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Even the best budgeter can run into financial stress from time to time. But constant stress can take a toll on your health. Could practising mindfulness help you reduce stress and build a better financial plan? The inspiring, and perhaps surprising answer is yes!
How can mindfulness help you with your finances?
Meg Salter is a mindfulness coach and author. She says, “With mindfulness, the areas of the brain associated with mind-wandering, stress and anxiety become less active.” She adds “that areas of the brain associated with cognitive control and positive mood are enhanced.”
That means that practising mindfulness can help you:
- soothe anxiety,
- reduce stress, and
- make – and stick to – better decisions.
That’s the cognitive control part. With a more positive mood, you can approach problems more confidently and calmly. And since money is one of the biggest sources of anxiety, mindfulness can help you feel less stressed. It can also help you feel more in control in challenging financial situations. You may also find it easier to make and follow up on good decisions about spending, saving and investing.
If you’re new to mindfulness, know that it’s not simply an attitude adjustment. It’s a skill you can develop and hone. Thanks to the brain’s flexibility, we can build these skills even if we’re not born with them.
Salter explains neuroplasticity as “the neural structure of the brain can change with experience.” So, just like physical training can build your strength or flexibility, mindfulness can expend your attention.
In other words, the more attention you consciously pay to something, the more attention you can find you’re able to pay.
It’s a gradual change. You get better at it the more you practise. The great thing, Salter says, is that it’s worth the effort. You end up thinking clearer, and you are better able to concentrate.
How can you be mindful of your finances?
Start by creating a vision for your personal goals. Flesh out all the details you can. This will help you chart the money, time and resources you’ll need to get where you want to go. For example, do you want to buy a house? If so, by when? How big? How much do you want to spend?
How you capture your vision is up to you. You might lay the details out in a spreadsheet. You could go old-school and make a poster on Bristol board. You could set up regular reminders on your phone. Or you could even attach sticky notes to strategic locations like inside your wallet or on your bathroom mirror. The idea is to keep your vision top of mind.
Then, every day and in the long term, use your personal vision as your guiding principle for making financial decisions. By getting in touch with what’s most important in your personal finances, mindfulness can help you find ways to achieve your financial goals.
How can you spend your money mindfully?
Splurging can bring fleeting joy. That’s especially true if you’ve been sticking to your budget and can afford the splurge. But what if you want lasting gratification? That comes from being able to say “yes” to purchases that move you closer to your goals. And saying “no” to those that don’t.
So how can you tell the difference? A mindful financial decision is one where you’re clear about:
- why you’re making that decision, and
- how that decision aligns with your core values and aspirations.
This process applies when you’re budgeting. Which means sticking to that budget, by saving and spending within it.
When thinking about a purchase ask yourself these three questions:
- How long will I feel good about this?
- Does this keep me on track toward my short- and long-term goals?
- Exactly why am I making this purchase?
You can apply similar principles to budgeting, too. When you’re trying to save money or meet new obligations, ask yourself those same three questions.
3 free resources to help you manage your money
There are three main resources we recommend that can help:
- A budget calculator can make it easy to see what you’re spending and saving. With that knowledge, you can make better-informed financial choices.
- An advisor can help keep you accountable, and on track. When you meet with an advisor to map out your strategy, bring along the personal vision you developed. That direction can help you make a plan that’s right for you. Find an advisor.
- Protect your vision and goals. Make sure you have enough health and life insurance to look after yourself and your family. Get a free life insurance quote.
This article is meant to only provide general information. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada does not provide legal, accounting, taxation, or other professional advice. Please seek advice from a qualified professional, including a thorough examination of your specific legal, accounting and tax situation.