“I always say shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.”
–Tammy Faye Bakker
The typical maxim of write about what you know isn’t going to apply to this post. I readily confess, I have never been one to use shopping as a way to make the blues go away. I cannot empathize on this one. I hate malls. I used to love malls when I was a teenager. I could walk around them all day, looking in windows and scouring like mad for bargains. However, a lot of that was driven by the belief that I could buy clothes which made me look good, which would make me popular, and help me keep up with the teenage version of the Joneses.
Nowadays, the only shopping I do, if I can help it, is online, and it’s for a purpose. Do we need toilet paper or coffee? I hop onto Amazon and order it. If Amazon could deliver me fresh vegetables, good cuts of chicken, fish, and meat, and frozen goods, I’d use it for that purpose too. But, alas, for me, shopping is sometimes a necessity, though not one which brings me great amounts of joy.
For some people, though, shopping offers a therapeutic benefit. The term retail therapy probably brings about pejorative associations (as it did with me) about being wasteful and shallow. Yet, despite the bad press retail therapy gets, a recent study by three professors at the University of Michigan shows that going shopping and choosing to buy something actually does reduce sadness in people.
According to the experiments and the study, sadness involves a feeling of loss of control within people. Going shopping and choosing to buy something restores that sense of control, and alleviates those feelings of sadness. It’s not sufficient, according to the study, to go shopping and not buy something, since, for many people (including me), that would be the default option. Since you’re doing what you would have done anyway, not buying anything, you haven’t actually made a choice. When you don’t make a choice, you don’t restore the feeling of self-control, and you haven’t reduced sadness.
Monkey Brain must be jumping for joy at the findings of this study. There is a reason to go out and buy that 183″ flat screen TV or the closet full of Jimmy Choo shoes and he isn’t going to be perceived as the bad guy!
Well, not quite.