Black Friday dopamine release leads to overconsumption

Black Friday is designed to get us shopping, but it’s leading to an overconsumption problem, which is generating ever more emissions. Think packaging, manufacturing, shipping and disposal. 

The lack of friction associated with buying new things together with low prices and cheaply made goods, has turned us into a “throw-away” society. According to the UN, we purchase 60% more clothing than just 15 years ago, and each item is kept only half as long. 

Shopping online is making this problem worse as it generates more greenhouse gas emissions than in person shopping. Rather than driving to the store once every few weeks and buying everything we need, we order  a few items at a time. Multiple parcels produce more waste from individual packaging and transportation.

As a society, we are over-consuming and underusing our products. 

The answer is to buy less but there are factors at play that make shopping, particularly online shopping, addictive.

Just thinking about a purchase releases dopamine, the chemical messenger in your brain that makes you feel rewarded. We trigger its release during the anticipation of a purchase and whilst waiting for an order to arrive. If shopping becomes a habit (like drinking alcohol or consuming sugar) we can develop an addiction to the dopamine hit it produces in us. This means when we don’t shop, we end up in a dopamine deficit state which makes us depressed, anxious and irritable.

There are other bodily functions that influence our buying decisions too. According to the BBC:

“Sales — like those we salivate over on Black Friday, a day of bargains in the US and elsewhere across the globe — can be especially difficult for us to keep at bay. During a sale, the body’s autonomic notice system (the system that triggers the fight or flight response) reflexively takes control of some organs, which creates a heightened response in the body, similar to the one early humans had when encountering predators, says Yarrow.”

How can we combat these feelings?

Get outdoors!

Getting out in the fresh air can also stimulate your body to produce dopamine. But better than that, according to Wild Health, being outdoors also makes your body produce serotonin (a hormone associated with happiness, focus and calmness), and oxytocin (the love and connection hormone). In addition to producing these lovely feelings in us, we can also increase our vitamin D levels and reduce our exposure to toxins too. This all sounds great right? And not an e-commerce site in view!

As well as improving your mood and boosting your vitamins, Getting outside is good for

  • reducing cortisol (your body’s stress hormone)
  • getting fit
  • boosting your circadian rhythm (your internal body clock that regulates when you feel alert and when you feel sleepy)
  • giving you time away from screens
  • making connections with your environment and other people
  • discovering new places
  • learning new skills

There are an incredible variety of activities you could participate in from forest bathing (being mindful in a forest), to walking, running, cycling, swimming, skipping, skating, skiing, snowboarding, gardening, volunteering, visiting, surfing, paddle-boarding etc.

Taking part in a team sport like football, cricket, hockey, rugby, lacrosse, softball, rowing etc releases oxytocin (remember that love and connection hormone) which leads to feelings of trust, generosity, cohesion, cooperation and social motivation.

We know it’s not always easy to get the motivation in the first place to get outdoors (even with all the great reasons above). So what can we do to stay on track?

Join a club

A club provides connection, an opportunity to learn new or improve existing skills and it’s great for motivation and holding us accountable. Lots of us would ignore the running shoes by the door if we hadn’t paid our membership fees and didn’t have some friendly faces waiting for us to turn up. The fact is, connecting with people on a sports and social level is part of the reward our brain needs to keep us turning up. There are other benefits too:

  • Lift shares (saving money and emissions too)
  • Opportunity to compare notes on equipment / borrow and share things
  • Learn new training techniques and push your limits
  • Get support to achieve a goal/ambition
  • Make new friends, find a life partner

We have a couple of great suggestions for clubs to look out for who happen to be part of the Re-Action collective and share our vision.

Earth Runs 1% club

The Earth Runs 1% club was started by Tash Acres on her 50th birthday. She wanted to be healthier, involve other people and do some good for the planet. When you join the club (for less than the price of 2 frothy coffees per month) and go for a run, walk or even do some gardening, a tree is planted on your behalf. That means you’re doubling the feel good factor providing extra motivation.

“The 1% Club has grown into a group of encouragers and enthusiasts, all with different levels of fitness, each looking to be active as many times as possible every week and help do something for the planet.”

The 1% Clubhouse is online and is where you can share your activities, encouragement, good days and bad. It hosts online events and a sharing book club, and provides a real sense of support and belonging.

Join here

The Green Runners 

The Green Runners was initially founded by runners to make runners’ concerns about climate change heard. Since then, it has become a membership promoting 4 pillars of action to help runners reduce their environmental impact and become advocates for sustainable living.

The four pillar relate to:

1) How YOU Move – because travel makes up 90% of a running event’s carbon footprint

2) How YOU Kit-up – to encourage runners to sustainability source and repair their kit

3) How YOU Eat – advocating for trash free trails and cutting down on meat consumption

4) How YOU Speak Out – all about spreading the word!

Join The Green Runners here

CHX Challenge

Another way you can challenge yourself and make a difference is to join or create a challenge to fundraise for an environmental charity.

CHX Challenge organises bespoke corporate mountain challenges and charity fundraising events in the Alps. They design and deliver unique events of 3 to 7 nights, of varying levels of difficulty. Basecamp is usually a chalet in Chamonix, but challenges take place across France, Italy and Switzerland.

The aim is for everyone to challenge themselves and experience the wilderness of the mountains in an eye-catching, unique event that maximises fundraising. Focused on hiking trails and alpine ascents, no technical experience is necessary. All you need is a love of the outdoors, a degree of fitness and a sense of adventure as well as the energy and enthusiasm to raise money for charity.

Over the past 5 years, CHX Challenge has facilitated events that have raised over £1.5 million for charity. In addition to this, trips are run with climate in mind. You will be encouraged to take the train or lift share to the challenge, rent or use pre-loved kit and meals are carefully thought out to keep you full of energy with the lowest carbon footprint.

Find out more here.

Join the movement

We hope these ideas leave you inspired to get outdoors, and fill your body with those feel good hormones and endorphins rather than shopping this (or any) Friday. If you’re shunning the online sales and getting outdoors don’t forget to tag us and use the hashtag #CitizenFriday.