Healthy Approaches to Retail Therapy

Retail therapy refers to the positive feeling we get from buying something new. It refers to the “treat yourself” ideology where you reward yourself by spending money. In truth, there’s a lot of clout to the idea. Buying something new or going somewhere nice to eat is a way to boost your mood and feel better about yourself. However, some forms of retail therapy might not be as healthy as others.

There’s a psychology to shopping just as there’s a psychology to everything else. For some, shopping addictions can be very real and very debilitating, so identifying this problem is important. For others who like to shop but may get out of hand sometimes, it’s important to take some healthy approaches to shopping when treating yourself. It involves using retail therapy for some extra cardio, or working through some alternative shopping options that may be more responsible.

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The Psychology of Shopping

Shopping for new clothes can boost confidence and new home decor items can help you to feel more comfortable in your space. Exploring a new style for yourself or your home can also boost creativity. There are so many reasons people feel better after purchasing items, and that has to do with the psychology of shopping. Sometimes people shop to cheer themselves up, some shop to make their bodies feel better, and some shop to make their space feel better.

Not only do some people feel happier after making a purchase, advertisers utilize this factor to get consumers to buy their product. It’s not just what you buy, but who you buy from. There’s even a psychology to grocery shopping and how we choose private labels vs. name brands. The psychology to shopping, how advertisers use this to encourage consumers buy their product, and why retail therapy helps us to feel happier and confident is interesting, but it can also lead to a shopping addiction.

Identifying a Shopping Addiction

Shopping makes us feel good. Shopping addiction takes that feeling and works hard to replicate it. A shopping addiction can lead a person to

behavioral addiction
Shopping Addiction
(c) Can Stock Photo / cybernesco

financial distress, hoarding, or relationship troubles. According to Shopaholics Anonymous, there are several different kinds of shopaholics:

  • Compulsive shopaholics who shop when they are feeling emotional distress.
  • Trophy shopaholics who are always shopping for the perfect item.
  • Shopaholics who want the image of being a big spender and love flashy items.
  • Bargain seekers who purchase items they don’t need because they are on sale.
  • Bulimic shoppers who get caught in a vicious cycle of buying and returning.
  • Collectors who don’t feel complete unless they have one item in each color or every piece of a set.

If you suspect you have a shopping addiction, it’s important to seek help and avoid the idea of retail therapy altogether.

Getting Your Cardio in

For those who like the idea of retail therapy and don’t have a shopping addiction, there are ways to approach it in a healthy way. For one, if you’re planning on doing some shopping, pair it with some exercise. Carrie Bradshaw from the HBO show “Sex and the City,” once said, “Shopping is my cardio.” In truth, this makes sense. Instead of shopping online, get out and make a day of it. That way you don’t have to worry about avoiding online shopping scams, either. If you’re planning on spending a day shopping, or just doing some retail therapy, get some mileage in and allow the trip to double as light exercise.

Go to the mall and park far away; make a couple of rounds and count your steps. If you’re shopping downtown, walk to several stores and get a couple of blocks of walking in. Bring a friend and walk around an outdoor shopping center with some coffees until you find some stores you want to visit. All of these options will help to get some steps in as you make some purchases to help you feel good.

Healthy Retail Therapy Options

Retail therapy is only healthy if you’re not spending too much money, you’re staying within your financial means, and you’re not exhibiting any shopaholic tendencies. However, you can still get some shopping in that you don’t have to feel guilty about.

  • Buying items for charity: If you want to go shopping but you don’t need anything yourself, consider purchasing items for charity. You can purchase toys for underprivileged kids, coats for the homeless, or toiletries for a women’s center. Find a cause close to your heart and donate to it. Giving back can help you be a happier person as well.
  • Buy what you need: Not all shopping is impulsive, sometimes you really need new shoes, bedding, beauty products, etc. If you want to do some retail therapy, just buy things you really need.
  • Shopping for gifts: Get your shopping needs out by shopping for gifts for others. If you have a family member or friend’s birthday coming up, use your retail therapy to get your loved one a gift.
  • Window shopping: Not all shopping has to involve actual purchases. Some amazing locations feature great places to window shop. Oregon’s Old Mill District, 5th Avenue in New York, Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, or 19th Street Heights in Houston are a few locations with amazing window shopping opportunities for your retail therapy needs.
  • Being a responsible consumer: Another great healthy approach to retail therapy is to shop as a responsible consumer. This means spending money locally or with companies that have responsible practices. This way your money is going to a good place when you shop.

Shopping doesn’t have to be a practice that goes overboard. In fact, there are plenty of times when buying something new can help your mental health in a variety of ways. However, make sure it’s done in moderation. Allow a healthy approach to retail therapy by adding in some exercise and shopping responsibly.

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