Guest post by Vanda Frak
Have you ever had a difficult day at work and found yourself browsing your favourite online retailers to decompress? Maybe you were recently promoted, 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
You might be struggling with something that triggers an emotional connection to trauma. Or, perhaps it’s a relationship that’s weighing on you. It could even be simple boredom. Whatever it may be, recognizing what you’re feeling is the first step to 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 how 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
Create space for grace and kindness with yourself as you work through this difficult change. 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 your hard-earned money. Whether it’s 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.