5 Secrets of Happy People
Shopping AddictionFatal Flaw #2: You shop yourself into bankruptcy.
You deserve to have nice things -- but unfortunately treating yourself can lead to lively early-morning chats with bill collectors and a colorful credit report.
The ugly truth: "Impulse shopping is another way to mask negative feelings," explains Dana Lightman, PhD, a behavioral psychologist in Philadelphia. So, like emotional eaters who gorge on ice cream when they're down, chronic spenders try to numb feelings of boredom, depression, or inadequacy by filling up on stuff. With every shiny new purchase, splurge-aholics tell themselves: Well, okay, so I didn't solve that nagging problem today, but at least I cleaned out the shoe department at Nordstrom. Some people find it easier to decorate their lives in an effort to create the appearance, rather than the substance, of success. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with a little retail therapy, like the occasional lipstick or CD purchase. But if you're sinking into debt, regularly paying your bills late, and not achieving your financial goals, then it's a problem you literally can't afford.
The fix: Know yourself as well as you know what you own. Carol Leslie, an executive coach in Cleveland, suggests you use a trusty dieters' trick to keep track of the things you normally do without thinking -- like polish off a quart of ice cream. Or, in this case, shop. Attach a small, thin notebook around your wallet with a rubber band so that it can serve as a reminder to write down your feelings whenever you're tempted to mindlessly reach for plastic. Pretty soon you'll begin to recognize what sets you off before you click "Buy Now!" -- and learn to find healthy distractions instead. "Go for a run, talk to a friend, see a movie, do anything that will get you out of a shopping mode," says Leslie.
Or simply focus on all the amazing qualities you possess, rather than on the things you own. "Consider all that you have to offer," suggests Lightman. "Those natural talents have nothing to do with the kind of handbag you carry or what shoes you wear." Maybe you remember everyone's birthday, or you're a great cook or supportive friend. Do something that lets those gifts shine. "By taking pride in your best attributes, you'll feel less of a pull to spend on things that say, 'See! I am worthwhile!'"
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