Yarrow says retail therapy can also be a creative outlet. An artist, for instance, may get pleasure from choosing between two colors of paint. "It all depends on how the person uses the purchase and what it means to them," Yarrow says.
Compulsive shopping expert Benson recommends shopping for meaningful reasons instead of material items: "Shop for a hobby. Shop to deepen a relationship. Shop for a place to volunteer your time."
[See: 10 Signs You Shop Too Much.]
There are, of course, other healthy alternatives to retail therapy. Rick of the University of Michigan says, "If you can dust off a decision you've been waiting for at home – how to rearrange your bookshelf or where to plant that new flower in the garden – I think it would have similar positive effects."
Nonetheless, shopping can be an effective way of lifting your spirits. It can also have lasting benefits. "I have a battered briefcase I bought years ago," Yarrow says. "It looks terrible, but I've been using it so long. I still treasure it, because in my mind it marked my transition from kid to professional."