Have you ever had a rough day, then went out to the store, bought something, and suddenly your mood is uplifted? A survey conducted by TNS Global on behalf of Ebates.com found that more than 52 percent of Americans — 64 percent of women and 40 percent of men — engaged in what’s called "retail therapy,"or the act of shopping and spending money in order to brighten your mood. But is retail therapy actually a thing? According to some research, it does work for a few reasons.
1. Helps To Ease Transitions
Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, writes that buying new things helps to ease a person into a new phase of life. “Shopping can be a rich source of mental preparation,” she writes in Psychology Today. “As people shop, they’re naturally visualizing how they’ll use the products [they’re] considering, and in doing so they’re also visualizing their new life. And as many great athletes will attest, visualization is a performance booster and anxiety reducer.” Yarrow says that this is why the most intensive shopping moments of our lives are paired with big events — a marriage and a baby. They’re both big transitions and shopping and visualizing are only a small part of the big allure.
2. Brightens Moods
According to a 2011 study, researchers conducted interviews by asking hundreds of shoppers to keep diaries of their moods and their behavior. The people who were in a bad mood were more likely to impulse shop. However, buying something did brighten their moods — 82 percent of people who bought something didn’t regret their purchase. “Retail therapy purchases were overwhelmingly beneficial, leading to mood boosts and no regrets or guilt,” said Selin Atalay and Margaret Meloy, the authors of the study.
3. Improves Child’s Development
It might be a toddler’s worst nightmare, but according to a study published in April 2014, shopping can help to improve their development. According to the joint therapy by Oxford University and the Open University, shopping is another way to boost social and motor skills. “Shopping may be beneficial because it involves changes of scenery from shop to shop, which improves the child's motor and social skills more than a sedentary activity,” the report found, according to the Daily Mail. Two lead researchers, Professor Paul Anand and Dr. Laurence Roope, also said that the more retail therapy toddlers were exposed to, the happier they were. Their everyday skills showed signs of improvement, too.
4. Increases Dopamine Levels
Research shows that when you’re shopping and you purchase something that you really want, your brain is filled with dopamine. "If you look at MRI scans of shoppers,” said Dr. Travis Stork, from The Doctors, "[the] areas flooded with dopamine are the same pleasure centers [that are flooded when] you're having sex."