Retail therapy is a way of releasing emotions. We've all felt it. You've had a hard week, you just got your pay cheque and the call of the mall is too much to resist.
As a momentary or occasional outlet for stress, retail therapy is fairly common, and harmless.
But where it can become a problem is if you're spending more than you earn, or you're purchasing multiple items that you don't want or need.
Especially if you get that sinking feeling when your monthly credit card bill arrives.
There are hormones involved!
An article published in Psychology Today indicates that dopamine might be involved in our pull towards retail therapy.
"Dopamine is responsible for reward-driven behavior and pleasure seeking. Every type of reward seeking behavior that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain."
Seeing the bag of shoes arrive after a bout of shopping therapy seems likely to tick that box.
Retail therapy makes you feel better
An ebates survey found that 85% of American adults and 86% of teens admitted that shopping makes them feel better. But it comes at a price. Literally.
In the same survey, 66% of adults say they shop to relieve boredom. So how can you get that feel good buzz without the ensuing guilt – or debt?
Here are some strategies you can try next time boredom sets in.
- Read a book
- Call a friend you haven't spoken to in a while
- Tune into a podcast
- Listen to a short meditation
- Feel your feelings until they pass
Maybe there are other feelings you're avoiding? Frustration? Not feeling valued? Make a list and consider how you can tackle them in new ways.
When retail therapy becomes a problem
Like any unhealthy habit, retail therapy can become an addiction. If you feel your shopping habits are becoming a problem, know that you're not alone.
Elizabeth Hartney, psychologist, says it's important to know that quitting a habit can be tough. "There are many factors, physical, mental, and emotional, that make quitting difficult," says Hartney. "It is not that you are especially weak-willed or that you are failing any more than anyone else."
"Despite making a commitment to quit, and going through the withdrawal phase, conflicts do not simply go away."
"It is so important to have other ways of coping firmly established."
A counsellor or therapist can help you find the right strategies that will suit you.
Create a self care routine
Whether you're seduced by the sales, want to update your shoe collection, or love to grab a bargain at a garage sale, being mindful of our habits and behaviours can help prevent things blowing up into a problem.
Creating a self care routine can, over time, be the unravelling of many unhealthy habits.
Cheryl Richardson, says in her book, The Art of Self Care that she had to overcome many habits that weren't serving her.
Some of the ways she did that were: "Leaving work in the middle of the day to get out into nature, enjoying a great massage once a week, and developing daily habits that made me feel happy and nurtured, including listening to the music I loved, drinking my favourite tea, or ordering fresh flowers for my office."
It might sound frivolous, but self care is more likely to create an overall sense of happiness, whereas retail therapy will only create a short-lived high.
So next time you feel the itch to spend, think about treating yourself in a more long-term way. After all, you're worth it!