Buying health and happiness: How shopping can actually reduce your blood pressure and help your heart
Forget meditation and yoga, reading or journaling, even laying on the couch or tanning on the beach—many stressed-out Americans actually consider shopping to be the best remedy for mental stress relief at the end of a long week!
But is that surprising to you? After all, who doesn’t like shopping?
In fact, according to a study done by University of Michigan researchers, shopping to relieve stress (otherwise known as retail therapy) was up to 40 times more effective at giving people “a sense of control” and that shoppers were three times less sad compared to those that only browsed for items.
Know what’s even better news? Shopping to cope with stress can actually help you live a healthier life by making sure that your blood pressure (and therefore your heart health) is in check!
Now that’s what I call guilt free!
Shop until you drop – some tips
- You know what you like—go get what you would actually enjoy! People come in all kinds of forms and preferences. Maybe you’re a shoe person—but I definitely don’t know the first thing about shoes. Don’t just get something because you feel like you should get something or because that thing is all the rage and everyone else has one. You want to make sure that you’re going to be not only happy with what you get and see the value in having it, but also be able to enjoy your time exploring the options while you’re shopping to reduce stress!
- Spend time talking to the store vendors! They’re there to help you pick out something good for you and you’re going to be able to find out something new about yourself—whether that’s what shade of lipstick you think matches you the best or what kind of a tablet you actually want to get. In short, take time with it, and don’t feel bad about “wasting” time—that would take away the whole point of going out!
- Keep an open mind! Browse when you can—even just browsing items takes your mind off what usually stresses you out while you learn something new about particular features of products. But if you spot something that you absolutely LOVE and you are still thinking about three stores later, you should probably go back and get it.
- Sometimes you don’t just want to spend on yourself, but you want to spend on others! Not only do you get the satisfaction of being able to buy something, but you also get double the benefit when you gift someone later. It really is the thought that counts!
- Win loyalty points! Chances are that if you’re reading this article, you’re probably a shopper at heart. Why don’t you take advantage of your own passion and interests and help you reward yourself! Many retailers love offering special deals and items to their loyal patrons. Keep an eye out on their website and various social media to find out about these to see if your shopping is going to match up with their promotional timing! Of course, this doesn’t mean to spend all your time looking for deals and forcing yourself to buy something just because it’s cheap, but it’s nice to check if there are any before you’re going out anyway!
Retail therapy as stress relief can be time and money well spent
Retail therapy has been a way of regulating stress—but just like over-eating and alcohol consumption, people more likely to describe retail therapy using negative words, like nonsense or debt, rather than positive words, like fun or enjoyment. But the first step to fully being able to enjoy the stress-free experience is to let go of the guilt that you associate with spending money.
If you’re on a budget, set a reasonable limit ahead of time, and make a promise to yourself to keep to that budget. Stay within your own limits so that you can still feel as comfortable as you need to before you go shopping. Some experts recommend leaving credit cards at home and carrying cash instead, so that you’re limited to what you have in your pocket.
However, if you’re more worried that you’re going to regret the things that you’re going to buy, then travel with a list of items that you need to buy—that way you buy things that you needed while being able to enjoy the activity of just simply shopping.
Just always remember that you’re not wasting your time—you are using this time to your fullest potential to reduce the amount of stress that is on your mind. The majority of people can’t even remember the last time they consciously took a break when they needed it. By taking time to sufficiently relax, you’re doing yourself a favor, you’re doing your family members a favor, you’re doing your coworkers a favor, and you’re definitely doing your heart and health a favor!
Keep in mind that anything that reduces your stress also reduces your blood pressure.
It’s our simple mantra and you can adopt it too! Do the activities that you love and that keep you excited about life—it’s all in the name of good health!
Test it yourself!
Don’t believe us? Why don’t you try testing it yourself?
The best way to track your stress levels is via your blood pressure. Because blood pressure is so closely linked to the stress hormones that your body releases into the blood stream, it can act as a reasonably sensitive measure of your mental state and how it is impacting your health. Using an at home device, it can be done inexpensively, is not intrusive at all, poses little to no risk, and is much easier to understand than other health measurements.
Once you’ve chosen a blood pressure monitoring device (manual, digital or connected) to measure your blood pressure, keep a record of each reading on a simple app—like Hello Heart (iOS, Android)! Not only does Hello Heart offer user-friendly trend and evaluation tools, Hello Heart also allows you to import your own patient data from your clinic and hospital visits (e.g. Cholesterol, Blood Glucose, A1C, Triglycerides, etc.) to help you form a more comprehensive understanding of your own health information.
Once you’ve installed the app, record and track your blood pressure over the course of a couple of weeks to see what your baseline is. Then give yourself some time to practice a little retail therapy and continue to keep track of your daily blood pressure levels. The app will alert you to any trends, up, steady or down.
What’s great is that since you are tracking your blood pressure, you’ll quickly know if retail therapy is something that helps you cope with your stress and prevents you from literally stressing out your heart!
Managing stress can come in many different forms—find the one that gives you the most pleasure (maybe it’s shopping!), and you might find that your heart (and its health—no pun intended) will follow!