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Retail therapy is proven to work, but at what psychological cost?
Retail therapy has been proven to make us happier, but is there a catch?
- Retail therapy is a process of shopping for the purpose of making yourself feel better.
- According to financial psychologists, there is a psychological connection between your emotions and how you spend (and save) money, which explains how retail therapy can have such a positive, uplifting effect on our state of mind.
- However, retail shopping often happens when we are vulnerable, and that is when our impulse control often goes unchecked.
Retail therapy is a process of shopping for the purpose of making yourself feel better. Retail therapy is much more common than you think - in fact, many of us are guilty of therapy shopping without even realizing it.
Some examples of retail therapy can include:
- Having had a bad day at work, you stop at the mall on your way home and buy several new items that you weren't considering purchasing beforehand.
- You receive bad news over the phone that puts a damper on your Saturday, so you decide to order pizza to make yourself feel better.
- You are sick, feeling anxious or depressed, and decide to purchase a big-ticket item (such as a new TV, laptop, a vacation) to cheer yourself up and have something to look forward to.
According to online counseling service platform Better Help, retail therapy shopping can be considered a positive thing if you have the means to allow for big splurges - but if you're living paycheck to paycheck and putting these retail therapy purchases on credit, it will only cause problems in the future.
Whether it's a big purchase like a flat screen TV during a big sale, a dress that makes you feel beautiful, or an investment into remodeling a part of your home, there are many situations where spending money adds value to our lives.
Financial psychologist Dr. Tracy Thomas explains that there is a psychological connection between your emotions and how you spend (and save) money, which explains how emotional purchasing can have such a positive, uplifting effect on our state of mind.
What are the psychological effects of retail therapy?
Retail therapy is proven to work - but is there a negative psychological cost?
Photo by Dean Drobot on Shutterstock
Lead researchers (Meloy and Atalay) of a 2011 study on retail therapy explain that therapeutic shopping can be considered a strategic effort to improve our mood. The results of the study prove that the idea of buying items to make yourself feel better (window shopping) improves your mood as much as actually purchasing the items do.
How does retail therapy prevent sadness?
Sadness is a situational experience that results from things we sometimes have no control over. When we're overcome by sadness, sometimes we want nothing more than to be happy, but can't seem to pull ourselves out of the emotion that's dragging us down. A separate 2013 study explains that retail therapy is most impactful when we're sad, but not necessarily when we are angry. The choices involved in retail therapy offer restored personal control over your environment, which makes us feel better in certain situations.
The potential negative consequences of retail therapy
It's common for people to feel as if they are indulging a bad habit when they make unplanned purchases - but is retail therapy really that bad for you?
It all depends on your financial situation, explains mental health professional Crystal Raypole. If you maintain purchases that are within your spending budget, you are not likely to see the negative impacts of that in your life.
However, retail shopping often happens when we are vulnerable (feeling sad, upset, threatened, etc.) and these are moods where our impulse control is often unchecked. If you are spending outside of your means, you may end up with significant levels of debt due to purchases that were originally supposed to make you feel happier.
While they may serve that purpose in the beginning, if the purchases lead to further debt, the happiness will be short-lived and stress over unpaid bills will soon follow.
Are retail therapy and compulsive shopping the same?
Compulsive shopping (or compulsive buying disorder) and retail therapy are both about spending money to make yourself feel better, but beyond this they are wildly different.
Compulsive shopping, unlike retail therapy, is a momentary pleasure. The happiness involved in the purchase doesn't typically last past the moment of purchase.
With compulsive shopping, you may:
- Purchase things you don't need or want because you like spending money
- Not be able to control your shopping impulses
- Feel the need to hide purchases
- Not actually use the things you purchase because you have no reason for buying them
- Need to shop more and more as time goes on, not feeling satisfied with one purchase to boost your mood
Retail therapy, on the other hand, is more likely to:
- Be a strategically planned purchase, even if you don't necessarily need it, you purchase something you know will add value to your life
- Involve you purchasing something that has been on your "wish list" for a while instead of buying something you have never considered buying before
- Consist of buying something you have reason to buy (a phone or new planner to help you stay organized, a new bed to help you sleep better, etc.)
Raypole further explains that the key to determining whether you are retail shopping or compulsive shopping lies in how you feel about the purchase afterward and whether you have the ability to say no to yourself in the moment of purchase.
- LifePower: Credit, Debt, Saving, Investing, and Buying a Home ... ›
- A Topography of American Grocery Shopping - Big Think ›
- Shopping addiction: why does it feel so good to buy things? - Big Think ›
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.