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7 Ways Retail Therapy Really Works

Even though our 2020 might not be going as expected and we’ve been buying more hand sanitizer in this last year than in our entire life, the craving to buy new things is still ever present. After months of being in lockdown, enjoying the finer things in quarantine-life mode isn’t limited to wine nights, baking […]

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Even though our 2020 might not be going as expected and we’ve been buying more hand sanitizer in this last year than in our entire life, the craving to buy new things is still ever present. After months of being in lockdown, enjoying the finer things in quarantine-life mode isn’t limited to wine nights, baking sourdough bread, online dating, or cute athleisure-wearing; it also includes a little bit of retail therapy. Retail sales are on the rise for three consecutive months since May 2020.

From groceries to online shopping, years of studies have shown how shopping can be an instant mood lifter with a long lasting positive impact on mental health, if not crossed into addiction territory. None of us want to end up like Rebecca Bloomwood in ‘Confession of a Shopaholic’ although we do agree with her on the fact that when we shop, the world does get better by “restoring personal control over one’s environment.” 

According to a study published by the Journal Psychology and Marketing, retail therapy leads to positive improvements of someone’s mood without experiencing regrets or guilt afterwards. Armed with a mask and a hand sanitizer, social distancing retail therapy might be just the solution to help offset the lost control feeling we are all experiencing during Covid-19 pandemic.

It might read irresponsible that we are suggesting spending money to improve your mood, but when morning jogs and zoom drinks with friends don’t help you should think of alternative solutions. At the core of retail therapy is the focus on one-self – allowing to treat yourself with anything you’d like at the whim. Spoiling yourself is a proven coping mechanism when there is no end to coronavirus pandemic.

Here are seven benefits of retail therapy to help you feel less guilty about your next shopping spree:

Confidence 

What is better than the smell of brand new clothing or the feel of a streamlined leather handbag? Buying new items like clothes or accessories can help us try on a new persona if we want to shake things up a little bit and boost our confidence, making us feel better about ourselves. According to research purchasing an attractive product improves our self-esteem and makes us more open to other choices and viewpoints. You can dress for success but also just to look your best! As crazy as it might sound, confidence can transcend to a feeling of superiority, making us feel like winners in the strenuous battle of finding our perfect clothing match. 

Sense of power/control 

Sometimes we have no control over the circumstances around us, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to call the shots when it comes to picking our clothes. A study showed that shopping restores a sense of control and power over our environment, getting rid of any feelings of sadness and anxiety. When things don’t go as planned, we tend to develop feelings of frustration and anger, and shopping can be a coping mechanism by making us feel like we’re getting exactly what we want while keeping us motivated. The truth is we can find solace in a little trip to the mall or when browsing online, and we shouldn’t feel ashamed about it since studies say so!

Promotes relaxation and a sense of escape 

When trying to get our mind off things, shopping can actually be the one thing we didn’t know we needed. Clinical psychologist Scott Bea believes shopping can help us get out of our thoughts hence making us feel better. An online poll of over 1,000 adults done by the Huffington Post discovered that women were twice as likely as men to use retail therapy as a way to cope with stress. The experience of weighing the different options and outfit combinations to picking up the perfect fit frees you mentally, helping achieve a stress-free mindset. Even the social element of actually going to the store and the check-out process makes us take a step back and realize the journey and not necessarily the destination is the most fun. Let’s just think about ASMR clothing hauls videos and their millions of views. 

Experience a pleasure boost (happy)

The internet and social media platforms, as well as the growth of inexpensive clothing, have made shopping accessible to literally anyone. Even from the comfort of our homes, we are able to examine merchandise, compare products and prices, save the options we absolutely love, and interact with customer service in case of questions. According to neurologist David Linden’s book “The Compass of Pleasure,” the experience of shopping triggers dopamine circuitry in the brain, which is related to the way we experience enjoyment and happiness. Even though it is a complex process to address neurologically, shopping has become more than just a transaction; it’s also a form of entertainment. We both knew it, but now it’s scientifically proven. 

Ease transitions 

According to Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University, shopping can be a way to ease transitions in life, as a form of mental preparation. We tend to buy new job interview garment essentials, as well as new clothes for events, trips, or a night out. A new purchase can represent the beginning of something new. As we go through the selection and payment process, we automatically envision how these new items would come to use in a specific area of our lives. As a result, we feel excited, entertained, and relaxed since we are focusing on how this will fit into our lives and the purpose of it. 

Sense of Anticipation (Reward)

We’ve all experienced the feeling of looking forward to something, whether it is an event or a purchase when we simply can’t wait! Anticipation has been proved to be a key factor when it comes to pleasurable experiences through experiments done with the brain’s dopamine. We look forward to a visit to the mall just like the email that notifies us our dress size is finally back in stock. We get excited and happy when we know something’s about to happen when it’s happening and after it ends, and this is the process we go through when we shop. Moreover, we tend to shop as a way of rewarding ourselves for a positive change we’ve made or as a sort of incentive, giving us something to look forward to. According to psychologist Dr. Brea organizing your funds and thinking about what to purchase can build anticipation and, therefore, happy thoughts, which is overall a pleasurable experience. Maybe a piggy bank doesn’t sound like a bad idea, after all. 

Protection

We face new challenges every day, and shopping has been proven to be a way to deal with potentially damaging situations. A study by the Journal of Consumer research also suggests that consumers lean towards selecting only products that are specific to the possible case. People want to feel good when about to face something that’s going to shock their ego or elude sadness but still weighing their options about how and what they buy. Shopping becomes a sort of shield, a way of protection that helps us cope in advance with potential negative situations, especially when we feel a part of ourselves might come under threat. 

Co-authored with Camila Encomendero

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