Retail therapy can boost mood

'Tis the season to go shopping. When you do go shopping, do you feel better about yourself? Does your mood improve? That's why they call it retail therapy.

It sounds like just an excuse to shop. Retail therapy is the boost you get in your mood and spirits when you go shopping.

A psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic says it's real. Shopping is enjoyable because it appeals to our senses.

"It can be visual, it can be the auditory senses that are stimulated, but it gets us sensing. That gets us out of our own thoughts, and a lot of times, if we can get away from thinking about ourselves, we feel better," said Dr. Scott Bea from the Cleveland Clinic.

Bea says window shopping can do the trick as well. It can be fun hunting around for something, and simply thinking about the future possibilities with the new item. He says those thoughts produce delightful brain chemistry with relatively low hazards.

If you enjoy retail therapy, Bea suggests using it to reward yourself, but it's even better if you save for that reward rather than buying something impulsively with a credit card, which you may regret later.

"If you plan it out and say 'I'm gonna save for this thing', or 'I'm gonna reward myself for a new behavior', maybe working out or eating differently, you accumulate those funds to do a little retail therapy, then that can feel really, really good and you pay no real penalty for that."

Bea does say that retail therapy should be pursued with caution, because like a lot of other things, it can become a compulsion.

If shopping is the only way you can make yourself feel better, if you regret what you buy, or if you have credit card debt, then retail therapy might not be for you.