The following article is a guest post.
With most of us having gone well over budget over the festive period, now is the time to look at our spending habits and develop a better mindset when it comes to handling financial decisions in 2017.
The new year is upon us, signifying, for the most of us, the intention of new goals and a degree of change.
But without changing your outlook, it’s near impossible to change your relationship with money. With popularity in mindfulness set to increase even more, if you’re looking to create positive change financially in 2017 then it’s really worth understanding how this can benefit you. And how living more mindfully can impact all areas of your life – including your finances.
This is because it teaches us how to to be fully immersed in what we’re doing right now so that we’re able to make better, rational decisions, break habitual routines (that can often be contributing to ill finances) and be less vulnerable to clever marketing and encouragement of consumerism.
Stress and spending.
Mindfulness is beneficial to us because it enhances performance and reduces stress, and this is something that plays a huge role in spending habits.
It’s well known that stress encourages us to make irrational decisions and, studies have shown, spend more. It has been found that during a time of social or political uncertainty and upheaval, people spend more.
This can even be found in the bright lighting of grocery stores, as bright, harsh lighting has been found to induce stress hormones. With most of us running on adrenaline, stress levels are something that need to be looked at if you’re wanting to change your financial situation for the better this year.
Often spending money makes us feel good, releasing feel good hormones, which is why people go on a shopping spree as a ‘pick me up’, or feel good after making an (often unnecessary) purchase.
Stress leads us to rely on ‘cruxes’ – whether it be that daily latte, costly cigarette habit, evening glass (or two) of wine or mid afternoon muffin to keep your energy levels up. All of these things can vastly impact our finances.
When you’re living mindfully, you’re able to handle stress far more effectively. Meaning that you’re less likely to make unnecessary, irrational purchases or come to depend on costly habits to get through the day, or particularly trying times.
With better stress management, you will find that you’re able to be in control of your spending and less quick to make irrational decisions.
The role of emotions.
Much like stress, emotions are another driving force behind our relationship with money and similarly dictate spending habits more than you might realise.
Like we’ve seen with stress, spending often makes us feel good, and can be something we turn to when feeling unhappy or low. This is why so many of us will keep getting that daily coffee we probably should skip or make that online order that we can’t really afford – because it makes us feel good.
It could be as simple as ‘treating yourself’ if you’ve had a bad day at work, or go as far as feeling negatively about your debt yet still spending beyond your means to counteract those negative emotions.
Emotions play such an important role in our spending habits, that if you’re serious about wanting positive finance change and don’t address this you’re unlikely to see change.
Most people have heard of emotional eating, and this same principle absolutely is applicable to spending. Mindfulness allows you to manage your emotions, and feel in control of them rather than letting them control you.
The beauty about mindfulness is that it isn’t something new to learn. Whether you’ve had any experience of it before or not, you might be surprised to hear that it’s already familiar to us – it just requires cultivation.
Mindfulness is actually a simple form of meditation and is closely related to the topic of emotions and emotional intelligence.
You give all your attention to your breath as it flows in and out of your body, and in doing this it allows you to observe your thoughts and come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings are transient.
They come and go and you have a choice about whether to act on them or not. Mindfulness allows you to catch negative thought patterns before they affect you and puts you back in control of your life.
This is precisely why mindfulness can be so positive. Not only does it directly allow you to be in better control of your emotions, but it actually brings about positive mood changes and prevents feelings of depression and irritability so that when they arise they’re far more manageable.
The absence of need.
One thing you might find after practising mindfulness is that you don’t need what you often spent your money on before.
From the minute we wake up we’re being bombarded with the need to spend. Be in a morning coffee on the way to work, the latest mobile phone, celebrity endorsements, anti-wrinkle injections (because of course we mustn’t be seen to be aging), new clothes that we feel will make us more attractive and desirable, a bigger better house so that we feel worthy of our peers validation.
It really is endless – and tiresome.
When you’re living mindfully, you’re able to create distance between what you want and what you need.
You may find that you simply don’t feel the need to buy the latest phone when yours works just fine, or that you don’t really need a kitchen remodel. You can better identify when you really do require, or simply want, something, rather than get caught up in the feeling of perpetual need.
Mindfulness allows us to address why we spend, and discourages the constant hunger for more, better and bigger.
While you’ll still spend, you may find your attitude has changed and you make more conscious, appreciative decisions on what you prioritise spending your money on, rather than just mindlessly consuming.
Even if you splurge and get something you’ve had your eye on, you’ll find you’ve made the choice to do so rationally, and it will feel so much more positive because of this. This shift can have a huge impact on your financial situation, and you might find yourself with more money simply from the absence of so many unnecessary purchases.
A clear perspective.
As we’ve seen mindfulness can be applied to every area of your life, and for the many people involved in some kind of investment it can have a hugely beneficial impact here.
For those who are in position to, investment is often something that people turn on to in the hopes of bettering their financial situation. It might be investing a small amount of money in stocks in the hope of a return, or having a diverse investment portfolio more as a hobby. It’s seen most commonly with retirement funds, as the absence of reliable social security pension meaning that people are having to start thinking earlier about how best to provide for secure future.
If investment is something you’re wanting to either improve or start during 2017, mindfulness can play an important role as to whether you see it better your financial situation or not.
It’s not worth discussing the impact that making an ill investment can have on your economic situation. Making hasty, irrational bets or getting carried away in the heat of the moment and investing more money than you can afford to are unfortunately by products of investing in the wrong mindset.
If this is something you do, or would like to do, it’s so important that it’s approached correctly so that you can ensure it will be positive, not negative, to your financial situation. It’s widely acknowledged that the most successful investments come from level headed and rational decisions. This is why – as with any spending – entering into it in a rash mindset is not going to improve your financial situation, in fact it’s likely to worsen it. This is something that the team at the broker CMC Markets see every day, and they understand the role that strong emotions hold in any financial decision, particularly where there is risk involved.
Living mindfully allows you to practice control over your emotions so you’re not driven by them, and will allow you to make sensible decisions.
It’s important to practice mindfulness every day and adopt it as a way of living in order for it to become second nature, and eventually enable you to achieve your financial goals.
Many people are put off by the thought of meditating, but really it’s as simple as just catching your breath and checking in with yourself. As we’ve looked at it, just this one simple act can have such a positive influence on your financial situation, as well as in every other area of your life.
Better control of your spending, and by way of that financial health, are only one benefit of thinking in alignment with mindfulness.
Better emotional well being, improved health, better relationships, being present in the moment, better productivity and the ability to enjoy being in the ‘now’ are just a few of the other benefits, alongside hopefully a more positive relationship with money.
Make 2017 the year when change really happens. Once you start living mindfully, you may never look back.