Your Secret Weapon Against Overindulgence



Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Black Friday is almost upon us.

The official start of the consumer Christmas season.

Do you ever feel as though at this time of year–between the holidays, holiday parties, cookies, drinks, cards, advertisements, and retail frenzy–that your ability to be just a regular person is under siege?

That you find yourself slipping into the archetype of “SuperConsumer?”   That once you start to shop, you can’t stop?

Looking for ways to find impulse control?

If you find yourself doing things you don’t want to do, buying things you don’t want to have, and eating things you don’t want to eat–you’re not alone.

It’s not because you’re not a smart person.  (We know this happens every year.  That’s why it’s called a season.)

Advertisers know all too well what makes us make impulsive decisions, and they play us like a fiddle.  (Stores open at 4 AM!  At this price, these items won’t last!)

You do it because you’re human.

It’s been known for some time that emotion rules the brain’s decisions.

As civilized, rational and advanced as we think we are, it’s not our neocortex that runs the show: it’s the deeper, more primitive regions of the brain.

One of the most challenging parts of being a person occurs when we are exposed to a “hot” stimulus: something that prompts quick, reflexive, impulsive behaviors.

The two hottest stimuli are desire and fear.  When we come face to face with either, it’s extremely difficult to use willpower to resist their siren song.

Behavioral psychologists that study habits have suggested for years that rather than try to resist these stimuli, we’re better to avoid them altogether.

(For example, did you ever notice that’s it’s a lot easier to not eat the cookies when the cookies don’t make it through the front door of your house?)

However, more recent psychological research has shed light on another tool we have at our disposal to tamp down the pull for immediate gratification.

Be grateful.


In a recent study, intentionally cultivating the emotion of gratitude has been shown to increase financial patience: the willingness to forgo a short term payout for a greater long term reward.

Intuitively, this makes sense.  When we’re feeling gratitude, there’s much more of an acceptance of how things currently are, with less of a pull/need to change them.  We can be more rational about making decisions that are in our greater (and longer-term) self-interest.

So this Thanksgiving (and holiday season), be intentional about reflecting on all you’re thankful for:  the benefits aren’t just emotional.

What are your favorite practices for cultivating gratitude?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.



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