What is retail therapy? It is defined as, “Shopping in order to make oneself feel happier.” Does shopping make me happy? It depends on what I am shopping for, but I personally don’t shop with an intention of feeling happier at the end of the shopping spree. While reading up on this form of therapy, I understood that most people resort to it to overcome periods of stress and depression and it apparently gives them some sort of relief, albeit temporary.
My friend from college, Ms. A, was the one who suggested this topic. She said “Hey, you could write about retail therapy, my friends and I rely on it to keep our sanity levels in check. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea, because I personally do not indulge in it. “I have done a lot of retail therapy, especially during the past year,” she continued. According to her, it helped her de-stress, regardless of whether she used or returned the items she bought. Her moment of gratification came from simply buying. I would rather get that same gratification from eating a sumptuous meal, at least it would satiate my body and mind.
Coming to think of it though, Ms. A is not the only one I know that indulges in retail therapy. There’s another Ms. A, whom I have known since the time I came to this country. She simply loves to shop and I am not sure if retail therapy is so much a stress buster for her than simply a thing to do. For instance, in our early days in this country, our only time pass was to go to the nearby mall and roam around while the husbands were at work. On one such occasion, she had a specific thing to buy. Four hours later, she found what she wanted, was super thrilled about it and we returned home. A few days later, she returned it… What I learned from shopping with her and my cousin Ms. D in Madras, I simply have too much patience and I need to do something about this! And for those of you who are wondering if both men and women take this route of gratification, the answer is yes. Though women lead in the race, men are close behind :-).
While people like me don’t believe in retail therapy, apparently many do and many others are ready to conduct research on the topic (good for me). So, here’s how retail therapy is supposed to help. Researchers say that, “Feelings of sadness, stress, or anxiety are often rooted in feelings of powerlessness. The authors of the 2013 study suggest that retail therapy offers people a sense of control that counteracts these feelings. Choosing to make a purchase (or not to make a purchase) helps people feel more empowered.” Also, it looks like the simple joy of clicking on the ‘Buy’ button and adding things to a cart or waiting for that special Amazon delivery releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes one feel energetic and happy. Experts have also found that most people who indulge in retail therapy stay well within their budget and that it doesn’t become a slippery slope that leads to over spending. Then what is the issue? The same experts have also found that the temporary pleasure obtained from shopping is exactly that, temporary. Especially for people who shop to improve their mood. It is not a solution to the problem of stress and will definitely not be useful in the long run.
What’s my take on this subject? Like I said in the beginning, shopping may give me pleasure depending on what I am shopping for. Leave me in a shoe store and I guarantee you that you won’t hear from me for some time. There is a high possibility that I would walk out empty handed, because my gratification comes from just trying out some fancy shoes. I am clearly a sucker for window shopping than retail therapy because my stress buster lies else where. Here are some of my favorite stress busters.
What would really de-stress me? Soothing music, soul food, and long walk are my top picks. My choices are cheaper than retail therapy too (maybe I am after all a kanjoos (miser) like some Librans in my life believe). But jokes apart, my take on the subject, just like that of researchers, is that while shopping may provide momentary relief, people who have a lot of stress and sorrow in their lives need to find more effective and permanent ways to tackle it: talking to a therapist, meditation, taking long walks, listening to music may help.
Does shopping help you relax? Are you a believer in retail therapy? Feel free to share your opinions here.