Tangible Ways To Curb Your Urge Towards Retail Therapy
Words by Vanda Frak
Have you ever had a difficult day at work and found yourself browsing your favourite online retailers to decompress? Maybe you’ve been recently promoted or had something exciting happen to you and your first instinct was to celebrate by shopping? Well, you’re not alone. 40% of shoppers use ‘retail therapy’ as a way to calm down, while 74% said they have “stress-shopped” in the past.
Retail therapy isn’t singularly focused on negative emotions. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychology and Marketing, 62 percent of shoppers had purchased something to cheer themselves up. Another 28 percent had purchased as a form of celebration.
Resorting to retail therapy while ignoring obvious signs of pain, discomfort or emotional trauma is a temporary fix to a deeper-rooted issue. If you’re quick to pull out your credit card at the first sign of emotional discomfort, here are some things to consider before swiping.
Self-Discovery > Retail Therapy
Do you remember in Eat, Pray, Love when Liz was struggling with loneliness? Here’s what she said:
“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome it to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”
Maybe your struggle isn’t loneliness. Maybe it’s a dream that you’re working towards really hard and yet it still feels out of reach. It might be something specific that happened to trigger an emotional connection to a traumatic time in your life. Or perhaps it’s a relationship that is weighing on you. It could even be simple boredom. Whatever it may be, recognizing exactly what you are feeling is the first step. From there, you can practice curbing your urge to shop when experiencing an uncomfortable emotion. Pinpointing the exact start of the emotional shopping cycle is vital to understanding the root of the issue and redirecting that habit.
Replace Your Retail Therapy Habit
In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about the notion that you can never “get rid” of a bad habit. Rather, you need to redirect it with another, healthier, habit. There are several steps that must take place in order to form a habit. There is a cue, a craving, a response and a reward.
For example, let’s say you receive a text and your phone buzzes. That’s the cue. The craving is that you’ll want to know who messaged you. The response is that you’ll pick up the phone to check who the message is from and the reward is that you now know who messaged you. This will result in a dopamine release.
Breaking down and examining your urge to shop when you’re feeling emotionally vulnerable will allow you to better understand what your cue is and how to redirect that response into a more positive and worthwhile one.
Create a back-up plan.
In an ideal world, the retail therapy healing process would be finalized in one try. In real life, however, we need to create space for grace and kindness with ourselves as you work through this difficult change. You also need to create a backup plan, because slip-ups will be a natural occurrence. This could be an accountability partner you call upon when you feel the urge to shop. Or, it could be choosing to have a small “go-to” item, like a cup of coffee, that you will purchase when the urge hits. No matter what you choose, just make sure you have a plan in place. Giving yourself a crutch through this transition period will help you shift habits quickly and gracefully.
Reflect and resolve.
Once you’ve taken the time to reflect on what triggers could be impacting your emotional shopping cycle, it’s equally imperative to resolve them. Without resolution, you will simply allow those emotional triggers to continue to dominate your habits and in turn, your hard-earned money. Whether it be journaling your thoughts in a notebook or talking them through with someone you trust, it’s important to work through those emotional triggers and rewire your habits towards a life of growth and abundance, both emotionally and financially.
These are some simple and tangible tips and tricks that you can bookmark and have at your fingertips when you’re struggling with navigating retail therapy. We hope they’ve helped inspire and empower you to take back control of your finances.