Retail therapy stops the buildup of negative energy – the kind of energy that may gradually dip you in stress and derail your success.
Have you ever heard of the term “Retail Therapy”? It is the term, mostly used for the feminine side of the human race, that going shopping has psychosomatic properties to it.
Acquiring a new item such as a phone, a car, or a clothing item can elevate your moods during trying times. Studies show that retail therapy isn’t destructive in comparison to impulse buying. Impulse purchases bring about distress, while retail therapy improves general well-being.
What is Retail Therapy?
The therapy works like a magic wand. For example, you cease to see no point in sulking in bad moods – over something you did – with a new tech gadget in hand. For some people, a new dress or a pair of shoes would do the trick, as some may need more expensive items for the therapy to work.
Studies show that people who engage in retail therapy gain quick control of their emotions. Therefore, the therapy shields you from panic attacks.
These attacks reduce brain functions and increase the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and dementia.
Ailments like these make your chances of success slimmer. In fact, it is not even necessary to actually purchase anything; just the fact that you went out shopping was sufficient to relieve your stress, socialize with friends and simply have a good time. I’m pretty sure a lot of you can relate to this experience.
Retail Therapy is Effective and Therapeutic
According to a study by the University of Michigan, shopping therapy was 40 times more effective at relieving stress when people actually bought something.
Why? Because it gives people a sense of control over their lives.
Shopping is so popular because of its positive emotional effects on a person. It can relieve stresses and anxieties. For a lot of people, this may be the perfect antidepressant.
Is Retail Therapy Only for Women?
I have observed that in many cases, men and women are the same here. If I may be so bold as to generalize here, women tend to hang out with other women and go shopping at the mall.
You see, it actually had less to do with buying something and more to do with the experience. It was the stress relief of shopping. We might call this catch and release shopping.
Of course, men do this on fishing trips with other men. It is a form of shopping. It was simply able to catch a fish and release it back. It’s all therapeutic.
Retail Therapy and Stress
Put the two in the context of a non-pathogenic disease and its remedy, with stress being the ailment and shopping as the antidote. Then look at how the antidote stops the disease from:
- Harming the heart and blood circulation system.
- Lowering your immunity.
- Damaging your mental health.
- Sparking constant headaches and abdominal pains.
- Predisposing you to harmful behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse.
Sheds off the Old Skin
You shed off the old skin and wear a new one with a touch of self-reinvention when you opt for retail therapy and use it creatively. Take a freshly divorced person, for instance. The pain and distress of sleeping in the same bed and staring at the wallpaper they rolled out together as newlyweds can be overwhelming.
Some people may buy new beddings, furniture or even move house to block off stressful memories. The fresh start gives a therapeutic feeling, and it may be all you need to make life livable again – just when you thought there was no way out.
The idea is to approach life from a different angle using the power of shopping as a stress reliever.
The items you buy should not be necessarily yours. Couples can buy their newborn toys, clothes, and feeding kits as a way of dealing with the stress that comes with an expanding family. Others donate the shopping to make them feel whole and alive again. It’s a phenomenon that works differently for different people.
Stress is associated with poor decision-making, procrastination, and strained relationships. These aren’t what you need to make in your professional or social life.
You need the self-esteem you get when you feel well-groomed in the clothes you acquired during a recent downtown retail therapy trip. Good grooming attracts good company.
It fosters relationships and it compels you to do more even when nothing seems to work. It spews the attitude you need to conquer the tough times.
It is a Group Therapy
This form of therapy is just like a team sport. It is not really effective if you go shopping or fishing by yourself. There are some benefits, but you need to do it with your friends to maximize and make the most of it. This is because humans are social creatures. People need people. We do not do well in isolation.
It is the camaraderie and the experience of going shopping (or fishing) that has the highest mental stress-relieving effect.
With retail therapy, you do not need a lot of pre-planning involved. Just hop in the car with some friends who are just as excited about shopping as you are and you have a self-made group therapy session. You will notice a burst of positive energy all at the whim of the moment!
So when you start to dissect the reasons that shopping therapy works, you will see that maybe the underlying reason has more to do with the sense of control, social interaction and maybe even pampering yourself. Could you do that with other activities? Yes, of course!
Is it Sustainable?
The therapy works well when used as part of a personal reward scheme. An example is when you get yourself something expensive as a reward for pulling through a stressful assignment at work. Sustainable retail therapy is also attainable when done in moderation.
Don’t buy expensive items often. Spend on cheaper things – small treats can equally relieve stress. For instance, you can buy a t-shirt today and get a watch or jacket the following week.
This is healthy spending compared to getting a smart TV today and a speed bike the following day.
How Retail Therapy Beats Stress
Low levels of dopamine – a feel-good hormone – may have you stressed out, sad, and even depressed. Some use drugs. Others turn to alcohol to get the feel-good hormone dashing in their blood again. But these are more dangerous options – alcohol, and drug addiction problems can sink you deeper into depression.
Retail therapy works differently. It gives you short-lasting solutions to stress-related issues by acting like an auto-trigger set in motion by an array of chemical reactions in your brain.
A spark of excitement hits you the minute you hold the item you wish to buy as part of your retail therapy.
Online shopping may increase the excitement or prolong it as you wait for a package to arrive. It creates an anticipation gap with an unpredictable reward in the end. The result is increased dopamine with greater stress-relieving power.
It is NOT All Positive
However, there is a downside to this phenomenon called shopping therapy. The downside occurs within the month when the credit card bill comes in.
You now have to pay for your therapy.
For many people, this is how they get into trouble with consumer credit. They do not know how to stop the cycle of irresponsible credit card use. This type of therapy may be effective but can be expensive and can put you under deeper financial stress. Be careful!
The answer is to limit your spending on this therapy to only that which you can pay off each month and simply use the shopping experience as a way to socialize with your closest friends. Doing everything in moderation is always the key.
A Word of Caution
Pay attention to your spending habits. Some people develop chronic shopping disorders owing to overreliance on this therapy in their search for stress relief. Here are some of the red tags to watch as you increasingly use retail therapy to alleviate stress.
- Buying things you want, not the things you need.
- Difficulty to resist the urge of buying an item that you don’t need.
Getting hit by financial problems because you can’t control your shopping expenditure.
Remember that retail therapy is a random purchase of something that you need. For example, you may have always wanted a new laptop because the one you have is slow. You then go out one day to relieve stress and you come back with a brand new computer. Not buying a laptop while the one you have is in perfect condition or if you already have two or three of them.
Know thyself! It’s a slippery slope for people with no self-control. You could sink into debt if you don’t keep your spending in check. In the end, something that started as a noble way to relieve stress evolves and becomes the root cause of your severe stress condition(s).
So think of responsible retail therapy not as an expense but maybe as an investment into your mental health and well-being, even though the study finds that it is short-lived.