Retail Therapy

26 September 2023

Lots of people enjoy shopping, whether it is on a mission to purchase a specific item or just to check out what is new on the racks. This includes price comparisons from one store to another. Online browsing is the same but in the comfort of your sweats with an unending supply of your favorite beverage at your side.

Often we hear of “retail therapy” as a mood booster or an alternative to boredom. Some people question whether this activity really helps lighten a gloomy spirit. As it turns out a 2011 study says yes. Another study in 2013 determined that shopping will help turn around sad or low moods, but not necessarily angry times.

Ongoing concerns, apprehension, or stress oftentime come from a feeling of powerlessness. Things are happening around you or to you and you have no control over external factors that result in internal angst. Shopping can return a feeling of managing an action and return of control in even a small portion of your life. Whether to make a purchase or reject a product restores empowerment.

There can be some concerns, however,

  • Realize that retail therapy is not the only method to reduce the stress or troubles. You may want to explore other alternatives like exercise, hobbies, book clubs, volunteer work, or even some therapy. It could be that you need serious help.
  • Your personal financial situation can, however, only add fuel to the fire. If you keep your spending within your budget, you will be fine. Even browsing or window shopping can be harmful because it can add to your depression if you cannot afford the items you would like or it will take time away from your responsibilities or spending time with loved ones.

Keep in mind that retail therapy on an occasional basis is fine.

  • Set a budget to accommodate those items you would like to have or set aside money to make a larger purchase. In other words, don’t get into debt because eventually, it will come back to bite you in the pocketbook.
  • Shop for things you actually need. Try reading the grocery ads for the best deals. That has a two-fold effect of saving money for the “wants” or “luxuries” as well as taking you to different stores for a change of scenery.
  • Pre-shop or window shop before you buy. If you are online, look at different options or sites. Amazon may be tempting but it may not have the best deal you can find somewhere else.
  • Don’t buy on impulse. Think about the item or service and revisit it at a later date when you are calm and in control.

Compulsive shopping is similar but the high that you receive will not last past a few moments. There is also an almost immediate regret. You consistently tell yourself that you will stop this behavior but you continue on. Often the individual will hide purchases or fib about the amount of money spent. Compulsive shopping only results in an increase in the need to do more, just like an addiction.

If you are dealing with depression, grief, or a variety of situational concerns, seek help from a professional. If you find yourself embarrassed about the amount of money or number of purchases, neglect other responsibilities, struggle to manage situations without resorting to shopping, or find your emotional issues are ever present, you probably can benefit from some help.

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