“I don’t need a therapist; I talk to my handbag collection instead. Health insurance should cover retail therapy. It’s cheaper than going full-blown crazy,” my marketing-friend commented after a recent trip to her longtime doctor, Bloomingdale's
She had just broken up with her other long-term relationship, her boyfriend, and needed a pick-me-up of the new-dress-and-shoes variety. According to Ms. Marketing, she could feel sad and look like crap, or she could make herself instantly happier and look really, really good in the process.
The latter choice paid off (literally) -- my friend wears that outfit and swears she feels better in it than she did in her three-year relationship.
Her casual joke holds a lot of truth though. Anyone who has ever online shopped during work or celebrated fall’s arrival with new back-to-school duds or excused a ridiculous purchase as a “gift to yourself” understands that retail therapy is a real treatment.
Much like comfort eating, we engage in comfort buying to make ourselves feel better. Treating yourself to anything feels good, but something that’s calorie-free and not physically demanding and aesthetically appealing feels especially great.
Buyer’s high is real, and its residual effects help make getting dressed and facing the world a lot more exciting.
Here’s your justification for splurging on that outrageous ear cuff, Why Retail Therapy is Real Medicine.
1. When you look good, you feel good
Buying sh*t you like makes you feel better. Duh. Whether it’s clothing related or interior design focused or simply just a pair of socks, you’re purchasing an item to improve upon your current situation. This feels right. This feels new.
And those magical high-waisted jeans that suck in your FUPA after a Sunday Funday of Chinese takeout makes you feel spectacular (and not to mention 5 pounds lighter). When you believe that you look great in your outfit, your emotions follow suit.
2. Shopping is a celebration
After a super hard day at work scooping up the latest must-have leather jacket makes you feel like your paycheck is all worth it. Or maybe you’re stressed at home and need to blow off a little steam... from your wallet.
It’s called “Treat Yo’self” for a reason -- because retail therapy helps us cancel out all the frustrating, upsetting parts of our day. Took Grandma for her annual colonoscopy? You deserve a bracelet.
Have to endure a brutal Thanksgiving? You need a new sweater. Shopping makes dealing with problems a little easier when you know there’s a reward for coming out on the other side.
3. We buy new things to signify transition
To prepare ourselves for new experiences, we purchase the necessary items. If you're anxious about moving away to college, you decorate your new dorm to feel like home.
Shopping for a baby gets you in the diaper frame of mind and ready for your baby's arrival. A new outfit for a date boosts your self-image. Through our purchases, we mentally ready ourselves for what lies ahead.
4. It's some good 'ol me time
Shopping is 97 percent of humanity’s favorite hobby, (I hear Putin really loves his fur hats). You can spend time with yourself and your money and focus on the things we are told shouldn't really matter.
Retail therapy is a release and it’s fun. Not to sound like a vapid b*tch, but looking at beautiful things makes you feel beautiful by association. Just look at Winona Ryder. She got too close.
5. It’s actually science
Researchers at the University of Michigan Ross Business School (Go Blue!) found that both the shopping experience and the choices we make while we fill our carts help relieve residual sadness.
Good news for shopaholics everywhere, going to Bloomingdale's and buying a ton of trendy items will, in fact, cheer you up!
(It's probably like, 1,000 times that happiness when you find a coveted over-the-knee boot at a warehouse sample sale.) Even if you're a dad whose shopping habits extend as far as gloves on sale at Costco, you still get the little tingly feeling inside.
6. It distracts you from failure
Failing sucks. Shopping eases the pain. When you underperform on a test, instead of reaching for the booze, you reach for the shoes.
As winter creeps in and you become lazier, shopping is your new cardio. Stuff can't replace success, but it sure does ease the blow of losing.