Retail therapy. We’ve all done it. Whether we’ve been bored, feeling a little down or even a bit lonely, a few clicks of a button, a confirmation notification and it instantly makes us feel better. This has never been truer than in the current climate, where Covid-19 had us locked in our homes and away from our friends and family.
“If not therapeutic, retail therapy can be seen as a distraction or an escape from an unpleasant reality or unpleasant thoughts, that can allow, at least temporarily, to shift one’s focus to a more enjoyable moment in the present,” says Dr Vassiliki Simoglou, PhD and counseling psychologist at Thrive Wellbeing Center by Dr Sarah Rasmi.
For many who have been affected by the current crisis, they’ve had to tighten their purse strings, or so you would have thought. Click onto any e-commerce store and it notifies you of busier traffic than usual and delayed delivery dates. “In times of uncertainty and adversity, especially during the lockdown and quarantine, overspending gives the individual something to long for. It breaks the monotony of everyday life, and gives the spender some excitement, something to wait for and a better perspective for tomorrow,” explains Dr Simoglou.
But what is potentially “therapeutic” in retail therapy? How does it impact our wellbeing and at which point can it be detrimental to our mental health?
“Even though it can bear elements of self-care, like taking some time for one’s mental, physical, and emotional health, purchasing behavior is more often than not, closer to self-indulgence,” says Dr Simoglou. Human beings naturally seek the feeling of pleasure and retail therapy offers this but only for a moment. “As soon as we possess an object, we don’t desire it anymore,” says Dr Simoglou, adding, “Satisfaction just lasts for that fleeting moment, until we desire the next thing.”
Instead, it’s important to focus on the bigger picture. Take time before you invest in a piece and ask yourself if you really need it. Will it bring you lasting joy? If not, distract yourself with other simple pleasures like taking a walk, making a cup of coffee, calling a friend of simply enjoying your favorite show on Netflix.