How Pilgrimage Is Linked to Retail Therapy

If you're feeling down, one of the surest ways to perk yourself up can be shopping. Maybe all it takes is an ice cream cone or a sheet of stickers; maybe you need something bigger to help, like a great pair of expensive shoes or a plane ticket. No matter who you are, you've probably sought relief from your feelings in retail therapy.

Research shows that this habit is growing pretty much everywhere. English consumer researchers have just released a study on the "role of marketplaces in enabling consumers to confront their problems." In other words, it's why only a trip to DisneyWorld can heal certain souls. Rather than the Magic Kingdom, however, the research team looked at an older site: Lourdes, France, which has been a place of pilgrimage for Catholics for more than 160 years.

The religious site itself is generally the key part of such a journey, but these researchers looked at how pilgrims interacted with the marketplace surrounding the site — a jumble of over 200 hotels, 100 restaurants and 200 souvenir shops. According to a press release, "The interaction and engagement with the religious rituals, as well as the simple secular pursuits of eating, having a coffee or glass of wine, and talking to like-minded others were all pivotal in creating a therapeutic setting for participants."

Breaking away from materialism is worthy in its own right, as is mindful splurging. But ultimately, anyone who gets on your case about retail therapy should try it before they knock it.