Retail therapy has become a mainstream escape from the craziness of life. We’ve all been there, we feel so stressed out that we see our favorite store as a beacon of relief, an oasis of peace in our fast-paced life. It’s undeniable, the feeling that we get from scoring on a cute dress or swiping for a gorgeous plant. However, it pays to check what happens after.
Lately, researchers have been keen on looking into the other effects of retail therapy, especially the negative ones. We can also tell that splurging on shopping as a way to de-stress can have repercussions such as buyer’s remorse, guilt due to going over the budget and feeling overwhelmed due to materials piling up in our personal spaces. We can also be welcomed with a credit card bill we desperately don’t want to pay off.
When it comes to retail therapy, it pays to look into what actually drives us to splurge in a store, and how to eventually overcome it.
What is retail therapy? What Makes Retail Therapy Feel So Good?
Instant gratification. It all boils down to our want to have what we want instantly.
Sometimes, most of our stress comes from not being able to get what we want. There are deadlines that we’re sure we are going to miss. Perhaps we have reports that we struggle to finish. Or maybe we have personal relationships that make us anxious, restless, and feel pressured at the same time. When the solutions to our current concerns don’t come quickly, we resort to something that helps us feel better instantly, and commonly, that’s the act of buying something.
The effects of retail therapy can be likened to a chocolate indulgence when you’re on a strict diet, or escaping class when you need to prepare for a grueling exam. It feels so good to temporarily shake off what we sometimes feel as “chains” holding us back from living as carefree as we should.
Ultimately though, time will catch up on us. Reality will hit us hard. Smart realizations will let us know we didn’t really make the best of choices. These realizations can throw us into a spiral of guilt, anxiety, sadness, and feelings of “How could I have been so impulsive?”
Perhaps you’re wondering “Well, what is a better alternative then?” The question might be hard to answer, but thank goodness it can be answered. When we integrate therapeutic activities with mindfulness, we can find a better alternative to retail therapy with longer-lasting benefits.
First, have a journal that will encourage mindfulness.
Isn’t it ironic? My friend Susie once told me “we escape clutter by adding in more clutter” into our lives. That line truly left an impact on me, especially when I saw a good friend of mine indulging in yet another retail therapy escapade. I noticed a friend of mine loves to sell a lot of things second-hand. Most of the time she hasn’t even opened the box of the things she purchased online. She loves buying and when she barely has enough room to store it all, she puts them up on platforms like eBay, sells them and feels relieved for about two seconds, then she jumps back online, scrolling around to buy more things that catch her eyes. It’s quite the cycle.
Susie’s profound line makes me realize that maybe we’re just trying to escape something – the stress of deadlines, the pressures of work, the demands of relationships. But sometimes, escaping doesn’t totally help. A great retail therapy alternative is a mindfulness journal.
As painful as it may sound, mindfulness journals help us realize that sometimes, going all out on a shopping spree may not just be “because of stress.” Writing down in your mindfulness journal can make you realize better solutions to your struggles; solutions that oftentimes don’t need a swipe from your card.
Second, deal with your struggles head-on.
I’m not saying going shopping as a treat to yourself is bad on face value. What I mean is it doesn’t always work when we use it as an “escape” rather than a “reward.”
Imagine this: you’re swamped with deadlines and you’re on the brink of a breakdown. You leave for the store to buy the stuff you may not even be needing. You feel happy momentarily, but your deadlines are still there.
Now imagine if you decided to push through, got all your tasks done, and sealed the work with excellence. Imagine how different it would be if you’re in the store to buy your “reward.” You probably won’t go all out with your splurge, you become more mindful with your shopping choices because your retail escapade isn’t tailed with guilt and unresolved stress.
Third, create something.
Write a funny Facebook post. Finish a painting project. Rearrange your house. Start a healthy resolution. Get lost in a puzzle. Sing your heart out. Creativity can effectively tell us that sometimes, we don’t need additional things in our office or at home. By working on something, you also enable yourself to find a healthier outlet that won’t call for guilt-filled purchases.
Fourth, consider going for actual therapy.
Perhaps it’d be helpful to explore the impulsive shopping sprees through alternative perspectives by talking it out with a counselor or psychotherapist. Are there particular voids we’re looking to fill by buying things? Emotional challenges can cause us to fall into the cycle of retail therapy, impulsive buying, and buyer’s remorse. Instead of escaping it with a trip to the store, talk therapy could be of better help too. Through actual therapy, we can identify problems that might be the root of our addiction to buying things non-stop.
Fifth, invite good energy.
Instead of spending money buying more shoes that you won’t be wearing for the next two months, consider calling and hanging out with a friend. Choose a friend that you know can influence you with their good, happy energy.
If you often go shopping to “release stress,” there are other healthier ways to do it including getting a massage, joining a yoga class, or availing a Reiki session.
Holistic healing therapies like Reiki sessions enable you to release stress and negative energy that could be affecting your disposition on stress. Reiki sessions are guilt-free because you’ll literally walk out of the clinic feeling lighter, happier, and more positive, truly supporting your personal growth in the long run.
Life is tough, and what starts as a seemingly harmless habit can turn into something destructive and problematic. Occasionally buying ourselves with nice things is not bad. Doing it every time to escape a problem or an emotional challenge can be unhealthy. Through healing, creativity, and diverting ourselves to a more mindful release of negative energy such as Reiki sessions or Intuitive Healing sessions, we can find the stress release we need and break the never-ending spending cycle. Explore in-person Reiki sessions or Distant Reiki sessions here.