I got paid last week, and two of my closest friends wanted to meet up for dinner in the city centre that same day. Not only was I looking forward to seeing them, but as soon as I knew I was going to be amongst all those shops, I was excited to spend my hard earned cash!
After they both left, I spent a good two hours wandering around Primark and trying things on. I am the kind of shopper who enjoys having more purchases, rather than one or two things that are more expensive. Primark is perfect when I don’t have a particular item in mind, but just want new clothes! When I got home with my large bag of clothes (and a pair of shoes!) I was in a good mood for the rest of the night.
I’d indulged in a bit of what some people call “retail therapy”. But does shopping, as the phrase suggests, act as a therapeutic tool in terms of elevating our mood, or are the effects not as positive as we think?
Atalay & Meloy (2011) suggest that retail therapy does offer long-lasting mood-lifting effects, and that consumers use shopping as a strategic tool to boost their mood. They conducted three separate studies of differing methods (field study, experiement, self-report diary), which showed evidence of consumers purchasing unplanned self-treats, and showing little anxiety or guilt afterwards. Individuals in the self-reported study recognised where their limits were in terms of expenses, and rarely overindulged. Atalay & Meloy suggest that consumers know their minimum level of consumption needed to repair negative emotions.
Yarrow (2013) discusses some therapeutic effects of going on a shopping trip. Shopping can be a way for people to ease themselves into a transition, by visualising and mentally preparing for anything from a new baby to just a new semester. Visualisation can be helpful in reducing anxiety, so even just thinking about where you could wear that new outfit can calm you down. And that’s before you’ve hit the till! Yarrow also describes how window shopping can provide a mental break from whatever you might be doing. Short breaks have been suggested to improve performance, as unconsciously we are still problem-solving whilst focusing on something else.
However, Hutson (2008) suggests that retail therapy will never work, as it doesn’t provide a permanent solution for our problems. He describes research which implies low self-worth upon feeling down leads us to buy ‘stuff’ to increase our worth. When the ‘shine’ wears off our new purchases, we still have the same problems as we did before. But perhaps with debt added on to that!
Personally, I believe in the therapeutic benefits of going shopping. I think that, as suggested by Atalay & Meloy (2011), if you know your limits, you won’t feel guilt afterwards. Yes, shopping may not rid you of your problems, but it’s a good way of forgetting about them for a while!
What do you think? Is shopping an effective way of boosting our mood? Do you enjoy a bit of retail therapy, or are you the type who just shops when they need to? Let me know in the comments below!
Atalay, A., and Meloy, M. (2011). Retail therapy: A strategic effort to improve mood. Psychology and Marketing, 28 (6), 638-659 DOI: 10.1002/mar.20404
Hutson, M. (2008). Retail Therapy Explained. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psyched/200802/retail-therapy-explained
Yarrow, K. (2013). Why “Retail Therapy” Works. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-why-behind-the-buy/201305/why-retail-therapy-works