How does consumerism negatively impact our mental health?

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By Emily Lidgard, English Literature, Second Year

The Croft Magazine // Black Friday pulled at our purse strings this week, as it does every year on the 26th. With the alluring deals, many of us enjoyed a mini shopping spree this Friday. However, does this consumer mindset negatively impact our mental health?

The average modern-day consumer is subject to five thousand advertisements per day. That’s thousands upon thousands of glossy, demanding messages imposed onto you from glimpses of eye-catching colourful billboards, to covert social media posts; we can scarcely escape them, from our own homes, to our phones. We are constantly surrounded by the message: "SALE SALE SALE"

It is not only the advertisements to blame, but our own increasing need for new things. We accumulate and wish for an inexhaustible list of commodities. We are insatiable, constantly looking forward to the next new thing.

We are insatiable, constantly looking forward to the next new thing. | Unsplash / Tim Holder

Why exactly do we enjoy shopping? We can look to our brains’ responses to understand the essence of shopping’s exhilaration. Even just considering purchasing a new item causes neurotransmitters to release feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins, which become even stronger when we buying a new product. Though this effect sounds positive initially, you can develop a actually become used to this effect. Resulting in a need to buy more and more things. It is no longer if you need the things your buying, but an intense want for them instead.

The issues with consumerism aren’t just limited to its physical effects but negatively harms our mental health through a number of other ways. A self-care boom swept the UK during lockdown, as it allowed us time to focus on ourselves. However, what started as a way to help mental health, may be beginning to hinder it. Self-care has been commercialised and bastardised by companies riding on this rising popularity. The market is so oversaturated, and it has become more about buying and trying the next new thing, then truly finding what works for you. Yet, the luxury moisturiser or sparkly bath bomb will always be ultimately unfulfilling, particularly without the mental determination.

Equally as detrimental as our compulsion to shop is the way in which we are convinced to shop. For women, in particular, the pressure to become the ‘IT’ girl is overwhelming. We are sold the cures to insecurities that the companies’ manufacture.

It has become more about buying and trying the next new thing, then truly finding what works for you | Epigram / Emily Fromant

These cycles and trends of fashion and innovation trap us in an endless cycle of wanting and buying and discarding. This is only becoming more insidious as marketers gain more information about you and advertisements become more targeted. Disturbing reports of advertisements targeting traumatic even range from women who have miscarried being shown pregnancy and baby-related content to those who suffer from eating disorders being shown dieting related content. Moreover, they actually target their advertisements to encourage self-consciousness. An internal report from Facebook disclosed that the company knows when its younger users are feeling emotions such as ‘insecure’, ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘useless’. When considered with testaments from women who have been shown adverts to prevent menopause or fertility when they reach the relevant age, advertising seems to work to reinforce societal pressures when we are at our lowest.

Opinion | Black Friday: The crux of consumerism

The sustainable gift guide

So, how can I stop myself from participating in overconsumption and feel better about myself? While it may seem like a difficult task at first, one helpful method is to read up on movements such as zero waste and conscious consumption. It’s useful to ask yourself questions about why you are buying something and how much you really want it. If you find yourself still yearning after reflecting on your purchasing habits, you could consider purchasing second-hand items to reduce the environmental impact. Although consumerism is commonplace and widespread, in doing as much as we can to limit overconsumption, we practice true self-care and look after our mental health.

Featured Image: Epigram / Emily Fromant


Have you felt shopping can be addictive? Let us know!

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