Why it’s OK: Retail therapy can be as good as sex. Researchers at the University of Westminster in London found that, in women, shopping activates the same areas of the brain that get turned on during a romp in the sack. Shopping allows us to interact with the world and explore our interests, says April Lane Benson, Ph.D., author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop. Buying things we like reflects the traits we appreciate in ourselves.
When to indulge: “Shopping should be done in a mindful way, and not as a way to anesthetize yourself,” says Benson. Ask yourself whether you can afford the time, energy, money and emotional distraction. “Shopping should never be used to fill a hole in the soul. It won't work and will move you farther away from figuring out what it is you really need and how to get that.”
Don’t overdo it: Though bargain shopping can give you a thrill, racking up credit card debt is not a good strategy for long-term happiness. Between 2 and 8 percent of Americans have an obsession with shopping for unneeded items and the inability to resist purchasing them. “It’s important to remember that you can never get enough of what you don’t really need,” she says.