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Positive Retail Therapy

Kristen Houghton

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 • 7:20am

If you don't think that money can buy happiness....., you don't know where to shop! That quote is commonly attributed to Zsa Zsa Gabor, a woman who certainly knew where to do her shopping! I can't help agree with her to a certain degree, although personally I like HelenGurley Brown's comment better. Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort. Can I get an amen for the original Sex and the City girl? You can be miserable but you'll feel less miserable if you can go out and shop! This is something with which I totally agree.

For me, retail therapy serves a strong purpose in my life and it seems that I'm not alone. TNS Global, a research company which monitors behavioral shopping (what we buy and, more importantly, why we buy it), has found that more than half of Americans admit to engaging in “retail therapy.” Findings show that happiness levels correlate with the high a good shopping trip brings. And, in contrast to popular belief, it does not level off when the purchases reach a certain threshold. Research psychologists have long documented a causal relationship between individual possessions and personal contentment. In other words, the consensus among scientists is spending money on yourself does indeed buy happiness. Money, it seems, makes the world in general go 'round and it makes your personal world go 'round a whole lot easier when you're purchasing things. If money itself can’t buy happiness that doesn’t mean it cannot trigger happiness when we spend it on what we like. On any particular day that has been very stressful, I find myself surfing the shops on theweb. A handbag, a cute dress, jewelry; just looking at them starts my adrenaline rushing. Seeing them in person at a store and actually making the purchase makes me happy. Perhaps it is the pleasure-seeking chemical reaction in my brain.

Much of the joy of shopping can be traced to the brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, and it's released when we experience something pleasurable, exciting, and fun. That neurotransmitter released during pleasurable experiences, which includes sex, rises even when you're merely window shopping. It hits a high level when you actually make the purchase. Shopping does it for me; my neurotransmitter is on high alert when I shop. Now I am not someone who racks up credit card bills due to an insane need for retail therapy. Not at all. But the amount of money I allow myself to spend, (and yes, I do have my limits), is the therapy that can take me out of a blue mood. I've done something nice for myself and that makes me feel good.

Truthfully I'd rather spend my money on retail therapy that gets me something real than give it to someone who delves into my otherwise happy childhood trying to find some misery that wasn't there. No question retail therapy can buyyou happiness. Nobody has ever shown there's zero correlation between money and happiness. There's another plus-side to retail therapy; healthy brain wave activity. When you shop you're making choices, deciding what you want, and using your imagination to see how you will look in anything from a great outfit to a new car. Your brain is active and engaged. Generally happy people use retail therapy to augment positively their lives not temporarily uplift it. Here's a case in point.

A few years back I bought a fabulous, classically elegant LBD. I fell in love with it and despite the fact that the price was higher than I wanted to pay, I have never regretted buying it. I've worn it to many functions, weddings, and parties. I've lent it to two other women who loved it and it is going to a wedding with my daughter, sweet Melissa in July who last wore it to a formal event. That purchase made me happy then and still does today. That's retail therapy and it works for me.

© copyright 2013 Kristen Houghton all rights reserved

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