As if we needed another excuse to spend way too much money at sample sales, new research has come out in defense of retail therapy. The Journal of Consumer Psychology published a study claiming that purchasing items while shopping actually does alleviate feelings of sadness in consumers and helps them to restore a sense of control over their lives.
Don't just stick to window shopping, either. The researchers from University of Michigan found that shopping "was up to 40 times more effective at giving people a sense of control" than simply browsing without making purchases. Shoppers were also three times less sad than those who avoided handing over their credit cards. It seems that other research backs this claim, as reported in a piece by The Independent:
Previous studies have shown that shoppers enjoy positive feelings when reflecting on their most recent purchase, when that shopping had been motivated by a desire to repair mood. Others said they were less likely to experience sadness while shopping than immediately before setting out on a buying spree.
Prior to the study at U of M, however, none of the research provided conclusive information on whether the shopping itself was responsible for the mood boost, rather than the distraction that accompanies the act of shopping. But not that data has arrived. There you have it! Actually buying things is good for your mood.
Retail therapy has had a bad name, well, pretty much forever. It has never been perceived as particularly healthy to drown your sorrows in a pile of brand new cashmere sweaters. The habit has even been likened to obviously dangerous ways of managing stress, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and disordered eating. However, the U of M study is not the very first of its kind: in 2011, Psychology & Marketing named retail therapy a strategic method for regulating mood.
So what does this mean for your wallet? Not much, other than you can stop feeling guilty every time you buy a pair of shoes because you had a bad day at work. Its all about moderation, of course! Being financially responsible is probably more important than "cheering yourself up" every time your favorite store has a sale. But, really, not going on some lunatic shopping spree whenever you're depressed is simply common sense.