When was the last time you opened your shopping app, scrolled through, maybe added things to your cart and maybe even bought them even though you didn’t need to?
It can be therapeutic- take a moment to think about what emotion you are feeling- chances are it would be stress, boredom, anxiety or sadness. Research shows that when we feel helpless, we are not able.to manage things, or feel dejected that things aren’t going positively shopping seems to provide just that reassurance. It helps to show ourselves that things are within control or provides the anticipation of a ‘reward’, a positive thing, coming our way. This boosts our mood- but only for a short time.
The reward circuit is activated releasing Dopamine, the pleasure chemical of our brain. This increases our chances of repeating the behaviour that made us happy i.e., going back to shopping again. This is similar to the kind of changes that happen in our brain when going through a substance or internet addiction. We get habituated to these short and temporary bursts of feeling good.
It's not just the feeling of goodness that attracts us to it. It's an easier way out of our stress too. Think about it, would you rather sit, process an uncomfortable situation or have a vulnerable conversation with someone, when you can just shop to feel happy instead? More addition comes to shopping appeal from our tendency to 'rationalize' the act- there are chances that you will give yourself a variety of excuses about why you need to have something.
The marketing teams across all products work tirelessly to curate an app or a shop to increase our chances of buying things. The colourfulness, variety, the offers- all of them are research-proven methods of attraction to customers. This is why it is indeed hard to move away from shopping. If you feel the pull so hard to go towards retail therapy, there is another option, which isn't quite as detrimental - Window Shopping.
It gives temporary fantasy-based pleasure, and there is less financial burden on the shopper. It may not give the same intensity outcome, but it's an alternative middle ground for those who cannot go cold turkey. Going cold turkey is the first suggestion which means we will have to find alternative ways that are healthier to make ourselves feel better- in the long term. The second option is to window shop or add things to the cart, try them on but not purchase them. To avoid the compulsiveness to purchase, we can remove card details from apps or leave cards behind at home when going out. It is a process to learn to sit with feelings and chose the difficult path, be compassionate and mindful of you are embarking on this journey- take all the help and support you can get.
In conclusion, Retail therapy can be therapeutic when kept to a limit, beyond which it can easily translate into an addiction. We have to be wary of this and choose healthy ways to soothe and process our emotional discomforts.