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Shopping Often Used As A Coping Method

Man browses through clothing racks at store

By Caroline Smith

In a University of Michigan study, retail therapy was up to 40 times more effective at giving people a sense of control than people who just browse.

So why is retail therapy so effective?

A study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology noted that “shopping is a logical coping mechanism” for control. When you feel you’re starting to lose grip, being able to choose what you do or do not buy can make a huge difference.

In a 2018 New Yorker article, Lauren Mechling explained how she went from the “corporate grind” to a life of being “grind adjacent.”

After being told her position had been eliminated and the panic settled in, she came to the only sensible solution to usher herself into a new future: she bought a pair of clogs. To soften the blow of losing her job, she shopped her way into a new state of mind which she deemed “the clog life.”

After a long reflection of my own therapeutic shopping experiences, it hit me. There was nothing a corporate marketer could do to sell me a pair of clogs but as soon as I strapped on a new pair of heels, I knew I was unstoppable.

I realised that I myself did not use retail therapy to buy more things. I used it to reinvent myself. Whenever I was down in the dumps or not feeling myself, I bought a new piece and regained my lost confidence. In literal terms, retail therapy is shopping with the goal to improve one’s mood.

Take a look at many of the women in your life. When we go through a big break up or a huge life change, we tend to change our hair colour, rearrange our rooms or get our “revenge bodies”. We take hold of the changeable things in our lives.

This can also be said for men: they buy new cars and other “toys” and call it a midlife crisis. Well, sorry Brad, you’re twenty-five and driving a Ram so step out of your pimped-out pick-up and call it what it really is.

No matter what age, gender, or shopping niche, a good majority of us can say we splurge when the going gets hard. In a “treat yo-self” generation, retail therapy is, in many ways, wellness. It’s giving yourself what you feel you’re worth. So the next time life seems to spiral, spend a little extra on you, and see how you feel.

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