Shopping as a stress reliever

Shopping as a stress releiver

When we say we need a little retail therapy, just about everyone can relate to the sheer joy that buying a little something for yourself brings.

But does shopping really help us feel better? 

When we’re under stress, we react to shopping differently. Just as we may naturally crave sweets to lift our moods, and as we respond positively to other pleasures in life, people tend to feel stronger impulses to buy themselves treats for a mood boost when stressed.

The previously mentioned survey of shoppers found that 82% had only positive feelings about these purchases and that the positive mood boost that followed these purchases was long-lasting, demonstrating that purchases made as a “pick-me-up” were largely immune to “buyer’s remorse” feelings.

However, when this type of buying becomes more compulsive, especially when money is tight, it can feel quite different. When shopping becomes primarily and chronically an exercise in mood enhancement, other issues can arise due to unintended consequences.

Those prone to compulsive buying can experience extreme levels of debt, anxiety and frustration, the feeling of loss of control, and conflict at home.

Shopping restores a sense of control

Research has shown that making shopping decisions can help reinforce a sense of personal control over our environment. It can also ease feelings of sadness.

A 2014 study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that retail therapy not only makes people happier immediately, but it can also fight lingering sadness. 

According to the study, sadness is generally associated with a sense that situations are in control of the outcomes in our life, rather than life being in our own hands. The choices and outcomes inherent in the act of shopping can restore a feeling of personal control and autonomy. This is true for residual sadness we may be feeling as well.

Another 2014 study by the University of Michigan showed that purchasing things you personally enjoy can be up to 40 times more effective at giving you a sense of control than not shopping. In this study, those who actually purchased items were also three times less sad, when compared to those who only browsed.

Dopamine is released even before a purchase is made

 Just browsing, scrolling or window shopping (but not buying something) can positively impact your mood. It’s this simple anticipation of the eventual possibility of a reward or treat that releases dopamine — the hormone neurotransmitter in your brain that makes you feel good. 

Dopamine increases your desire to continue to seek out things that make you feel good (hence retail therapy being a favourite go-to!)

Some think the dopamine is released when you actually get a reward or purchase an item, but it begins before you make a purchase as you’re delighting in all the possibilities. It’s about the whole journey.

Mood benefits from online shopping

Ever fill up an online cart but abandon it because you already feel relatively satisfied?

You don’t always need to purchase something to feel delight, because you’ve gone through an exciting mental journey already. In that regard there’s relatively low hazard. Spending less money may be even more rewarding.

Online shopping can also ignite dopamine release in another way — waiting for your package to arrive. Think about retail subscriptions where you may not know exactly what’s being delivered in the box. The unpredictability increases your anticipation. And since the reward is unpredictable, you experience dopamine-fueled excitement.

 Just a reminder to not spend more money than you have or you may end up with a big chunk of debt over time causing more stress!
Stick to your budget. If possible, just buy only what you need but if you have extra cash and you think you need to spoil yourself a little then go for it.
Just be responsible.
Moderation is the key. Don’t spend beyond your means.


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