to go to the store for this since most of us have a month's worth of food in our pantry. Break out a recipe book (or find one online) and start stirring.
- Read. Dive into a great book. Read blogs, old letters you've received, or magazines. There are places called libraries that are full of free things to read.
- Chat with a friend. Send some funny text messages back and forth or dial up your best friend for a nice chat. They should know you well enough to re-center you.
- Plan a trip. Don't break out the credit card and start putting down payments on it, but imagine where you could go if you could go anywhere. Research a new country and find local hot-spots.
- Watch that one movie that makes you laugh every time.
- Go to sleep. There's nothing wrong with coming home from a long day at work, changing into your pajamas by 7 p.m., eating cereal, and going to sleep.
- Help someone. Go volunteer at a local nonprofit organization. It clearly doesn't cost you anything and you may be pleasantly surprised to see how much you get out of the experience. Helping others releases some powerful endorphins.
- Take pictures. Grab a friend or two, go somewhere cool and break out the camera. Take pictures of yourself jumping, acting silly, or trying to be models. Find the good ones and print them out so you can always - at a glance - remember the fun.
- Write. Get the words out. Use a journal, the back of a napkin, a chalkboard, or your laptop. Write about your feelings, make up a short story, or pen a letter to yourself.
Each of these activities provides focus, which is what you need when you're not feeling your best. Focus can take your mind off of the temporary pain or depression at hand. Then, you won't be tempted to drive somewhere and end up at the outlet mall.
What would you add to this list?
When you're feeling down, what do you do so that you don't max our your credit cards?