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Rejoice! Retail Therapy Really Is Therapeutic

Study reveals that shopping can truly help raise your spirits

How about a little love for researchers at the University of Michigan? Those honorable men and women have proven what many of us have known since we brandished our very first credit card: buying stuff is fun.

Or, in science-speak; "We theorize that the choices inherent in shopping may restore personal control over one's environment and reduce residual sadness," as the report, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, says.

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So, the mere act of choosing to purchase, say, Benefit They're Real Mascara over Lancôme's Definicils is good for us?

Yes. Within reason. It won't work to mollify all types of distress, but when it comes to cheering you up and to alleviating sadness, "retail therapy" is a good tack to take.

As the study shows, "Shopping is all about choice (where to shop, whether to buy, what to buy), and previous research suggests that exercising choice can enhance one's sense of control. It stands to reason, then, that shopping may help to alleviate sadness."

How did the researchers in Ann Arbor prove this? By conducting three rather wily experiments (read about them here).

The results? "Retail therapy is not as destructive as previously claimed. We found that shopping restored a sense personal control over one's environment, and thus helped to alleviate sadness."

Now, while this may seem like carte blanche to hit the stores on your lunch break, and on the way home, and this weekend and ... it's important to bear in mind one (bummer of a) thing; "Repeatedly engaging in retail therapy may increase one's debt, jeopardizing the very sense of personal control that shopping was meant to restore."

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