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The great-aunt that I spent the absolute most time with as a kid has been gone 25 years this April. I look at the world around me and the things that did not exist when she walked among us in this plane of existence. Though cellphones existed, there were no such things as smartphones. Social media platforms like Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006) did not exist. We didn't have GPS; you had just better know where it was you needed to go or got really good directions from someone. The first iteration Netflix was around, but it was not as popular, and it was a DVD rental company not a streaming company like it is today. There were no e-books or e-readers. If you were caught talking to a device, you were deemed crazy or insane because devices didn't talk to you in her day. And there were no fiat vs. crypto debates because Bitcoin wasn't born yet.
Yet despite all of these amazing advances in technology and the sophistication of our modern life, the same questions that plagued mankind in her day, plague us now: what is the meaning of life, how to best cope with loss and grief, how to find true love and receive the nurturance that we desire, and how to deal with the difficult emotions of fear and anger. While these advancements in technology offer many benefits and solved some problems with efficiency in daily tasks, individuals must be mindful of the potential negative impacts on personal finances, well-being, and the environment. As noted in our article, "Dialing Down the Volume in a Noise Polluted World" we discussed how always being plugged in and connected has further affected our emotional vulnerability because we rarely have a moment to ourselves of silence without some buzz, hum, or beep of a gadget. Additionally, technological advances have significantly amplified the influence of consumerism by encouraging frequent purchasing behavior through targeted ads, social media influencers, e-commerce platforms, subscription services, and good old-fashioned FOMO (fear of missing out). To combat, we must shift to being more mindful and intentional about our wallets and our spending.
I have often found myself saying to friends, family, and clients some iteration of if you cannot manage $1, you cannot manage $100. If you cannot manage $100, you cannot manage $10,000. Not quite sure where I got the source information for that admonition. As stated last article, more money doesn't solve money problems. The reason being it was never about the money but the mindset. Our society has programmed us to mindlessly spending with the sales pitch and promise that the newest gadget or thing will make life more simple. My well-informed thought from studies and just talking to friends, family, and clients is that we use things to fill voids because we don't have answers to life's big questions and because we don't have inner peace, calm, and harmony. We mindlessly spend because no one ever taught us how to mindfully spend.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the potential benefits of mindfulness practices for improving financial behaviors and outcomes. But what exactly is mindfulness? According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the father of mindfulness in Western society, "Mindfulness can be thought of as moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, as non-judgmentally, and as openheartedly as possible (APA PsycNet). What exactly does all of that mean?
Psychology Today states, "Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present." This moment is the only one that truly matters. Despite our plans for the future, our reminiscing over the past, the only place we can truly ever be is in this moment. It sounds cheesy and a bit cliche I know. This is the key to understanding mindfulness. Noticing when we are not living in the present moment. The practice of mindfulness requires that we be fully present and engaged in each passing moment without being distracted by the past or preoccupied with the future. Individuals practicing mindfulness in the "moment to moment" framework have the opportunity to respond intentionally, making choices aligned with their values and goals.
Psychology Today goes on to state of mindfulness, "...This state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings." When we shine the spotlight of attention on our moment-to-moment experiences, we begin to notice. To illustrate, have you ever been inside of an MRI machine? The number one rule is to lie still. And I can. Until I am taken out of that state of doing and requested to just lie there and be. It seems as if every part of my body decides that now is the absolute best time to itch. Talk about itching to do something! I have had the same experience with sitting with my eyes closed and breathing. I notice the bodily sensation of an itch of my nose or my back. Though I am only supposed to be focusing on my breath, my mind starts to drift to what I'm planning to eat later or a random friend or family member will pop in my head and I'll get to wondering about them then a conversation or interaction we had will pop into mind. Being in a state of awareness gives us the capacity to notice all of these events as they appear. And a bit of caution. We are always in a relationship with the experiences that appear in our field of awareness (whether for good or bad). Awareness is about cultivating a healthy relationship with our experiences.
Non-reactively & non-judgmentally
Psychology Today closes its definition of mindfulness, "...without judging them as good or bad." This does not mean that we ignore our thoughts, emotions, and sensations; but rather, we acknowledge these without attaching value judgments. We don't criticize our thoughts, emotions, or sensations. We don't attempt to change or control them. This does not mean that we become passive and throw our discernment out the window. There is a time and place for discernment later and we mustn't put the cart before the horse. For now, though, we approach each thought, each emotion, each sensation with a sense of curiosity. When we are able to have awareness of what arises for us, we can then begin to shift to a place where we can untangle the reality of what is actually occurring from our reactions to that reality (our thoughts, feelings, memories, old habits, old wounds). But non-judgmental awareness must come first before skillful action.
What mindfulness asks of us here is to have an attitude of openness, acceptance, and impartiality. We are to meet each moment and each experience with curiosity and lightheartedness. This openheartedness requires that we develop warmth, compassion, and receptiveness towards both ourselves and others. Mindfulness encourages acceptance of emotions without attachment or aversion. Openheartedness extends this acceptance to include a compassionate response to one's own emotional experiences and the emotions of others. Being more openhearted ultimately leads to discovery, understanding, wisdom and discernment, and learning.
How the puzzle connects
From our operational definition of mindfulness, we understand that it represents non-judgmental awareness of our present moment. Once we are able to hold to this practice, we find that our self-control increases, our emotion regulation increases, and our decision-making increases-each of which are essential for effective money management.
Mindfulness and financial awareness:
When we apply mindfulness practice to finances, we find that we are more fully present in our financial experiences. There is a more heightened awareness spending habits and emotional triggers that influences the financial decisions we make. A mindfulness practice will enable us to develop a clearer understanding of the money scripts ruling our finances.
Applying mindfulness practices can assist us with identifying our unique emotional triggers that lead to impulsive, unnecessary spending. When we develop an awareness of our emotional responses, we can develop a more mindful approach to consumption and more clearly distinguish between needs and impulsive wants.
Mindfully Reducing Financial Anxiety:
We often are not consciously aware of the physiological effect financial stress and anxiety has on our body. Just a few include: release of adrenaline and cortisol; increased heart rate; constricted blood vessels; muscle tension which can lead to headaches, back aches, or migraines; indigestion; overeating or undereating; insomnia; and decreased libido. Mindfulness practices such as mindful breathing and meditation, have been shown to mitigate the physiological and psychological effects of stress.
Mindfulness and Financial Goals:
Emotional decision making is rarely ever a good thing. When we can separate the reality of what is actually occurring from our reactions to that reality, we can then make sound non-reactive decisions. Mindfulness emphasizes the present moment without becoming emotionally overtaken. By staying mindful of short-term financial objectives while considering long-term aspirations, we can make strategic financial decisions that align with our overall life vision.
Mindful Budgeting/Conscious Spending:
When we see budgeting as a restrictive chore, we are less likely to be successful at it. However, when we approach budgeting using mindfulness principles, we gain a deeper understanding of our financial priorities. We can then allocate our budget in ways that align with our values and personal goals. Rather than a restrictive practice, budgeting now leads to us having a sense of financial empowerment.
"There is a psychology that we have to overcome, our readiness and our beliefs."
Incorporating mindfulness into money management presents a practical approach to promoting financial wellness. By cultivating increased awareness, regulating emotions, and making decisions in the present moment, we can navigate our financial lives with greater intentionality and balance. Using mindfulness can help us understand the money beliefs and emotions holding us back from proceeding through the change process. By focusing on the now, we can break free from the burdens of past financial mistakes or anxieties about future uncertainties. This present-centered awareness empowers us to address current financial challenges with a clear mind and make choices that align with our overall well-being. Please remember though. Wherever you are on this wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!
Talk to us in the comment section below. Have you received your $25 bonus from SoFi for signing up for a new (affiliate link) SoFi Checking and Savings account? Last article, we introduced a new referral link to you to provide you with additional competitive options. Did you opt for the (affiliate link) Ally Bank experience instead of SoFi? We all may be on different weeks based on when you saw the challenge. What week are you on in your 52-Week Money Challenge? Or after hearing about stock price surge of Facebook (Meta) when they announced their first ever dividend, have you decided to skip the savings and jump right into the world of investing through (affiliate link) a SoFi Invest account?
"Don't tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money, and I'll tell you what they are." ~James W. Frick
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