To Buy or Not To Buy

Why we overshop and how to stop.

Three Proven Strategies for Stopping Overshopping

Three proven ways to help you stop your overshopping behavior

Are the current economic conditions feeling scary to you? Are you having to rein in your buying and having difficulty doing it? The current economic crisis can serve as an extra motivator, a support to help you stop overshopping. Almost all of us need to think more seriously about our own buying behavior now. It's the time to be extra mindful.

Over the past twelve years, these strategies have proven extremely successful with overshoppers I've worked with. They represent a small but important part of the Stopping Overshopping Program, as outlined in my new book, To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop. If you have an overshopping problem, using these strategies faithfully will very likely bring about a change in your overshopping habits. Mindful awareness, rather than judgment , is the key to changing behavior. Even if you, yourself, are not a compulsive buyer, give these strategies a try.We can all benefit from pausing and thinking about why we are making a given purchase.

Proven Strategy #1: Identify your triggering emotions.

Shopping is an equal opportunity, all purpose mood changer. Overshopping is a problem common to people at all points on the income spectrum, from people on welfare to billionaires. Given the fact that consumption fuels our economy, our culture has seen fit to smile upon the problem, making the mindless and often self-destructive use of money practically a cultural imperative. While there are as many reasons to overshop as there are overshoppers, the desire to change your mood is one of the most common. Anger, sadness, loneliness, boredom, and excitement, to cite only a few emotions, can all lead to a shopping binge.
How do you use shopping to change your mood? In the left-hand column, are some common feelings that trigger overshopping. Think about your own overshopping patterns and in the blank line, list the triggering emotions that apply to you. There may be other triggering emotions that apply to you. If so, write them in.
Common Triggering Emotions My Own Triggering Emotions
Sad ________________
Depressed ________________
Hurt ________________
Bored ________________
Inadequate ________________
Needy ________________
Rejected ________________
Unattractive ________________
Anxious ________________
Doubtful ________________
Afraid ________________
Angry ________________
Frustrated ________________
Ashamed ________________
Guilty ________________
Other ________________

Proven Strategy #2: Discover your authentic needs.
You can never get enough of what you don't really need. Though it may offer temporary relief, overshopping cannot create enduring change in the feelings that underlie it; no physical goods can truly fill emotional holes. Happiness, despite the promise of the ads and the powerful pull of our consumer culture, cannot be the next purchase away, nor the next, nor the purchase after that; and to seek it by buying things is to mount an endless treadmill, where you huff and puff and barely stay in place. Do you really need that sixth pair of black pants or the newest digital camera or whatever it is you think will fill you up? What you really need is related to the mood that's precipitating the shopping binge. If you're angry, for example, and your shopping is a form of revenge, what you need is a healthy way to manage those feelings so you can let go of them. Retaliatory shopping won't do the job.

What are you really shopping for? Now that you've recognized some triggering feelings, you can begin to think about what authentic and important underlying needs relate to these feelings. If, for example, you're feeling anxious, your underlying need is for calm or relaxation or perhaps reassurance. If you're feeling guilty, you might need to accept yourself more, or to atone for some wrongdoing; or you might need forgiveness from someone. If you're feeling needy, you may want attention, or to be seen or known, or to feel confident, deserving, independent. In the left column below, write the feelings you identified above as your own personal overshopping triggers. In the right column, identify the authentic and important emotional needs that are for you connected to those feelings.

My Own Triggering Emotions Authentic Underlying Needs
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________
________________ _____________________________________

In my next post, we'll build on what you've discovered in this post and formulate a way to put this awareness into practice to help you stop overshopping. Take time with the exercise above and come back to it as insights arise.


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April Lane Benson, Ph.D., is the author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop. She specializes in the treatment of compulsive buying disorder.


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