Scarcity Makes Us Think We Need a Year’s Supply of Toilet Paper

As I watched society go wacky this week I realized – we, as a whole, have a scarcity problem. People are panic buying enough beans to fill a bunker, enough hand sanitizer to fill a swimming pool or all the poo paper they can find; and why are they doing this? Because society’s scarcity problem has us convinced there will never be enough for everyone.

This “never enough” mentality makes us put our blinders on. As our panic over not having enough sinks in – it becomes all we can think about. The tunnel vision causes us to create short term solutions for long term problems.

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For example: If you buy enough hand sanitizer to fill your living room wall to wall you may no longer worry about having enough hand sanitizer. Unless you plan on filling your pool with it Scrooge McDuck style having that much is not going to do you a lot of good. On the contrary, it will probably do harm to your long term budget, your space in your home and will affect anyone in your community who may have needed to buy hand sanitizer for themselves. 

This fear of scarcity triggers selfish impulses and there’s psychological data to back this. In this NPR article two Ivy League professors studied the impact the concept of scarcity has on our minds. When we believe we are abundant or have enough of something we are able to exercise better impulse control. When we believe that our resources are scarce we obsess over the thing we want until we literally cannot think about anything else. 

So how do we get out of this scarcity, or lack, mindset? We practice gratitude. When we embody an attitude of gratitude we recognize what we have and say thanks for it. Gratitude forces us to put energy into what we have instead of what we don’t. My favorite way to do this is to write down the three things I am grateful for once a day. You can say it outloud, write it down, make a mental list – whatever works for you. I know some people practice counting their blessings (same concept) and bonus points if you sing the counting your blessings song from White Christmas

I recognize that for people without steady income – the fear of scarcity is valid. It’s’ a lot easier to face your fear of scarcity if your basic needs are met. So if you are privileged enough to be able to afford to hoard food or basic household items – please don’t. Gather enough food and items for two weeks to 30 days at most. Remember to only buy what you would actually go through and not panic purchase things you or your family will not use or eat. Do not turn your home into an extreme couponers basement – especially if this isn’t how you normally shop. Think of the single moms who cannot afford to bulk buy their groceries right now – the elderly on fixed incomes who can only afford to buy what they need.Instead of hoarding – try practicing gratitude. Remind yourself to be thankful to all that you have.

As the cast of HSM once said “we’re all in this together”. Sendings lots of love your way.   

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