Messing up a huge project at school or work isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, and it can certainly affect your happiness and self-esteem for a while. If you’re like many others, you may head to the mall to buy your way out of a bad mood.

More than 52 percent of Americans report partaking in retail therapy to cheer themselves up at one time or another, but what kind of purchases will actually make you feel better? All therapy buys are not created equal, according to researchers at Arizona State University. A new study revealed that a new pair of shoes might have an edge over a book that lends tips on how to do your project the right way.

Professor Monika Lisjak, an assistant professor of marketing in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU, found that purchasing something that reminds you of your setback can actually make you feel worse than if you hadn’t bought anything at all. Lisjak studied several hundred college students for the research, which appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“What we know from a lot of research is that people do engage in ‘compensatory consumption,’ which is often referred to as ‘retail therapy,” Lisjak said in a statement. “One thing consumers do is buy products to try to repair our feelings.

Buying something to improve competence in the thing that caused bad feelings in the first place is called “within-domain compensation,” she said. These kinds of purchases happen because people become uncomfortable with a perceived discrepancy between their actual competence and the competence they wish to possess. Though within-domain compensation may seem like a good idea, it can backfire.

“They end up dwelling on their problems,” Lisjak said.

Basically, going out and buying a book on how to create your perfect project will just end up reminding you how poorly you did in the first place, negating the beneficial effects retail therapy can have. That sort of rumination can drain energy, and cause people to enter a state of less control (for example, eating more M&M's), and do less well on tasks, such as math problems.

Lisjak said the findings could have implications for marketing, like companies selling “across domain” to try and help take customers’ minds off their workplace setbacks.

So when in doubt, buy the shoes.

Source: Lisjak M, Bonezzi A, Kim S, Rucker D. Perils of Compensatory Consumption: Within-Domain Compensation Undermines Subsequent Self-Regulation. Journal of Consumer Research. 2016.