Why Does Shopping While We’re Sad Make Us Feel So Good?

Our generation generally has strong self-control when it comes to shopping for material things, but one thing we can’t overcome is retail therapy — that is, buying whatever it is we want just to make ourselves feel better again after a crappy day.

After all, as I read somewhere before, “Shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.”

Confessions of a Shoppaholic

Our uncontrollable need to buy something in response to our sadness can be explained by research and study; a published paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology states that “Sadness is strongly associated with a sense that situational forces control the outcomes in one’s life.” Coping with sadness means that we have to gain control of something in our lives, and our knee-jerk reaction is to purchase whatever we want because it’s a decision we can own.

Perhaps it’s just our body’s immediate response to serotonin levels, too. Serotonin, or the “happiness hormone,” can influence a variety of psychological and other body functions including your mood, your appetite, your sexual desires, and a bunch of other social behaviors. Low serotonin levels can pretty much mess up your thoughts, health, well-being, and self-control. Shopping, or any reward system actually, can boost serotonin, which might explain why we’re so inclined to retail therapy.

We can’t deny that we do it to treat ourselves for just about anything. When we’re down, we shop because we deserve it; when we’re happy, we shop to reward ourselves. In retrospect, are we really in control of ourselves when we’re shopping, or do we just think that we are?

It also touches on how we cope with failure. When our confidence is shattered from failures at work, at home, or in your personal life, our materialism reminds us that we’re successful enough and financially capable enough, thus boosting our bruised egos.

Shopping is a great de-stressor. But it’s going to depend on who you ask.

To others, shopping while they’re sad can make them feel much worse. They might feel remorse for spending money on something unnecessary which they didn’t even 100% need or want, which could trigger even more feelings of disappointment. They might even question their ability to cope with problems when they choose to escape or avoid them rather than face them head-on.

But I believe all things are good in moderation. Sure, treat yourself to a new shirt or new makeup at the end of a tiring work week. But don’t do it every single week! After all, there are a bunch of other, free things you can do to make yourself feel better — like, perhaps, window-shopping, online browsing, and adding things to your cart without checking out? 😛

Does shopping make you feel better, or does it make you feel much worse? Sound off in the comments!