I’ve never been into meditation. I know the benefits are far-ranging, but it’s hard – at least for me. I’ve tried it and this is how it used to go down: I sat down to meditate and suddenly became aware of every itch on my body. In fact, I’ve never sunk into a meditative state of bliss and emerged 30 minutes later with clarity and feeling light as air.
Recently, however, I began to re-think the whole meditation thing. Why? I noticed a dramatic uptick in my credit card spending: My strict $500 monthly limit was closer to $700. This was enough to impact my savings and made me feel stressed out about my spending habits.
In fact, I’m not the only who feels money can induce anxiety. Money is a top cause of stress for 64% of Americans, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). If money is a cause of stress for you too, it’s certainly worth giving meditation a try. Just think: It may help you become more mindful of your money. Better yet, it’s free!
What is Meditation and How Can It Help You?
What exactly is meditation? It’s the practice and art of quieting your mind to help achieve a sense of calm and focus. If you’re not super familiar with meditation, it’s been proven to decrease stress, increase happiness, boost self-awareness and improve concentration. It can also help protect your brain from aging, which begins in your mid-twenties. On top of this, meditation can help control the activity in your default mode network (DMN). That’s the part of your brain that controls mind-wandering. Less control over mind-wandering has been associated with increased unhappiness, so controlling it through meditation leads to less stress and more happiness.
Since meditation helps concentration and decreases stress, this was the perfect time for me to dive back in. Not only did I need to become more mindful of my savings goals, but my work life was stressful. I recently formed a limited liability corporation (LLC) to protect my writing business. This meant I had to open a new bank account, register my company with my Secretary of State, and inform all my clients of my business change – all while still producing written content for clients. I felt overwhelmed and scattered.
I felt meditation could help ground me and improve my focus – helping me rein in my savings goals once again.
How to Get Started With Meditation
Although there are many ways to meditate, a good way to start is to find a quiet place to turn inward. By shutting out the concerns of the outside world, you can focus on quieting your mind. Don’t worry if you can only meditate for a few minutes a day. Any amount of time dedicated to stillness is better than nothing.
According to Psychology Today, the easiest way to start meditating is to find a comfortable position. This may be sitting on the floor or in a chair with back support. If you have a quiet room where you can close a door, that’s perfect. If you’re like me and don’t have a spare room, use a common area when no one else is around. I even have a friend who sits in his closet for 10 minutes a day!
Next, begin to focus on your breathe. Practice paying attention to the movement of breath in your nose, into your lungs and then back out through your nose. Do this for three to five minutes each day. If every day isn’t possible, try once a week, slowly working up to several times a week and then daily. While you’re at it, begin sitting for longer periods of time. The more comfortable you get, the longer you can practice meditation.
If focusing on your breath isn’t working for you and your mind is still wandering, you can try coming up with a mantra that speaks to your heart. A mantra can be a grouping of words or phrase that means something to you. By repeating these words over and over again in your head, this can help ground you in your intention. For me, my mantra is “Money is a tool I use to achieve my dreams.” This helps root me in my core belief about money. When I meditate, I start by taking deep breaths for five straight minutes. I then repeat my mantra for one minute after that. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Just a quick break from the world that allows me to center myself.
Getting started with meditation, however, can be a struggle for many people. If you’ve tried to meditate and still can’t seem to stop fidgeting or even carve out three minutes in your day without a million excuses, you may need a little extra help. Luckily, you’ve got lots of options. For starters, you can attend a class for beginners at a local yoga studio, community center or adult education center. If you can’t find anything near you, you can even try out a meditation app like Headspace or 10% Happier.
Meditation, Mindfulness, and Money
I now take mindfulness off my meditation mat and into my daily life. This way I can feel focused and grounded when it comes to spending and saving money. This also helps me determine whether each purchase is a need or a want.
For example, I recently spent $300 on clothes and this is a lot of money for me to spend on my wardrobe. Yet, my clothes didn’t fit me right and new clothing was a need for me. It felt good to give myself permission to buy clothes that I needed. Conversely, I noticed that I was overspending on my alcohol budget. I was not being deliberate about how many drinks I bought when I went out, and the bill was adding up. I actually value the clothes that I recently bought. I don’t value drinks out a few nights a week. Pulling back on my alcohol budget contributed to my overall happiness and put money back in my pocket.
As you can see, mindful meditation is a powerful tool to add to your financial tool belt. Have you ever meditated? How has it impacted your finances?