I have an unfortunate habit of spending money on products I do not need. Whenever I am having a bad time, I splurge on several items I think would cheer me up. This includes: Video games, food and books. For a few seconds, I feel a faint sense of happiness from those purchases. But it quickly fades once the money leaves my card, a sickening feeling hits my stomach and I question myself and my lack of self control.

It’s an awful Catch 22 cycle: depression, buy the latest game on the market, become guilty when broke, buy something else to feel happy and… well, the picture is clear. I try to find things to make me happy which involves buying these expensive items instead of getting down to the root of the problem and tackling it. I would rather buy something to distract me from facing those issues.

And boy, retailers will not hesitate to to get you to spend. Taking advantage of shopping’s compulsive nature, they will do everything in their power to get customers to spend an excessive amount of time at department stores buying products they think they need. Their job is to convince the world that happiness is found by paying over $1000 for an iPhone X.

Dopamine is a messenger molecule that plays a significant role in this mess. It signals a reward in the brain that temporarily make us feel good. Events that create pleasure such as eating, drinking, and sex increases the brain dopamine levels. Someone who is depressed may lack pleasure from any of these, making them more inclined to seek anything that boosts those levels. Individuals with low dopamine levels often believe in the lies spread by giant corporations, so they will head straight to Wal-Mart to get in on the latest trend.

While I display the same tendencies, I still love playing video games, reading and occasionally using my Hulu account for a few movies. I’m not too out of control with my spending either as I pay bills on time and buy things I need. However, I need to break the bad spending habits I have and focus on other things that make me feel happy because happiness is not in a Pringles can.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

It’s all easier said than done especially during this holiday season with deals constantly being thrown around, but it can be done. Spending money on oneself isn’t a bad thing, sometimes you must treat yourself. However, willpower is desperately needed to not go overboard. Fortunately, I had a lot of that in the last few days.

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