Conscious consumerism is one of the core pillars of our Ethos here at Evolve; we always carefully choose what we buy and where we buy it, giving particularly attention to whether it aesthetically pleases us, how long we will be able to use it and how it has been sourced and produced. Whenever we have a chance, we forego shopping all together, opting for creative alternatives. For instance, last year we shared with you several playful ways to celebrate Christmas with your children without overloading them with new presents. This year, in case you are planning to do some shopping in the upcoming days and weeks, with a help of wellbeing writer Susie Vandi, we prepared a few tips how to do it mindfully.
The spangled mayhem that is shopping at Christmas starts in November and lingers until January when you stand forlornly in the returns queue at your local high street store. Whether or not you celebrate December 25th it’s likely to affect your retail experience for two months of every year and oh what an experience it can be. Christmas is after all, your friendly retailers’, prom night and wedding day rolled into one.
Even if you conduct all of your shopping online, chances are that you’ll still need to pop into a shop of three over the holiday period. Once there you’ll be forced to inhabit Christmas along with the army of hollow eyed retail staff who have racked up thousands of hours of listening to ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You.’
The good news is that this doesn’t have to be your shopping experience. You don’t have to succumb to the frenzy or the stress that Christmas shopping outings can be. There is a way to make your trip easier. Make your shopping trip more of a mindful experience by creating an environment that causes you less stress and by incorporating mindfulness techniques into your day out.
So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is focusing your awareness on the present moment whilst being conscious of your surrounding environment, your thoughts, feelings and any bodily sensations that might come up for you. This is all done with zero judgement. Mindfulness gives you the chance to stand outside of the pressure and the crush and experience your shopping trip with a sense of calm and clarity. The side effects are glorious, control over your thought processes, reduced stress and anxiety, a new perspective and the chance to start enjoying your experience and even your life more.
Here are a few ideas to help you get started on enjoying calmer and more mindful shopping trips.
Don’t wait until the last minute
Major holidays like Christmas or the birthdays of your loved ones happen at the same day every year. You have plenty of notice so don’t put things off. Shop weeks or months ahead of time. Leaving all of your gift buying until the week of the event isn’t treating yourself kindly or fairly. You’re putting yourself under pressure and choosing to surround yourself with other people who are also under pressure. Stores will likely have limited stock availability, staff will be frazzled and you can expect longer queues full of highly irritated and stressed customers. Why oh why would you willingly put yourself in this environment? Show yourself some loving kindness by planning ahead and shopping earlier.
Plan and prepare purposefully
To shop mindfully, avoid planning your purchases on the shop floor. Before you head out to the high street or the mall, decide exactly what you want to buy, for whom and how much you’ll be spending. Make a list and take it with you to keep yourself focused. Treat it as your shopping map to give you a sense of direction. Without a plan you could spend hours wandering aimlessly around the shop floor or online and become fatigued from the wealth of choice.
If you find choosing gifts for people difficult, you can try the following.
Buy them gift vouchers from a department store. They’ll have plenty of choice when it comes to choosing their own present.
Be upfront and ask the recipient to help you but telling you which three things they’d like to receive as a present. Once they’ve told you, buy one of these items for them. You’ll still get to retain the element of surprise and they’ll receive a present that they actually like. Everybody’s happy.
Far from the madding crowds
If you don’t like crowds and queues, avoid them by shopping first thing in the morning when stores open, or on a weekday. Take an afternoon off work if that’s possible. It means that you’ll avoid stressful shopping periods, noise, a lack of personal space, long queues and generally a slower shopping experience. You’ll have a more forgiving environment in which to start your practice of being mindful. Alternatively shop online.
Christmas music, Christmas music, Christmas music on repeat
According to a recent report, ‘A quarter of British shoppers actively dislike Christmas music in retail,’ over the festive period. 43% of these customers complain that the music is too repetitive and 26% dislike the general ‘materialism of the music’. If you’re one of the 25% it’s an easy fix. You can reduce your suffering and limit your exposure to the sounds of sleighbells and ‘Misteltoe and Wine’ by plugging in your earphones and listening to the soundtracks of your choice.
Shopping in-store is a multi-sensory experience and it’s easy to get distracted from your mission. You’re surrounded by music, a cornucopia of smells, visual feasts, products calling out to be touched and sometimes opportunities to sample food and drinks. Shops are designed to lure you in, keep you there and get you to part with lots of cash, more so at Christmas. It’s a science. It’s easy to step in line and follow the path that shops have designed for their customers. You can however, avoid most of these distractions by shopping at home on your phone or laptop.
Shop within your means
If like most of the population you have a shopping budget. It may be small it may be large but don’t go above it. Christmas is a time for spreading joy for yourself as well as others. Ensure that you don’t spend the next few months wallowing in misery because you’ve splashed the cash too wide and far. If friends and family are happy to wait you can even shop after Christmas. Many shops start reducing their prices massively from 26 December.
Treat your shopping trip as a walking meditation by bringing your attention to the present moment and forgetting about past and future thinking. Walk slowly or briskly but walk with intention, being aware of the movement of every step that you take and feeling your feet on the ground. Focus on your breathing. Take in the sights and the sounds of your environment by looking at the sky, the trees, other shoppers, listening to the murmur of car engines. focus on your breathing. Throughout your trip make an effort to focus on being in the present moment.
If it’s four days before Christmas, you’ve only just seen this article and you have to buy Christmas presents for twenty people then no problem. Acceptance is key. Don’t beat yourself up. Just accept the position that you’re currently in and accept that your shopping trip may be a little uncomfortable at this late stage. Think about all the things that are likely to cause you discomfort and make peace with them. Refuse to get upset by the shovers and the pushers, refuse to get stressed by crowds, refuse to be phased by hearing ‘So This Is Christmas’ once you get to the checkout.
Think about all the things that you love about Christmas, all the things that you are grateful about at this time of year and commit to making your trip an enjoyable experience. Consider about all the good cheer that you’ll be spreading. Then commit to placing yourself firmly in the present moment during your shopping trip and make yourself aware of your environment, sounds, sights and your feelings without making any judgements.
Give yourself a treat to look forward to at the end of your trip like a cup of hot cocoa, mulled wine or a relaxing bath.
Written by Susie Vandi.