Over the years we’ve compiled a lot of evidence showing that shopping with local businesses is good for the local economy and for the Cape Cod community. As it turns out, evidence shows it’s good for the individual consumer too, and not just because you get a killer product or exceptional service when you do it.
Humans are dependent on one another for survival, we are hard wired to be a part of a group. Research has continually shown that when we are connected to other people, we thrive; loneliness is now seen as bad for your health as smoking or overconsuming alcohol on a consistent basis.
In the book The Power of Strangers by Joe Keohane, he cites a study in 2018 by Cigna where they found that “those who engage in frequent meaningful in-person interactions have much lower loneliness scores than those who rarely interact with others face-to-face.”
Keohane also points out that since the 1970s, rates of loneliness and depression have gone up in the United States, while at the same time Americans have become much more isolated from the world, their communities and even their neighbors due to many technological advances and conducting most activities at home, with fewer people. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these trends and pushed us further into an internet bubble. He writes “when all transactions are conducted virtually, we might gain efficiency, but what do we lose? We lose contact. That carries a steep price.”
Research has found that the single best predictor of happiness and well-being is the quality of someone’s social relationships. It also shows that even simple and quick interactions with strangers or acquaintances can be meaningful. These points of contact are much more likely to happen at a community hub – a local business – and can, according to Keohane, “help us feel rooted in our worlds, it helps us feel better about the people around us, and it helps us feel better about ourselves.” When you head out to a local boutique, restaurant, yoga class or garden store chances are you’ll be met by someone you may or may not know with a smile and a bit of small talk (which could lead to deep talks), which will only serve to uplift you and make you healthier and happier.
The Blue Zones of Happiness, a study by Dan Buettner, that took research from 141 countries to reveal the secrets of the world’s happiest places and explains how to apply their lessons to one’s own life, also highlights how building social connections can reduce stress levels and increase happiness. What’s more, he notes, in Denmark, one of the so-called Blue Zones, people are very deliberate about where they spend their money tending to avoid big box stores and cheap merchandise and instead make purchases from local craftsmen over low-cost, commercial stuff. Danes, he writes, “derive happiness both from the selection process and from enjoying a few higher quality things.” Being intentional about where they spend their money, makes them some of the happiest people in the world.
Being purposeful about your shopping choices and connecting with others in-person in a meaningful way can lead to both a strong local economy and personal happiness. Two things shopping at an anonymous big-box store or on Amazon just can’t deliver.