Whether at home or at work, stress seems to follow us everywhere. Sometimes we do breathing exercises or try to think of happy things to overcome stress. Many of us also like to go to a store and buy all the things we love for an instant dose of joy! Shopping is something many of us like to do when we’re feeling a little down. Yes, a bit of control is needed because you don’t want to blow your hard-earned money all at once. But retail therapy helps improve our mood, as long as it is practiced in moderation, says an expert.
While there is music therapy to save you from anxiety, there are also purchases that can work as stress relievers.
HealthShots consulted Dr. Rishi Gautam, a US-based mental health expert and psychiatrist, to find out how retail therapy makes you feel better.
Retail therapy is basically shopping for the main purpose of improving your mood (how to improve your mood) or reducing stress. According to Dr. Gautam, these are also called “comfort purchases and have a similar effect on the mind as comfort foods”.
He shares that retail therapy can be helpful in reducing emotional distress with “positive effects on your mood and overall emotional state if practiced in moderation.”
Ways Retail Therapy Helps Improve Your Mood
1. Retail therapy restores a sense of control
Shopping helps you feel in control of the whole process. You can control what you buy or where you buy it from. It is an uplifting experience that is therapeutic if you feel a significant loss of control over things in the environment.
2. Retail therapy has the power of positive imagery
Looking at beautiful, desirable, and visually appealing objects helps us feel better. It’s like closing your eyes and imagining yourself wearing that dress or carrying a shoe or carrying that beautiful bag.
3. Retail therapy is a goal-oriented activity
If you engage in retail therapy responsibly, it will involve some planning and savings. The saving process is a goal-directed activity that further strengthens the sense of control.
4. Trade therapy involves the pleasure of anticipation
It’s exciting to wait for something in anticipation of this. Shopping produces a similar thrill. It stimulates certain parts of our brain that thrive on a release of Dopamine, a neurotransmitter known to induce pleasure, explains the expert (how to get an instant dopamine boost).
5. Retail therapy relies heavily on admiration
It is extremely empowering that people around us recognize these additions to our daily lives. Some people go the extra mile to buy gifts for friends and family based on their likes or dislikes. It feels good to be appreciated for that.
Physical purchases vs online purchases
Retail therapy isn’t just about brick-and-mortar stores. There’s also online shopping, and they’re both rewarding in their own way. In the case of online purchases, there is the ease and speed of execution. Physical retail, on the other hand, has all the experience of travel, trial-and-error, and other associated activities like socializing and dining out.
Window shopping or adding to a cart without buying anything is also very rewarding. It produces to some extent the thrill of anticipation, helps us engage in positive images and fantasize without monetary cost. It’s completely harmless, except for the time spent on it, says Dr. Gautam.
Red flags that retail therapy is becoming problematic
• An almost compulsive need to keep shopping or browsing online.
• Facing economic hardship because of it.
• Excessive guilt or remorse after making a purchase or criticism from friends or family members about it.
• Difficulty controlling it even though you know it is becoming harmful.
• Buy things you don’t need or have room to store.
• Having functional impairments resulting in work absences or needing to neglect other responsibilities.
It has been known to manifest most often in the 20s to 30s, but does not seem to manifest until later in life. Retail therapy can be healthy if done in moderation. In excess, it can become very problematic and may require professional evaluation and treatment to prevent damage.
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