It’s not just Upper East Side ‘Cosmo’ girls that go shopping. Nor is it simply shopaholics. It is a known fact that when a woman is upset she goes shopping. Even if you don’t really need anything, you will always find something to buy. Strolling in and out of all those shops, there will always be something that will catch your eye; that will strike you as new and extraordinary and will pull you towards it, calling you to make it yours. It is also a fact that people don’t want others to tell them how to spend their money, but everyone loves buying stuff. That is why shopping is often perceived as a form of therapy. It is a mood-lifter after all, even if it is only short-term. But if you keep your spending in reasonable measure, retail therapy can have a longer-lasting effect.
Studies on this interesting issue have in fact found that shopping can actually make you happy. Shopping is deemed as treating yourself to something nice and this has a lasting positive impact on your mood, shoving aside any negative emotional side-effects. Of course it doesn’t really erase the reason you were in a bad mood but at least it helps you overcome it. Purchases from retail therapy are considered overwhelmingly beneficial, leading to mood boosts and no regrets or guilt. And there always seem to be positive consequences to buying yourself a small treat, for in the end you do feel better. Perhaps it is also the prospect that these “comfort purchases” will improve your image to the outside world; the allure that you will look better, even if you’re feeling blue inside.
However, the reason that a therapeutic shopping spree boosts our mood can be traced back to the brain releasing the chemical dopamine which is essential for our mental and physical health. Dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, and it is released when we experience something new, exciting or challenging. And for many people, shopping is all those things. Walking in to a store and seeing all those things you haven’t seen before, trying on clothes and shoes you haven’t tried on before, is an instant pick-me-up.
Shopping therefore can be enormously rewarding to us. And like the author of the “Shopaholic” series, Sophie Kinsella, said “Honestly, shopping beats therapy, anytime. It costs the same and you get a dress out of it”.
P.S. Yes, I did recently go on a shopping therapy spree! But no, I am not trying to justify it. It does work!