Shopping Makes You Happy. It's Science.


Look, we all know that there are some inherent evils in materialism and consumerism. And when it comes to women, corporations, advertisers, marketers, ladymags and small businesses twist themselves into pretzels trying to get us to spend money we don’t “need” to spend. But let’s face it: Shopping feels good. It’s science!

As reported in The Independent, new research shows that retail therapy is, uh, actually therapeutic.

In the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers from the University of Michigan carried out three experiments to investigate whether shopping restored a sense of control in people to counter feelings of sadness. Shopping was up to 40 times more effective at giving people a sense of control, and they were three times less sad compared to those who only browsed.

It seems so obvious. In a world where things are constantly spinning out of control, shopping can feel like power. A woman may point at something, declare, YOU WILL BE MINE, whip out a debit card and make it so. You are queen of your realm, questioning minions (does this suede boot come in size 9?) and slaying micro-demons. (You had nothing to go with that blue skirt and NOW YOU DO. Problem: Vanquished.)

Obviously relying on acquiring items to boost your mood when you’re depressed is problematic, as is spending money you don’t have. But when you’re feeling like things never go your way, when it seems like everyone you’re always making concessions and following orders instead of issuing directives, being able to waltz into a store and get exactly what you want can feel like a coup. Sure, we’re operating in a culture of acquisition and accumulation that can often feel like a set up; in order to “win,” you ultimately fail (go bankrupt/die penniless) — but if you can figure out a way to indulge in some “healthy” shopping — new lipstick? chocolate bar? cheap sunglasses? — you could very well get a boost of positivity. As the study puts it:

Our experiments provided support for the notion that making shopping choices helps to restore a sense of personal control over one’s environment, and thus helps to alleviate sadness.

Image by Zubada/Shutterstock.

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