THE BLOG
07/08/2014 09:33 am ET Updated Sep 07, 2014

Can You Really Shop Your Way To Happiness?

Stop the press! Scientists have found some uplifting evidence to suggest new purchases can actually combat our feelings of sadness and increase our motivation level. I knew there was an excellent reason for my lifelong love affair with shopping. Who wouldn't want to feel good, look good, and be more motivated? Retail therapy, as it's commonly referred to, may have more than just a superficial and empty purpose in our lives after all, but this pathway to purchase nirvana may require some important insights first.

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, shopping can help some people overcome intense feelings of melancholy. These researchers discovered that buying something was about 40 times more effective at giving people a sense of having control over their environment. They also appeared to be three times as happy as the control group who just browsed. The conclusion was, being able to make shopping choices helped people feel more in control of their lives and their environment, which in turn helped reduce their feelings of sadness.

Okay, got it. It does make sense, but then there was a new shopping inquiry added to the mix. What type of shopping actually makes you happier? Spending money on objects or spending money on experiences? Objects, although initially exciting, eventually become old and unexciting. So then buying new experiences, not things, quickly became the new mantra to live by. Evidently, this was where our true road to shopping happiness was found, that was, until recent findings.

Just to make things more confusing for all you dedicated shoppers out there, a new study in the Journal of Research in Personality debunked the idea of "buying experiences" being the only proper way to feel shopping ecstasy.

This study revealed that there were some buyers who bought experiences, but it didn't make them any happier at all.

So what is a thoughtful shopper to buy? Good question! Although there is a clear link between purchases and happiness, the latest research found that the purchases you make have to be in perfect harmony with your personal sense of identity.

It is no longer correct to say what buying experience is right for everyone, because it's not! It is not one size buying fits all. It is important to understand the values and belief system of the buyer first. When material buyers bought experiential purchases, they were not happier, because these purchases did not reflect their personal values and personality. When it comes to buying and happiness, an expression of one's identity must be considered.

These are the questions shoppers can ask themselves to make sure they are honoring who they are and what they truly want:

-Have these purchases made you happy in the past?
-What kind of person are you now, and what's really important to you?
-Is there a better use for your money?
-Do you really want this purchase?
-What kind of person do you want to become and what kind of choices will make you happy both now and in the future?

Retail therapy can be therapeutic, at least temporarily, but you need to be true to who you are. Understanding your personality and what's important to you will not only lead you to a happier shopping experience, but to a happier life experience, too!