It’s easy to dismiss mindfulness as new-age woo-woo that you can only practice whilst sat in a certain position, wearing only the very best yoga gear.
But it’s rooted in self-improvement, and the reason it’s popular is because if you practice it, it does have the potential to change how you think, feel and act.
It’s about being fully present – that is, being aware of where you are and what you are doing.
Practicing mindfulness is proven to reduce stress, make us more focused and enhance our performance.
Mindfulness and money
Mindfulness relates to money like it relates to food.
Eat whilst not paying attention and you eat more. How many of us have consumed a whole bag of tortilla chips in the first half of The Apprentice? You’re not paying attention to what you eat, because you are more focused on the TV.
The same applies to your money. If you don’t pay attention to where it’s going, more of it goes.
If you miss a credit card payment or a bill you forgot about takes you into your overdraft, that means fees and interest. Have you ever had bill shock at the supermarket checkout because you shopped without a list? So many things you didn’t really need ended up in your basket.
Being money mindful means being fully aware of what we think about money, how money makes us feel and what we do with the money we have.
Money is the biggest stress in our lives
61% of employed people say that money causes them the biggest stress, over things like work, relationships and health. And money stress doesn’t just impact us, it impacts those around us too. It’s a big deal.
Part of the reason it causes us so much stress is because we don’t always understand it. We aren’t taught financial education at school, so throughout our adult life our knowledge remains limited.
Another reason we are so stressed about money is the need we feel to keep up with those around us. We compare ourselves to others all the time. If a close friend is shopping, eating out and buying nice cars, we assume we are less worthy. (Even though our friend might be living above their means and be up to their eyeballs in debt).
It’s no wonder a lot of our feelings surrounding money are of anxiety or shame, which stops us from being mindful.
How do we change these feelings and be more mindful?
In order to cultivate a happy, healthy relationship with money, we need to go back to the beginning.
There are a lot of untruths about money and our earning potential, which I’m sure we’ve all felt at some point:
I’m not smart enough to earn the money I need
I’m obviously lazy because I’m not well off
It’s not my fault, it’s just the way society is
These are definitely all untrue!
We know that the way we think about money is not based in rational thought. Humans aren’t designed to be rational. We can think rationally, but we can easily be swayed by emotion.
Research has also found that our thoughts around money are set from a young age – by the time we are seven to be exact. So, it’s our beliefs about money, that are set in childhood, that shape our money behaviours and earning potential today.
You can change your relationship with money
Despite the fact our money behaviours have been formed from a very young age, it is still possible to change them. The first step is to really understand where your money beliefs come from and how they shape your behaviours today.
To understand your money beliefs and behaviours, run through these 3 steps.
Be honest about your finances
Be really honest with yourself about the current state of your finances. Ask yourself these questions.
- Do you track what you spend?
- Do you know what’s in your bank account on a daily or weekly basis?
- Do you pay bills late because you aren’t organised?
- Are you spending more than you earn, and are in debt?
- Do you impulse buy because you are stressed?
Think back to your childhood and money
- Did you feel well off or poor compared to your school friends?
- And how did you feel about that – smug, ashamed?
- Did you always want more things?
- Did you earn money for chores or were you given money when you wanted it?
- Did your parents talk about money?
Your money beliefs today
- What do you really think about money today as an adult:
- Will having more of it make you happier?
- Is money not that important?
- Is the love of money the root of all evil?
- Is money there to be spent?
- Is your self-worth linked to your net-worth?
- Is it selfish to want money?
Now that you’ve worked this through, you can hopefully see that your current financial situation is normal.
How could you have done anything differently when you only had those long-held beliefs to work with?
Understanding this means you can make a change, or a series of changes, that can really impact your future.
If you believe money that the love of money is the root of all evil, you may unconsciously resist saving. How can you change that, to put some money aside for retirement?
If you believe you never have enough money, you may be incredibly frugal and resist spending, saving cash in low interest savings accounts. How can you make yourself comfortable with moving some of the money into higher interest earning, but slightly risker, accounts to grow your money more quickly?
Make peace with your past behaviours, and you can open yourself up to learning new ways to take charge of the choices you make with your money today.