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How Christmas Shopping Affects Your Brain

Last week, I posted an insightful piece by Carol Tuttle about the gross overspending done by millions of us, all in the name of Christmas. In an interesting twist that may explain why we bust our budgets and empty our pocketbooks, the act of shopping itself may flip a switch in key areas of the brain, and make us feel better.

According to a growing body of evidence, scientists believe the act of going shopping stimulates dopamine, a signaling molecule released by nerves in the substantia nigra.

In research performed a decade ago, rats allowed to explore new areas in their cages experienced a surge in their dopamine levels. So, because shopping involves searching for the new and exciting, it's not surprising dopamine may be connected.

Also, dopamine surges are linked to the anticipation of the thing you're looking for, meaning it can lead to impulsive purchases for things you or your family may never need, scientists said.

Some common-sense and healthy means to curb your shopping urge and feel calm as the holidays season slowly winds down to a close:

  • Make a list of gifts and stick to it.
  • Do your window shopping after stores have closed.
  • Retrain your brain by learning the Emotional Freedom Technique, the energy psychology tool I use daily in my practice, with the help of my free manual.
  • Consider spending that money you're giving for gifts to help others you don't know who certainly need it more.

Baltimore Sun December 12, 2005 Registration Required

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