Mindfulness and Money: 5 Life-Changing Steps For A Happier Relationship

Image by Shamash Alidina.

Image by Shamash Alidina.

Mindfulness has originated from ancient teachings, often from the East. And many of those teachings were given for ‘free’, often in exchange for gifts of food, shelter and clothing.

But as mindfulness has become secularised, and most people in the west who teach mindfulness have jobs, mortgages, children and the need to make a financial income to buy food, shelter, clothing and the odd vacation - those people need to make an income to survive.

But, I’ve noticed, both in myself and others, a sense of discomfort in charging money for our time. Feelings of guilt, stress and confusion came up. I also used to teach mindfulness for free, and only began charging a fee when I discovered that my students seem to value the classes more and attend more regularly when they paid. And they were more grateful for the classes too!

But more recently, I’ve made another discovery.

I’ve spent much of my life helping people to reduce their stress through mindfulness and meditation. But I’ve been surprised to discover that money is the leading cause of stress in most people’s lives.

If money is the key cause of your stress, then you can meditate all you want, but the stress will keep coming back.

Having started doing some evidence-based research on the topic to find out what is the REAL cause of this money stress, rather than just what people guess, here’s what I found are the key steps to ease your money worries and get to the root of the issue.

I think there’s a lot of people sharing ideas around money and get rich schemes etc. This is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about exploring how we can cultivate a healthy, happy relationship with money, so we have enough money to be able to lead a good life and also don’t get so obsessed chasing money that it impacts our health or relationships. What’s the right balance?

These insights are based on research in the field of Financial Psychology by Dr. Braz Klontz and colleagues. I’ll be sharing more about his work in future posts in this area.

Some of the big untruths around your financial difficulties are:

  • It’s your fault

  • It’s because you’re lazy

  • It’s beyond your ability to manage money

These are all untrue!

Years of research has found money difficulties don’t stem from your rational thinking mind.

Financial psychologists have found self-destructive financial behaviours are the results of early experiences around money and the unconscious and unhelpful beliefs held around money.

According to these financial psychologists, here’s the top 5 tips for overcoming your difficulties with money:

  1. Get Real About Your Finances

You need to start by getting real about your finances - this can be tough. You may need to overcome feelings of stress, anxiety and shame and get honest.

It may help to know that money is the main cause of stress for three out of four Americans, and one of the leading causes of stress in the UK too. So, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, it’s the norm for money to be the cause of your stress.

The good news is, you can do something about it - yes, even you if you feel you’ve never managed it before.

Consider questions like:

  • Are you saving enough money?

  • Are you tracking what you spend?

  • Do you spend more money than you make?

  • Do you avoid thinking about money?

Don’t let shame keep you stuck! Face up to these questions and make way for a healthier relationship with money. Having access to mindfulness can help you to be aware of your feelings of anxiety, guilt or shame, and not get overly drawn into them - observe them as you would any clouds in the sky. Having a sense of distance between you and your feelings can help you work through the experience.

2. Look Into Your Past

This may be strange advice coming from the mindfulness fan. But your present moment beliefs about money are shaped by your past experience.

Consider these questions:

  • What were your early experiences around money?

  • Did you grow up poor, wanting more money?

  • Did you grow up wealthy and feel guilty about it?

Take a few minutes to write down what early memories and feelings come up for you around money.

Knowing these experiences helps you understand how you got to where you are now. By understanding the cause for your financial behaviour, you can begin making changes rather than blaming yourself. Start moving on from blame to taking your first small positive steps.

3. Discover your money beliefs

Your beliefs around money cause your financial reality.

What beliefs around money are hiding in your subconscious? They could be messing up your financial life and keeping you from achieving your goals.

Beliefs (which can be called money scripts) include:

  • More money will make me happier

  • Money corrupts people

  • Money is evil

  • My self-worth equals my net-worth

Amazingly, research shows money beliefs are linked to income.

So if you want to change your income, you will need to change your money beliefs. You need to first of all begin to become aware of your beliefs, and then begin to gently question their validity.

Will money really make you happier, if you’re earning more than £40,000 ($50k) per year?

Are all wealthy people really evil? What about people with less money - are they all good?

Is your sense of self-worth linked to how much you’re worth financially? Or is everyone’s self-worth equally important?

4. Visualise your financial goals

This isn’t fluffy stuff! To be able to reach reasonable financial goals, you do need to imagine and get really clear what you want.

Do you want to purchase your first home? Go on holiday? Perhaps go on a long retreat, or learn something new? Be specific about what you want and visualise it in detail.

One research where people created vision boards, including the saving goals people needed, increased savings behaviour by 73%.

An exciting visual picture of what you want will inspire you to take action!

5. Consider Finding a Financial Mentor, Therapist or Coach

If you have real issues with money, consider getting in touch with someone to help you out. Perhaps your counsellor or therapist can help. Or maybe you may need to do some research and find someone to support you. I’m pretty sure the investment will pay itself back many times, not just financially, but through a life with less stress and anxiety around money issues.

For more tips and advice, check out the field of financial psychology, or follow my blog posts for some more tips in the future. My approach will merge the findings from financial psychology with the power of baby steps from the science of behaviour change, and the power of kindfulness from the science of self-compassion - a unique mix!

If you’re really interested in this, contact me and let me know what way of learning would work best for you (1-2-1 coaching, short videos, online course, short blog posts, an ebook or what?!)

Please note:

These ideas are not meant to be financial advice. For advice in the UK, check out the Money Advice Service. Or get in touch with an independent financial advisor in your country.

If you’d like to learn more about my approach of combining mindfulness with kindness, consider my free 7 day course. Or my full 8 week program which is currently on sale - includes 60 mini daily videos and over 15 guided kindfulness audio meditations to try.

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