Retail therapy is no joke. Here's exactly how to shop to boost your mood
Been putting off holiday shopping till the last minute? Join the crowd (literally): Many people will be headed out today and tomorrow to search for the perfect gift. By the end of the season, Americans could spend up to $616 billion on holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation. Whatever you spend, you're bound to brighten someone's day with the gift you give, but what if your holiday shopping could give you a boost as well as the person you're buying for? Science says it can. So if you're dreading the trip to a crowded mall for Super Saturday—what retailers have dubbed the Saturday before Christmas—read on to shop happier. (And if you need inspiration, check out The Best Gift Ideas for Men, Foodies, Fashionistas, and Fit Women in Your Life.)
Skip the gift cards
When people were sad, shopping was 40 times more likely to give them a feeling of control that eased sadness than other activities, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Researchers think the act of choosing items and deciding between different things restores a sense of personal control that can extend to controlling feelings of sadness. But just browsing won't help—to reap the benefits, you actually need to pick out and pay for an item.
You may not be able to buy your mom a plane ticket to Tahiti and a stay at the Four Seasons, but a wine and cheese pairing class or private yoga lesson will do the trick. Several studies have found that people get more happiness from the anticipation that comes from waiting to experience something than when they just get material goods. Pick up concert tickets or tickets to see a new art exhibit, and the gifter and giftee will be equally as happy.
Stray from the list
You may know that black leather driving gloves are at the top of your friend's wish list, but as happy as they'll make her, there are likely other gifts she'll love, too. If finding something special and personal to give makes you more excited about giving it, its okay to go off-list. A more personal present goes way further than something someone could have bought themselves.
Look for luxury
Ok, we're not saying you have to drop loads of money on fancy presents, but if something feels upscale, like a nice pen or box of chocolates, making the purchase will boost your good vibes. Luxury consumption positively affects subjective well-being, says research in the journal Research in Quality of Life. Researchers were also able to rule out borrowing a luxury item over owning it, finding that your pal will be extra happy she's got the real deal, not just renting the runway.