Who Knew? Retail Therapy Benefits

Finally! There’s an answer and justification for my full closet.  A group of researchers at the University of Michigan recently published their results from a study testing whether shopping can positively affect our mood.  This study explains why I have so many pairs of shoes and regularly buy more from my favorite on-line vendors.  The answer according to their research is simple – it makes me feel good.

The study’s title, The Benefits of Retail Therapy: Choosing to Buy Reduces Residual Sadness, conjures up all types of mental images for me.  This study is also getting a lot of press these days and I’ve read about it in a number of places recently, even though it is based on research from last year and the year before. Perhaps it is a scheme by retailers to get us out and shopping their over-stocked shelves and racks. I’m just kidding about that scheme idea, but I can see some savvy shopping place turning the idea into a marketing campaign – Buy our stuff and you will feel better.

The theory, in an abbreviated form, is feeling sad is caused primarily by feeling out of control; that lack of control could fit the situation of every last one of us living with MS and our caregivers, too.  They go on to prove that by shopping we gain a sense of being in control, which then elevates our mood.  When we shop we get to make the choice and it’s not forced upon us.  If the retailers are smart they will target us with MS as well as all the other people living with chronic disease.

Perhaps I should just trash the anti-depressants and head to the mall.  The study tells me that interacting with other people is a mood elevator and anyone living with a chronic disease will tell you we could use more moments of feeling up.  I can’t help but think of the mall during the holidays and that thought immediately brings me back down to reality.  The crowds, the rushing around, and often the added heat of wearing a winter coat in those stores with the crazy heat-producing halogen lights is almost always too much for my Multiple Sclerosis and wipes me out.  By the time I get the packages in the trunk of my car and get home, I am physically and financially drained.

The researchers considerately offer a look into alternative forms of shopping and look at the online phenomenon, too.  It appears that same euphoric feeling at the mall can be replicated at home with our computer and amazon.com.   This type of shopping is definitely more convenient and less taxing on my body – I don’t even have to get dressed and can go anywhere to shop in my nightgown.  I would want to add to their theory and consider that online shopping can create that boost in happiness not just once, but twice.  That package drop-off by the UPS driver or my postal worker always gets me excited and sometimes I get even more excited because I don’t remember what I ordered and the box contents are a surprise, so online shopping is like a buy one-get one free offer that I can’t resist.

Interestingly, the same study found that even though I might reduce my sadness by shopping, the anger I might be feeling is still there.  There’s plenty of anger in most of us with MS, and it is a disappointment that shopping doesn’t cure that problem. It could make me angry that it doesn’t stop anger, but what’s the point of that?

Unfortunately there is a down side of retail therapy that isn’t discussed in this study – that would be the financial cost of feeling better.  We might run our credit cards to their maximum spending limit and still not achieve a lasting sense of control. Living with MS is costly enough, so perhaps trying retail therapy is not such a good idea after all.

Wishing you well,

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (9)
  • Jan
    4 years ago

    I’ve been a kind of MS shut-in for a couple of years, but a couple of months ago a friend took me out for retail therapy and lunch. RT was more fun than the home visit PT, OT and ST (although the therapists were very nice). I ended up with some pretty shirts for the times when I DO go out. I also maintain a small Amazon acct for online shopping and have gotten some nice, bright colored cotton tee shirts to wear around the house. After a nasty winter wearing gray, black and khaki, some cheerful color was in order. BTW, I avoid malls during holidays.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    4 years ago

    I am a big fan of shopping from home …. and I hate the malls, especially in the holiday season. I have friends who are mall shoppers, but i have always been the grab and go type.

  • Tonia
    4 years ago

    I completely agree with all your comments! My Son wikk be turning 21 on Sunday and he informed me not to buy him anymore clothes. You see I like shopping for anybody, not just myself. A good deal is a good deal.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    4 years ago

    there’s such a thrill/rush getting the good deal, isn’t there? I used to love shopping, but now try to stop myself. Buying only what we need is so much less fun.

  • Lamarfreed
    5 years ago

    The short term lift people get from shopping has been known for a long time. Robert Frank’s book Luxury Fever, written before the 2007 crash, goes into the phenomenon of consumption and its costs and benefits. The key to enjoying shopping it to avoid putting yourself into a financial hole in the end. It also helps if the thing you buy is an experience that will not leave your closets filled with junk you don’t need after all is said and done, but will leave you with a memory you will carry with you for the rest of your life.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    4 years ago

    I missed your comments back in December – you are so right about being able to pay for those things that we buy that make us feel better. I have bought more than my fair share of junk.

  • Kim Dolce moderator
    5 years ago

    Laura,

    I definitely get a lift from online shopping and receiving the packages, and although I grumble about having to return a lot of them by running to the UPS outlet, it’s not that much of a hassle and well worth the 1/2 mile drive. Even easier if I can return it via USPS and place the box on my porch for the postal carrier. Beats going to the stores for sure. I love to spend but hate to pay those bills afterwards!

    Kim

  • Christie Germans
    5 years ago

    There’s nothing I love more than seeing packages on my doorstep when I get home! Amazing feeling and certainly picks me up if I had a crummy day. Great post Laura!

  • Sonya
    5 years ago

    Laura,
    As always a delightful read 🙂
    Thank-you my friend & Happy Thanksgiving !

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