Can shopping cause depression? (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer,
Dr. Tim Kasser, psychologist and author, said in a recent interview about Black Friday, that buying stuff doesn't make people happier, and may make them unhappy, according to the research.
In response to this writer's follow-up question, what does make people happy? Kasser talked about three things:
- "Self-acceptance (the goal of following one's own interests, liking one's self, etc.),
- "Affiliation (having close interpersonal relationships with family, friends, lovers, etc.) and
- "Community feeling (Trying to help the broader world (not just one's in-group) be a better place).
"Research shows that when people pursue these... goals, they...are more likely to be happy, satisfied with life, self-actualized and vital, and less likely to be depressed, anxious and narcissistic.
Kasser continued, "Our research suggests that in opposition to the materialistic, extrinsic values are the "intrinsic" values [listed above.] We call these intrinsic because our theoretical perspective suggests that they are intrinsically satisfying to pursue and generally do a better job of satisfying psychological needs all people need to have satisfied for well-being to occur."
Many people feel more comfortable in the world of extrinsic values like consumerism. Shopping and dealing with daily tasks seem easier but they take people away from discovering and pursuing their own talents and interests, and reaching out to others or participating in meaningful causes. Self-worth may plummet as a result, and it just gets easier to do what society tells people to do - go shopping.
Exposure to 24/7 advertising and things like the hotly anticipated Black Friday ads encourage people to go shopping to fill the emotional hole. They imply that happiness and self-esteem equals having stuff. But the promises made by advertisements never prove true.
Post-Christmas let-down is a perfect example of this. People may have spent the entire season focused on the material aspect of Christmas, rather than experiencing the spiritual high of the season, which is long-lasting. Purchasing and participating in the Black Friday ritual may provide a temporary high, but it may only leave people feeling depressed and wanting more.