Retail Therapy

Does Retail Therapy Actually Work?

We’ve all had dark moments in our life that require some sort of therapy to help remind us who we are. Besides actually going to therapy, which is always the best thing to do in times of mental distress, there are a ton of ways that people cope with hard times in their life. Whether it be watching your favorite romantic comedy with your best friends and eating an entire pint of ice cream, or heading down to the mall and indulging in some retail therapy, there’s a multitude of ways to help distract ourselves from the trials and tribulations of everyday life, but how effective are these methods of coping actually?

When it comes to retail therapy specifically, there’s no doubt that buying a brand new pair of shoes or a nice expensive denim jacket will definitely make anyone feel a lot more stylish and better in the moment. But how efficient is shopping for pleasure in the long run when it comes to dealing with certain stresses in our lives? 

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“Purchases made during a retail therapy session are unexpectedly beneficial, which leads to mood boosts with no regret or guilt. Retail Therapy is a strategic effort and process and retailers could learn from their personal findings as well. When done in moderation, retail therapy can be an extremely beneficial tool to help boost your mood,” said Margaret Meloy, the lead author of a recent study on retail therapy.

Obviously, the effectiveness of retail therapy is situational to your specific emotional state, however, there are some general conclusions about it that show it really is beneficial. Studies suggest that using shopping as a means of coping with uncertainties in our lives puts us back in control when we find ourselves in situations where we feel the opposite. You’re the one deciding where you want to shop, how much you want to spend, what you want to get, etc. and therefore are reminding yourself that you are in control of your own life and the path you choose to go down. 

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Evidence also suggests that shopping can be a great way of mentally preparing yourself when facing any sort of change/new phase in your own life. Before you make a purchase, there’s a certain level of thinking that goes into it. For the sake of argument let’s say we’re talking about buying a brand new pair of pink pants that are a little out of your comfort zone in terms of style. Before you buy them, internally you’re going to think about where you’d wear the pants, what draws you to them, and eventually, should you choose to purchase them, why none of that really matters and that you simply just want the pants. 

The simple type of logic that goes into buying new clothing, or anything for that matter, for ourselves can be used for the mental stresses we face in our own lives. Say you have to move cities if you want to keep your job, you’re going to think about where you’re going to be heading, what might draw you there, and eventually, should you choose to make the move, why none of that really matters and that changes in life are good and show that you’re growing as an individual; see the connection?

Additionally, research has suggested that shopping causes the average individual to get excited and releases the hormone responsible for happiness in our brains, dopamine, which is especially helpful when we are facing challenges in life and our dopamine levels are feeling the effects. The activity itself also requires us to move around and interact with others in order to find what we’re looking for, so it builds our social skills and ability to hold casual conversations, while keeping our physical bodies active. 

While retail therapy will never have the same effectiveness as actual professional therapy, the facts are there. Shopping helps remind us that we’re in control of our own lives, capable of making decisions, and can do anything we set our minds to, even if that means just buying a new pair of pink pants!