How I learned to shop mindfully

How I learned to shop mindfully

Today I made a conscious effort to shop mindfully.

I have been contemplating whether or not I should get a scanner for the last 3 weeks to make sure that it is something I genuinely think will improve my life and is not just an impulse purchase. I’m starting to do that with everything now.  Before running straight to the shop the minute I get an idea, I wait. If I’m still thinking about something three weeks after coming across it, then I will put serious thought into whether or not I bring it into my life – weigh up pros and cons and then make a decision with my head and my heart rather than my little monkey-brain going ‘OOH! SHINY!!! GIMME!!! GIMME NOW!!’ and buying it before I even really know what’s going on.

I bought a Brother DS-620 scanner this morning, which I picked up from the ‘megastore’ supermarket near my house. The shop has a homewares section. I’m a sucker for clothes and homewares. When I walk past a homewares shop I apparently have the same expression on my face as a Labrador when someone is walking by with food.

Today I thought I would try a psychology experiment with myself:

I would go into the homewares section – let my monkey-brain loose on all the shiny pretty things, and actually monitor myself – how I behave around things, what I think when I encounter something I like, what sets off my impulses etc. I had a shopping list of a few things I needed: Black beans, avocados, cucumber, kitchen cleaner, pak choi, mushrooms, scanner. And I would stick to that bloody list if it killed me.

It was an interesting experience.

My ‘dispassionate observer’ brain was having a real job pulling my ‘monkey brain’ away from interesting things. For some reason, I felt the need to touch everything. I couldn’t just look at something – I had to pick it up and touch it. If it was a smelly thing like a candle or a pot of flowers, I would smell it.

I'd feel excited by all the possibilities the shiny thing had. And while it was in my hands, I would frantically be trying to justify why it needed it. Click To Tweet

My ‘dispassionate observer’ was having to be a parent, forcing things out of my monkey-brain’s sticky little hands and putting them back on the shelf while it threw a tantrum trying to justify why it needed some (for example) scented room oil. No word of a lie, this is how my inner-dialogue basically went:

MB: ooh! room oil! let’s smell it!… this one’s nice.. *HINT*
DO: no. you don’t need room oil.
MB: but it’s better for you than candles.
DO: I don’t care, you hardly ever burn candles anyway
MB: I had this room oil, I might
DO: ‘might’ isn’t good enough. You don’t even have a oil burning thing!
MB: True….but we could get one – I’m sure they’ll have a really nice one in the next aisle – like, something white and simple and ceramic that fits in with this whole ‘minimalist’ thing you’re doing..
DO: wtf? no! You do not need either of those things
MB: But it’s half price!!
DO: I don’t care! put it back!

The same thing happened over and over with the most random things I came across during my shop.

I was suddenly hyper-aware of all the marketing messages screaming at me from the shelves


I genuinely had no idea how many things would set my monkey brain off. I forced myself to walk up and down every aisle of the shop, and just observe quietly how my brain went running after everything – even the most random things- like a hyper dog after a squirrel. By the time I got to the checkout, I was mentally exhausted.

When I left home, I was feeling good and lighter after having dropped off two more bags of stuff at the charity shop on my way to the supermarket, and was excited by the prospect of minimalising my paper and making myself some healthy thai boat-noodle soup packed with veggies and ginger, and just the experience of cooking something for myself (I love cooking). By the time I got home I felt so drained I could only be bothered to eat half an avocado and a packet of noodles.

But I had stuck to my shopping list.

I’m now more aware than ever just how out of control my monkey-brain is, how easy it is to get carried away with impulse-buying and how overwhelming the visual noise is of marketing an almost every shop.

A written-down shopping list helped to cut through some of the noise and remind me of what was important. I know it’s only a baby step towards eliminating the all the noise and impulse buys, but it’s still a step.

I think very carefully about what I bring into my life now, rather than making impulse purchases.  As you can tell from my post, but it wasn’t always like this, and I’m still learning.

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