You might hear people mention the benefits of a little ‘retail therapy’, and that phrase is often used to jokily acknowledge that shopping can be a bit of a guilty pleasure. In excess, many find it has a negative impact on their mental health (and bank balance!), creating the illusion that our psychological or emotional needs can be resolved with material things, which are often led by trends and become useless after a time. As with most things, balance and moderation is important to remember.
There are lots of different types of shopping, and some could certainly be seen as self-care activities. Some find, for example, that getting a new t-shirt that reflects their personality or gender identity is affirming, or that buying a comic they enjoy gives them something regular to look forward to. It could just be a little thing, like treating yourself to your favourite snack to reward yourself for coping with a difficult situation. For others, it’s not the act of buying things that helps but the act of browsing or ‘window shopping’ that feels therapeutic. This could be because it’s a reason to leave the house or spend time with a friend, or it might just be that the sights and sounds distract from difficult thoughts or feelings. You might find that organising or attending a jumble sale or clothes swap gives you the opportunity to get rid of things you don’t like and replace them either very cheaply or for free. And, if you’re a student, there are also a range of discounts available to you.
What young people have told us:
'It gets me out of the house and even if I'm on my own it's busy so I don't feel alone. I can spend hours browsing and i find it a nice distraction.'
'Buying things to make yourself feel better can help, things like face masks and things that are good for your skin. But don't spend too much! Then you will feel bad when you have no money. Try and think about what you're spending and give yourself a budget.'
'It makes me feel happy and in control of the situation when there are times that is not possible, such as your test scores!'
'Don't spend too much, then you can keep shopping next time!'
There isn’t much academic research in the area of self-care for young people who are living with mental health issues. We are trying to find out more about what works for different people so we can better advise other young people what to try.
If you’ve tried this activity when you were struggling in relation to your mental health, please let us know if it helped you and how by clicking on the ‘Did this activity help you’ button.