Goodbye dry January, hello moderate February
I’m nearly at the end of Dry January and bloody hell, it’s been LOOOONG. It’s also been not entirely dry. There was my nephew’s wedding: a beautiful day at the St Pancras Hotel, which would have been slightly less magical without the champagne. And there may have been a couple of other occasions when it just felt churlish not to join in.
Sorry. (Not sorry.) And congratulations to those of you who made it through to the end. You’re a better woman/man than me.
Everything in moderation. Three nights a week, I like to have a glass of wine with dinner and will be returning to my beloved red on the stroke of six o’clock on 1 February.
Healthy hobby or mild obsession
All this talk of abstinence has had me thinking about my other activities. I have healthy hobbies, such as writing, cooking, singing and dancing. But I have a couple of hobbies which are definitely on the verge of becoming less fun diversion, more mild obsession.
Habit 1 – Instagram
I have a less than healthy relationship with my phone, particularly Instagram.
Is this a familiar scenario?: You grab your phone for a valid reason – checking the bank account or sending a text – and end up getting sucked down an Instagram Stories hole for an hour. And then you remember with a jolt what you grabbed your phone for.
Or is that just me?
I do have boundaries. I’m usually alone, and bored. Plus none of the Maven family is allowed to have a phone at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table. No excuses.
Habit 2 – Shopping
Am I a shopoholic? Asking for a friend.
For those of you not familiar with Instagram: If someone has more than 10,000 followers on Instagram, they can include links on their Instagram Stories, allowing followers to shop for the clothes they’re wearing, the skincare products they recommend, or any other product that can be bought online.
I follow a tribe of wonderful women in their 40s and 50s. They aren’t models with big budgets, they just dress well and love to shop from the popular high street retailers.
With one swipe, I can buy the outfit being worn by someone just like me. And I will be wearing it myself a couple of days later.
Online shopping seems like witchcraft to me, and Amazon are the Grand Wizards. But this is instant and targeted shopping. It’s insane! I’ve swiped up too many times, to find myself queueing at the post office three days later, returning an item I didn’t need in the first place.
Most of my purchases go back to the shops from whence they came. The buzz is in the instant procurement, the arrival of a package, the try-ons in my own bedroom. Then comes the guilt and the realisation that I don’t need any of it. So back it goes.
There is a name for this condition. It’s called Shopping Bulimia: a shopping binge followed by a purge of returning everything.
*I feel uncomfortable typing these words. Mainly because I feel it belittles the psychological and physical trauma of the ‘real’, food-related bulimia. But for some, Shopping Bulimia is an urgent problem, leading in extreme cases to bankruptcy, divorce and depression.
The instant gratification of shopping, as with other addictions such as gambling and gaming, releases dopamine in the brain – a feel good hormone. Once the dopamine high subsides, the guilt and remorse settle in. So addicts seek out the next high, by looking for the next fashion bargain, or placing another bet.
Are you a shopaholic?
The Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale is a screening tool to asses the severity of shopping addiction. You can take the test here: https://psychology-tools.com/test/bergen-shopping-addiction-scale. Below is a scaled down version: if you agree or completely agree with at least four of the seven items on this list, you might be a shopping addict:
- You think about shopping/buying things all the time.
- You shop/buy things in order to change your mood.
- You shop/buy so much that it negatively affects your daily obligations (e.g., school and work).
- You feel you have to shop/buy more and more to obtain the same satisfaction as before.
- You have decided to shop/buy less, but have not been able to do so.
- You feel bad if you for some reason are prevented from shopping/buying things.
- You shop/buy so much that it has impaired your well-being.
I took the test and my score was low, which means I have my shopping under control (probably because I send it all back). But I wouldn’t be writing about it if I didn’t think it could become a problem.
How to manage your habit
If you feel like your hobby could become an addiction, here are some tactics to help you manage it:
- Start a journal. Write down how much time and money you’re spending on your hobby/habit. What are the triggers for that behaviour? Is there a pattern there? If so, can you change the trigger in order to change your response?
- Give yourself a tight monthly budget and stick to it. Use a pre-loaded cash card with a finite amount that you are able to spend. Reward yourself at the end of the month with a treat, like a massage, coffee and a cake, or an evening out (not with more shopping!).
- Shop mindfully and sustainably. Don’t buy the cheap crap, invest in something that will last.
- Wear or use the items you buy as soon as possible and decide how it makes you feel. Return it if it doesn’t feel good. Don’t for god’s sake keep it in your wardrobe for when you’re thinner. If clothes make you feel guilty/fat/ugly every time you look at them, they are toxic and don’t belong in your home.
- Don’t spend your free time in shopping centres. A recovering alcoholic wouldn’t spend their free time in a pub. If you really need something, go to a specific shop with a targeted shopping list. Window shopping is not for you.
- Get into the habit of ‘one in one out’. ie when you buy something, sell or donate something else to make room, and keep decluttering.
All of my habits are distractions from the stuff I need to do. I have a to-do list of boring chores, which I put off again and again. I’m a terrible procrastinator and these habits feed that character trait. The flip side is that when I’m genuinely busy with work, I’m focused and productive. So I need to find more work to do. Meanwhile journaling and blogging are my therapies.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the Post Office.
Much love, Vx