March 24, 2017

Happy To Not Buy Anything

My Not Purchasing Process - "I don't need it, and feel better without it."

Spending money can trigger a rush of happy chemicals in the brain yielding a high that has been compared to that after taking cocaine or crystal meth. For most people shopping provides a boost of brain juices and a warm fuzzy feeling results. What about the opposite?

Can not shopping give the same kind of boost of happiness as the joy of unbridled acquisition?

Psychologists and neuromarketing specialists have discovered more about the workings of the brain in the past two decades than the rest of history combined. Much of it has been used against us. New discoveries have aided our health, but have also been used to manipulate our spending habits.

Research has shown that the neurotransmitters such as dopamine are released when people shop. Can not buying anything achieve the same result? Unsurprisingly, I don't think any research has been done in this area, except perhaps my own personal data collection.

What I have found out is hardly new or original. Not buying things you don't need does lead to happy chemicals in the brain. Many visitors to this blog know this little secret.

One reader here commented,

"Its a strange feeling that not spending makes me feel more liberated." Or another shares the realization that, "the deeper I get into this, the less I need anything."

Another reader admits,

"As soon as I quit [needless shopping] I started finding myself focusing on all the wonderful things I already have, and what a blessing it is."  

Erin posted while not shopping for Christmas, and said, 

"I have not set foot in one store in the past few months and it is awesome to sit back and need to feel pressure or strain over "having" to buy."

These do not sound like unhappy people to me.

Dopamine is released when we approach a goal. That could be as we approach the cash register with a giant wide screen plasma internet-ready television balanced on a shopping cart, or it could be meeting a personal goal of shopping less and enjoying life more.

One of the best ways to restore low endorphin levels is to live a simple life. In a slower world with more time it is easier to meet the conditions required for the natural production of happy brain neurotransmitters.

When we have the time to notice the beauty around us, we don't have to turn to unhealthy methods for eliciting happy chemicals in our brains. Like consumerism.

We can be happy and content not buying anything.


  1. When you have a high, a low follows. I think our not buying anything happiness is steadier.

    1. Annie,

      I agree. The more you engage in consumerism, the more you need to engage in consumerism to maintain the artificial high.

      Simple Living: not new, or improved. Still tastes better, and a proven superior source of steady happiness and contentment.

  2. Anonymous3/26/2017

    I wonder if our separation from nature explains the need to shop? I don't know the science behind it, but sitting in, or working in a garden makes you feel great, as does walking in a forest or even just watching your dog run in the park. Maybe most people have lost this means of being happy and therefore use shopping as a substitute?



    1. Madeleine,

      I am sure shopping has become a substitute, and not a very good one at that. It hurts me to hear that some people have NEVER experienced deep nature. You cannot save something you don't love, and you can't love something you don't know.

      If only everyone could see and experience the beauty for themselves to see what we are losing. Many are scrambling for survival - not the best conditions for building an awareness of how we belong to the Earth, not the other way around.

  3. You mention being content in the last line of your post, I think this is a very important point. I am not sure which came first, did I ease up consumption and simplify because I was content or did I become content because I stopped always looking for more to consume? Either way the happiness of contentment seems to be a longer lasting and deeper happiness than the happiness of consumption. The things that contribute to my contentment now are mostly rather simple and are mostly activities, relationships or producing something.

    1. Ed,

      Chicken - egg, and an interesting question to ponder. Either way, however one arrives at simplicity, it is a good thing. There is a lack of happiness and contentment in society these days. Alternative ways of being are needed, and living more simply is a great way to go, as you have discovered.

  4. Perhaps in an effort to escape the fact that we are just advanced primates and very much a part of nature, we feel that we must immerse ourselves in this alternate universe of man made stuff. That proves we are more than just animals, right? It's pure ego to believe that we are immortal in some personal way, that we are superior to the rest of nature. If we live in this unconnected, plastic, toxic soup, we have created our own world. We are masters of our universe.

    How liberating to wake from that terrible world and see where we really belong!

    1. Marla,

      Look where elevating ourselves right out of our place in nature has gotten us. Many use the bible to explain our "ownership" and exploitation of everything around us. But what if that interpretation is wrong?

      "But what does “dominion” really mean? It is traditionally interpreted as “to subdue” or “to rule over.” When taken to an extreme, it can include oppression and exploitation. However, an exploited planet Earth does not leave humanity richer. Perhaps there is a deeper, more sustainable aspect of dominion that includes a sense of service to one’s fellow creatures and even a compulsion to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

      Isn’t it possible that in its highest form, dominion includes responsible governance and stewardship, which is defined as an “individual’s responsibility to manage his life and property with proper regard to the rights of others”?"


  5. I no longer practice any religion, but grew up in the christian tradition. It would certainly mean stewardship and this article pointed that out nicely. Was it translated incorrectly (as often happened) or was it twisted to reflect the beliefs of the greedy on purpose? Who knows......


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