Can shopping buy happiness? The answer may surprise you!

Can shopping buy happiness? The answer may surprise you!

Generally speaking, I’m a big believer in buying experiences rather than things. For me, travel and adventure is where much of my spare money goes. As the founder of a small, retail-based social enterprise, I probably shouldn’t say this. But it’s true.

Now, having said this, I still shop - we all do. And when I do buy things (aside from life essentials like groceries - and wine) I am one of those people that gets a bit of a buzz out of it.

Shopping has been shown to have positive emotional effects on some people, and, in moderation, regular shopping has even been linked to longer life spans. So while I am increasingly reading about the negatives of shopping, particularly in the context of mindfulness, zero waste living and minimalism, it got me thinking about the link between shopping and happiness.

Turns out there is anecdotal evidence to support both the notion that shopping makes you happier, and that it makes you sadder. Go figure. However, the one thing that comes up time and again is that once a person undertakes the action of shopping, the ‘high’ or rush that accompanies it tends to be short lived and fades pretty quickly after the initial purchase.

But what if there was a way to prolong that happy feeling post-shop? I think I’ve found the answer and it comes in the form of ethical shopping.

Think about it. You decide you need a new cushion (yes, I know, I’m going to be cheeky and use Needs More Cushions as an example, but you’ll see why a couple of paragraphs down). You have a look online, see a few that take your fancy and will work amazingly well on your sofa.

Scenario 1: You buy a cushion from a generic homewares store. It’s nice, the quality is good, it matches your decor and finishes off the sofa beautifully. You style it, step back to admire your impeccable design taste and wait for the compliments to roll in from your significant other (they won’t - he’ll either not notice or complain that you bought yet another cushion. Fact.). Who cares - you love it. After a few days and weeks pass however, you don’t really notice the cushion any more - it’s there, it still looks good, but the spark you once had for it is gone. Goodbye shopping-related fuzzy feelings. 

Scenario 2: You buy a cushion from an ethical retailer, like NMC. It’s nice, the quality is good, it matches your decor and finishes off the sofa beautifully. You style it, step back to admire your impeccable design taste and wait for the compliments to roll in from your significant other (they still don’t…). All sounds familiar? Except here are all the other things that happen with this cushion that will keep you smiling for far longer:

  • When you unwrap the cushion, you read that it was sewn by a former refugee called Muna, originally from Syria, who is now supporting her family in building a new life in New Zealand. You know that your purchase has helped her personally and that feels pretty darn good.
  • You also read that the fabric the cushion is made from was hand-dyed and hand-woven by skilled artisans in a part of the world you know little about. You know that your purchase has helped to support their craft and their livelihood which also feels amazing.
  • You read the heartfelt, hand-written thank you note from the founder of the business which reminds you that you’ve helped make the world just a little bit better. Yes you! That feels awesome too.
And a few days and weeks later, you look at the cushion sitting on your sofa and you remember where it came from, who made it and the difference your purchase made to so many people. It still looks good, and the spark you once had from it is reignited once more. Those happy feelings come back again and again.

I know I’ve been a bit naughty using my own biz to make a point, but the same logic applies to any kind of ethical shopping. I think homewares amplify the happy feelings a little more however, since they are on display every day in a way that clothes aren’t. And who wouldn’t want to walk through their home every day and be reminded that the simple act of ethical shopping brought so much joy to so many people?

That's a whole lot of happy you just don’t get from the high street....

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