In a world that is constantly moving and changing, we are expected to be moving with it, without even a second to breathe. We have to balance jobs, friends, school, and hobbies while still trying to lead a healthy lifestyle and work towards our goals. Naturally, this mountain of tasks can prove overwhelming, and can often lead to anxiety about almost anything — especially money.
If you’re anything like me, you probably worry about money (don’t lie; it’s why you’re reading this blog). Since I was young, money has always been on my mind. I remember being 12 years old, sitting in my living room and asking, “Hey mom, are you sure we have enough for [insert any random item]?” and her famous response was always, “Steven stop worrying about money, damn it!”
The truth is, for most of my life, no matter how much money I had (or lack thereof), I consistently found myself worrying I never had enough. This was a silly idea; I grew up middle-class in the United States, so of course I had more than enough, but my anxieties would always rear their ugly heads into every financial decision I would make.
When I studied abroad in Spain, my anxieties revolving money became even worse; I wouldn’t let myself spend even a dime. I would consistently turn down going out with friends or buying myself anything to enjoy, and I barely even let myself buy the essentials. After a couple of months in this cycle of constant worrying, I decided to reach out to some friends to help me sort out this habit. After talking to them, I realized it wasn’t just me, and that a fair number of people find themselves stressing about money. When I learned this, I knew there had to be a solution out there, so I went to work. I started researching topics ranging from money management to techniques to effectively reduce stress, and I had a life-changing realization:
The source of my problems was not how much money I had, but rather how I thought about what I had.
Money Is a Mindset
I, like many people, operated in a mindset of never having enough. No matter how much I had, I never felt secure in it. Upon reflection, I realized this mode of thinking and stress expanded into every aspect of my life, including my schoolwork and personal relationships. I call this having a “deficit” mindset (it’s also known as a “poor person” mindset, but I personally think “deficit” is more appropriate and more accurately describes the phenomenon), and it’s what causes us to overstress and perceive danger or scarcity when, in fact, everything is completely fine. Whether you have it or not, everyone knows someone that operates in this mindset. It’s easy to develop it; we can adopt it from anyone, (like our parents) at a young age, especially if there is economic insecurity. If you find yourself stressing about money even though you consistently have enough to pay your bills and survive, you may have this mindset. But don’t worry; it’s easier than you think to stop stressing about money, without earning even a penny more. The key is to change your mindset.
The solution to get rid of your stress is to adopt the “abundance” mindset, which is the state of being content with what you have, and feeling as though you have enough to thrive (of course, only if you have enough to support yourself). This mindset focuses on celebrating the present moment, and eliminating negative and stressful feelings towards your financial situation, regardless of what your bank account may read. It may seem like only affluent people can hold this mindset, but the truth is that your economic situation won’t determine whether you feel abundant — your thoughts will.
We all have met an affluent person who penny-pinches and refuses to share, and someone who is more economically disadvantaged who shares freely. Naturally, this begs the question: How do we develop and maintain the abundance mindset? The answer is simple: Mindfulness.
To many people, mindfulness seems like something only religious figures or spiritual people practice. However, anyone can do it — even the 20-year-old, stressed-out college student that I was could! I saw the benefits first-hand when I started implementing this practice into my daily routine. So, what actually is mindfulness? Although it can take many shapes, it is defined as:
“…the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” (mindful.org)
Basically, mindfulness is living in the moment. Yes, it really is that simple! It means doing things like actively listening when we are talking with friends, and actually enjoying our food while we are eating instead of watching TV. And although “living in the moment” is cliché, it’s so powerful, because when we live in the moment, we truly begin to understand just how dynamic every moment of our lives is. This isn’t just me saying this — studies have shown time and time again that mindfulness is one of the most beneficial activities we can practice for our health. Recent research by the American Psychological Association (APA) showed that actively practicing techniques that promote mindfulness reduces stress, helps regulate fear, promotes cognitive flexibility, and even helps relationship satisfaction, to list a few of the benefits.
Choosing to be mindful has loads of benefits in terms of our financial situation. To start, engaging in mindfulness will reduce your overall stress level, and will help you gain a clear perspective on what’s happening in your life. As I’ve already discussed, the deficit mindset doesn’t come from how much you have, but rather the stress and irrational fears you carry in your everyday life. Because mindfulness helps regulate fear and create focus, these feelings of scarcity you’ve bottled up for so long will naturally leave over time. For me, when I started to be more mindful, things that used to trigger feelings of anxiety stopped being so scary, one of which was the number in my bank account.
Also, when we live in the present moment, it makes it much easier to truly understand how much we have, and will lead us to the abundance mindset. By living in the moment, you won’t have time to fear about running out of money, because you’ll be too busy living. Although the process will start to happen naturally, sometimes the fear of not having enough can start up again. If this happens, don’t worry! All you have to do is bring yourself back to the present moment and focus on what you’re doing, and you’ll feel worlds better. So, mindfulness is great. But how do you develop it?
Techniques for Mindfulness
Although unconventional for many of us, meditation is a fantastic method for making the switch and becoming calmer about money. When I started meditating, I simply viewed it as a way to relax after a long day. However, after about a month of meditating, it quickly became a staple in my everyday routine that provided me with a sense of security about myself, a calm mind, confidence, and a focus I didn’t have before. Essentially, while meditating, you convince your mind that what you have is enough, and slowly start to ease the worry you’ve had about money. When I would sit down and meditate, I tried thinking about all the wonderful things I already had in my life, and the experiences and possessions my money has gotten me, like studying abroad, an education, and an apartment where I can live. By recognizing these great things, I eliminated the desire to have more that so often fuels the deficit mindset.
You can try this quick meditation to see the trick for yourself. After just five minutes of sitting down in a quiet space and doing this meditation, you’ll hopefully be able to come up with a whole list of things you love that your money has gotten for you. I recommend doing this every day or every other day for at least two weeks in order to see results. It didn’t happen right away for me, so patience is definitely the key. Another great way to help you through this process is to ask your partner, close friend, or family member to help you out and practice mindfulness with you. Having another person there by your side will help you stay accountable for reaching the goals you set out to accomplish. I found using one of my close friends to tell me when me when I wasn’t being present was really useful, and helped me stay grounded when I might not have noticed my old habits peering through. If neither of these methods fit your needs, there are tons of fantastic techniques to develop this habit, and reach the abundance mindset in no time!
Give yourself plenty of time to master these techniques, as they can be pretty tricky. Through mindfulness and the abundance mindset, you’ll quickly go from stressing about money to finally feeling secure in what you have.
Steven is an aspiring entrepreneur and is currently studying Innovation Management at American University. He loves spirituality and writing, and he hopes to one day be a life coach.
Image via Unsplash