“Mindfulness” is a word we seem to see everywhere lately, but what is it really? Dr. John Kabat-Zinn, one of the lead researchers in the field of mindfulness, defines it as “awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experiences moment by moment.”
Have you ever thought about approaching money from a mindful standpoint? Mindfulness is often practiced through meditation, but it can be implemented across different practices with many proven benefits, including improving our decision making, promoting creative thinking and enhancing our problem-solving skills.
It’s no surprise that these benefits can help us with our financial well-being, but what specifically can you do to bring mindfulness to your money?
1. Understand your personal values
Our personal values drive a lot of our life—and our finances should be no exception. Often, the financial decisions that cause the most shame and stress are those that don’t align with our personal values. These values should be broad representations of what is most important to you in life and in your finances.
Take some time to mindfully identify these values and beliefs.
- What do you want to save money for?
- What is the most important thing you need to spend money on?
- In what case would it be acceptable for you to act against each value?
It can be good practice to write these values down and briefly reflect on them when you are entering a situation in which you are spending money. Mindfully bring these values into the present moment to help you make purchasing decisions.
2. Self-reflect without judgement
It may not be the most enjoyable activity, but set some time apart each week or month to self-reflect on your spending and saving habits. We are all human and we’ve all made mistakes regarding money.
Lingering in self-judgement can be easy, but do your best to be kind to yourself and simply accept that the decision has happened. Take some time to recognize and celebrate what you have done well.
After your reflection, set one or two realistic goals to address by your next check-in. If you meet your goals, great! If you don’t, reflect on the barriers that held you back in your pursuit and update your goals accordingly.
3. Mindfully manage your impulses
Many of our financial mistakes are based in an emotion we were experiencing at the time, but being able to recognize those emotions in the moment is a challenge. This is something that we can practice with mindfulness!
When shopping and an impulse arises, take time for some deep breaths and to mindfully address the situation. Ask yourself:
- What emotions am I feeling right now?
- Is anything causing these emotions?
- What can I do to address these emotions rather than purchase this item?
Just like in mindful meditation, we aren’t labeling or shaming these emotions that come to mind. Rather, we’re simply recognizing that they are there. Did I look a little strange staring at a pint of ice cream in the freezer section for five minutes taking deep breaths and asking myself mindful questions in my head? I sure did! Did I impulse buy that ice cream? It wasn’t easy, but I did not.
4. Know your needs and reflect on your wants
If everything was black and white, we would only buy what we need. When budgeting is tight, it is important to be able to limit purchases of superfluous wants. However, many of those wants are things that bring us joy or relieve stress in that moment. That isn’t bad at all! However, it is important to be mindful of which wants are most important and the impact that spending that extra money may have.
It may be beneficial to make a “mindful wants wishlist” of things that you know you don’t need but will make you happy or serve another realm of your wellness.
Take some time on each item and truly think about the reason it made the list.
- Why do I want to buy this?
- What about this would make me happy?
- Will it relieve any stress I’m experiencing?
- How long will this feeling last after my purchase?
- Can I get this feeling another way without spending this money?
Reflecting on questions like these can help us mindfully choose the wants that will benefit us the most and that carry the most value.
Why mindfulness matters
As I hinted earlier, mindfulness can provide benefits across our daily lives. Reducing stress may lead to fewer impulse buys. Improving our decision making can help us make those hard choices when making or sticking to a budget. Enhancing our job performance may give us more money to spend altogether!
If you see some benefits from any of these mindful money practices (or even if you don’t), try implementing mindfulness practices in other areas of your life. It is important to remember that mindfulness money practices are not tools to fix every financial roadblock in your path.
Rather, mindful money practices apply mindfulness techniques to help us make decisions that better align with our values and financial goals.
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About the author
Cole Arnold, CHES
Cole Arnold, CHES, is a certified health education specialist and wellness advisor for Baylor Scott & White Health.