Retail therapy: myth or fact?


Nora Hamilton

Are you feeling sad, unmotivated, maybe even depressed? Forget a therapist. Let’s go shopping. 

Are you feeling sad, unmotivated, maybe even depressed? Forget a therapist. Let’s go shopping. 

I mean seriously, who needs a therapist when you have the mall? Personally, I would rather spend all my life savings on some basic tops and cute jeans, than ever talk about my feelings with a random adult. Some call it a weakness… I call it a strength. My addiction is called retail therapy, which is when you go shopping for the sole purpose of curing your sadness.  In fact, a 2014 study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that retail therapy not only makes people feel happier immediately, but it can also fight lingering sadness. What more could you ask for? Not only are you getting new clothes to spice up your wardrobe, but you’re also getting a therapy session at the same time. 

While many people might see retail therapy as wasteful or counterproductive, they are forgetting the proven physiological benefits to shopping. For instance, it helps you feel in control. Whenever I’m shopping, my problems simply disappear. I feel like I can make my own decisions and that I’m confident. Sadness is typically associated with feeling like everything in your life is out of your control. Shopping ensures the fact that you do have control over your life, and therefore it is effective in making you feel better. It’s the perfect remedy to cure a bad day, week or month. 

It can even help reduce anxiety by stimulating the senses. Imagine you’re in a store, looking at all the clean, perfectly folded pretty clothes. You begin to notice not only the organizational traits of the store, but the chic clothing and outfits you could pair together as well. Then, you begin to immerse yourself into the satisfying environment, removing yourself from your own reality. The clean smell, bright lights and pleasing displays create a sensory experience that eases the stress you might be feeling from the chaotic world we live in. 

And don’t forget, before you know, it’s going to be winter. Do you know what winter means? Depression. Yeah, that’s right. Seasonal depression. Each year it hits me like a rock. No matter how much I try to avoid it, the unbearable sadness winter brings is inescapable. However, I know I can always count on one thing to make it a little less terrible: shopping! What’s a better way to spend a freezing cold winter day?

Who needs a therapist when you have the mall?

Speaking of winter… the holidays are right around the corner. And no, I don’t mean Christmas, Thanksgiving or New Years Eve. I mean Black Friday. Quite possibly the most important holiday of the year. You better be ready to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to the mall. My heart is racing just thinking about all the amazing deals and bargains that are yet to come. So, although the sadness may be approaching, so is the updated wardrobe with all your retail therapy finds. 

Shopping gives you something to do. It’s a distraction. Although, “distracting” yourself from your actual emotions may not be the healthiest remedy, it sure is an effective one. Instead of dwelling in your own thoughts, you’re being productive by finding yourself a new outfit that’s bound to make you feel confident and motivated. It’s a way of social interaction, which is better than being alone. It’s a connection to society, which helps people feel seen. So while your wallet might be drained, your well-being is thriving. And this is where the ultimate test enters: would you rather be rich and sad, or poor and happy? Answer for yourself, but there’s only one right answer. And it’s poor and happy. Sue me.