Shopping Therapy

“When I looked into shop windows, I saw another world. A dreamy world, full of perfect things. A world where grown-up girls got what they wanted.” -Rebecca Bloomwood, in the film Confessions of a Shopaholic. 

Urban Dictionary defines retail therapy as “the act of shopping as an outlet for frustration and a reliever of stress.” 

It's no secret that shopping for yourself, and even for other people Can feel good. For most people, shopping is part of daily life. Not only does it help us meet our basic needs, but it also lets us treat ourselves now and again. Sometimes it feels like a chore that just needs to get done, but other times it can be a positive, pleasurable experience that helps to relieve stress in our life. 

when we purchase a new product or item online, dopamine is released into the brain with the anticipation of the reward or product, not when we receive the reward itself. Dopamine increases your desire to continue to seek out things that makes you feel good.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. It enables us not only to see rewards but to take action to move toward them. So, when you see sales items while shopping, it triggers a sensation of instant gratification 

Psychology of Retail therapy 

A study published in the journal Psychology and Marketing revealed that shopping can improve a sour mood. Researchers also looked at the impulsive behaviors caused by having a negative mindset to determine whether people were more impulsive during these times and if they later regretted their purchases. 

The study showed that, yes, people who are upset tend to be more impulsive, which could mean they spend more money during a retail therapy experience. However, individuals did not regret spending money on "self-treats" to improve their mood. 

A study found that 62% of shoppers bought something to cheer themselves up. A further 28% purchased to celebrate something. 

  • feeling of control 

When you buy something, you’re making a decision and the very act of choosing can give you back some control over your circumstances. 

Sadness is generally associated with a feeling that you can’t control what’s happening in your life. Experts say that the act of making choices when shopping can restore your feeling of control over your life. 

A 2014 study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that retail therapy not only makes people happier immediately, but it can also fight lingering sadness.  

According to the study, sadness is generally associated with a sense that situations are in control of the outcomes in our life, rather than life being in our own hands. The choices and outcomes inherent in the act of shopping can restore a feeling of personal control and autonomy. 

  • Distraction 

Shopping is an excellent way to distract ourselves from any undesired thoughts, also getting out of your house and going shopping may provide a distraction from whatever’s making you feel sad. 

  • Social interaction. 

Many of us consider our choice of clothing as an extension of our identity. While many others pick items from their wardrobe that reflect their current mood. There are also many times when we choose to dress a certain way in anticipation of being in a particular social setting. 

However, Shopping gets you out of the house and into a mall with other people. In a survey, participants shopped alone, but the act of shopping gave them a connection to society. 

Is it the same thing as compulsive shopping? 

Compulsive shopping, or Compulsive buying disorder, and retail therapy both involve shopping. But beyond that, they’re pretty different.  

Compulsive spending has many names: shopping addiction, oniomania, impulsive buying, shopaholism, and more. Although compulsive spending is not an official diagnosis, it resembles other addictions. People with oniomania often invest excessive time and resources to shop. They may not know what need they are trying to fill, but the compulsion to buy is still strong.  

A 2004 survey estimates 5.8% of adults in the United States have a shopping addiction. Some studies show higher rates among online shoppers, perhaps due to the internet’s convenience and anonymity. The condition can cause financial concerns, relationship conflict, and personal distress. Oniomania can be as difficult to stop as any other compulsion or addiction. 

The shopping-and-stress paradox 

Because retail therapy seems to be a slippery slope for many, what can start as a relatively harmless mood booster could grow into a compulsion that drains finances, causes conflict, and ultimately adds significant amounts of stress, it's best to be cautious if you find yourself engaging in this type of behavior. 

Once retail therapy is something you feel like you can’t do without, that’s when the coping mechanism can take over and add more stress than relief to your life. This creates a shopping-and-stress paradox, where shopping is used to deal with stressors but then ends up adding more stress because of the problems it brings. 

When spending gets out of control, retail therapy is doing more harm than good in your life. There are ways that you can limit your use of retail therapy, so you don’t become a casualty of the shopping-and-stress paradox. 

Things to keep in mind  

  • Stick to your budget 

Most people would consider overspending and debt the primary negative consequences of retail therapy. 

To avoid this hazard, budget for your spending. Set aside some money to use for retail therapy each month, then keep to that limit. 

If you want to shop when you’ve already reached your spending limit, create a plan to save up for something you want. Saving for the desired item can feel rewarding, too, and so can using restraint when you’re tempted to shop. 

  • Think about Before you purchase

If you worry about buying too many things when you’re feeling down, you might find it helpful to give yourself a brief waiting-period maybe, a day or two before you make your purchase. This can help you make certain you do want that item. 

  • Purchase things you need 

If you know shopping makes you feel better, use your shopping trips to make purchases you need, like, Clothes, Gifts, household groceries, or toiletries. 

  • Shop For Items You Already Planned to Purchase 

Have you budgeted spending for a new dress for an upcoming wedding or a gift for your friends' birthday? Use your mood to tackle those to-do items and feel better. When you need some retail therapy, limit yourself to buying things you already planned to purchase. 

  • Window Shop Instead 

The Journal of Consumer Psychology study indicated that hypothetical shopping was also effective at improving mood. That means you don't have to spend money to get the benefits of retail therapy. Formulate a strategy for window shopping. It could be putting items you'd like to have on your online wish list rather than in the cart. 

The next time you want to shop away feelings of sadness or stress, do some window-shopping before you buy anything. You may find your mood lifts simply by seeing what’s out there.