zen habits : breathe

Gratitude to Cure the Impulse to Buy More Stuff

By Leo Babauta

It’s funny that two days with such opposing spirits come back-to-back in our calendars here in the U.S.: Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

One is about being thankful for what you have, and the other is about getting more of what you don’t have. They aren’t aligned at all.

The good news is that we can use our thankfulness to overcome the urges to buy a lot of stuff — these urges being created in us by the corporations and purveyors of consumerism. We don’t have to listen to their messages of needing more things at discount (as if spending our money or getting into debt is “saving” money) or needing to buy things for our loved ones to show our love for them.

We can counter these messages with gratitude:

  1. I’m grateful for what I already have, for the life I’m already living … and so I don’t need more. I can save much more by just not buying anything, and finding joy and contentedness in what I already have.
  2. We can show our love for people not by buying them stuff, but by showing our gratitude for them being in our lives: sending them thoughtful letters or notes, giving hugs, spending time with them, playing games indoors and out with them.

We will get the impulse to buy more, but that doesn’t mean we need to follow the impulses. We can recognize the more rapid beating of our hearts when we begin to consider a shopping purchase, the excitement that comes from imagining a future with these purchases in our lives. Imagining a future happiness gets us excited!

Instead, we can calm these heart flutters by refocusing our attention on the present. Turn your attention to what’s in front of you, right now, and realize how amazing it is that you have all of this in your life. Turn your attention to the people in your life, near and far, and find gratitude for their presence in your heart. Turn to all the fortune you have, materially and monetarily and in spirit, and be grateful it’s there. Be grateful for the opportunity to live life, for the joy that you can find in every moment, for the good that’s inside of you right now.

These are what can bring us joy, not future purchases. This moment is all we need, and it is an opportunity for thundrous gratitude.

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