Health

Four ways to cure loneliness that don't involve shopping

If your go-to for sadness, loneliness or anxiety is shopping, find out why you're actually doing more damage, and what you should do instead.

Hiking in Canada

Feeling lonely? Get outside. (Getty Images)

It’s a pretty common equation: bad day + retail therapy = overspending + even more sour mood + regret. This, we know. But a recent study shines even more light on exactly why we shop when we feel bad, and what impact it has on us. Dubbed the “loneliness loop” by economists, new research demonstrates that sadness makes us shop and shopping makes us sad. Classic vicious cycle.

“Loneliness can make us materialistic,” writes Derek Thompson in the Atlantic. “Feeling isolated makes us anxious, which makes us less likely to get up the energy to make and maintain connections that would make us feel less alone. So, in the hunt for immediate pleasure, some people turn to shopping. But medicating our loneliness at the mall can make us lonelier, over time, as shoppers begin to learn that it is challenging to form a meaningful relationship with a wristwatch or brag about one’s children to a porcelain vase.”

We’ve all needed a pick-me-up from time to time, and there’s a better way to bring a little happiness into your life than simply picking up your credit card and hitting the mall.

Here are four alternate ways to boost your mood, all based on the science of what makes us happy:

1. Get outside: Getting even a small dose of the natural world – hiking, taking the dog for a walk in the park, stopping to smell the roses – can make us feel happier.

2. Do something nice: Get your mind off your own worries, make someone else’s day and boost your mood all at the same time.

3. Plan a trip: Not only will you get a boost from the anticipation that comes from planning a trip, but studies have shown that the further you travel from home, the happier you might feel. So think of some far flung place you’ve always been curious about and start planning — but make sure you can afford it first!

4. Spend time with friends and family: Before you reach into your wallet to chase away the rain clouds over your head, consider calling up your father or sister and asking them if you can make them lunch or meet them for coffee.

Tell us, what do you do, aside from shopping, that helps you feel less lonely?