Not Emily (Credit: Pixabay)

Managing your money and mental health

Our well-being and our bank accounts are intricately linked. Simplicity’s Amanda Morrall says the relationship between your financial health and your mental health is inseparable. 

Juggling the worlds of yoga and finance as I do is a mind bend for some folks. They can’t seem to square the rational with the esoteric. On the surface it might seem like these two concepts are galaxies apart but if you look a little closer the parallels are easily observable.

In Eastern philosophy, which is where yoga is rooted, the inner world is a reflection of the outer. That’s a hard one for Western-minded rationalists to swallow, given they are schooled to believe only that which they can see or, better yet, that which science can validate. The interior world is a mysterious, murky domain which is best concealed and shared only with those trusted sources.

Given how prolific antidepressants have become in the Western world, it’s clearly become an unhappy place we inhabit, and our trust is limited to doctors and closest confidants. In New Zealand alone, almost 300,000 people in 2016 were on some form of antidepressants. That’s around 7% of the population. Disturbingly, many of them are children: more than 12,000 under 18. In the United States, just over 16% of the population were on antidepressants in that same period of time.

Depression has become an epidemic. Youth suicide in New Zealand is one of the highest per capita in the world. School shootings in the U.S. are becoming routine. All is not well and the Western cure is mainly a pharmaceutical one, propped up by rampant consumerism and mindless spending. In 2016, Kiwis put more than $36 billion on credit cards, more than 60 percent of it interest bearing according to Canstar.

People resort to all sorts of poor financial behaviours when their inner worlds collapse. They shop mindlessly, consume alcohol excessively, neglect their health, their jobs, and their relationships, all of which manifest in a less than ideal state of financial affairs. This causes people, and the state, grief and misery.

The outer may not reflect the inner in all circumstances, but there’s a damn good correlation. The reflective and contemplative aspect of yoga helps to illuminate this.

As a personal finance specialist and yoga teacher I see it all the time. Those who invest in their inner health are rewarded with wealth. Not just extra money in the bank but a richer social life, a greater sense of purpose, an appreciation of life and a sense of inner wealth outside of the trappings of materialism. It’s a virtuous circle.

Tinkering at the edges of one’s personal finance in the wake of much deeper problems may result in positive short-term improvements but they’re unlikely to be deeply transformational. Long-term, serious change of any kind takes guts, time and real commitment. Unsurprisingly, many people choose to medicate or escape rather than renovate. It’s hard work for sure, but creating the conditions for wellbeing isn’t mission impossible.

There are five widely recognised pillars of wellbeing that most people can work on as they try to figure out what and why they want to change.

Giving

Whether it’s time, attention, or charitable giving, it impacts the giver favourably because it instills people with a sense of value and purpose. It makes you feel better.

Being active

Research has proven that being physical is not only beneficial for your body, but also the mind. In ‘Blue Zone’ populations around the globe, where folks live longer than average, movement is one of the unifying factors in their longevity.

Continuing education/Self development

Complacency at any age is a barrier to progress. And that feeling of being stuck in a rut is enough to bring on a depression in itself. Learning new skills, languages, sports or finding new interests will keep the mind sharp and the spirit happy.

Gratitude

It may sound a cliche but gratitude is the seed from which everything else blossoms. Being thankful and appreciative for what you have will enrich your life in untold ways. It’s a mindset as much as a habit and one to keep circling back to, whatever your age and stage of life.

Connection

Mother Teresa once described loneliness as the worst form of poverty. It’s important to remember this in the context of saving and managing money. Staying connected to friends, family, pets, neighbours and larger networks will also foster wellbeing in an exponential way.  

While each one of these pillars has huge value in and of themselves, it’s the combined effect wherein lies the magic. Getting it right means finding balance in all areas to both minimise financial stress and to optimise health, happiness and wellbeing.

Because what good is money without joy, or someone to share it with?


This content is made possible by Simplicity, New Zealand’s fastest growing KiwiSaver scheme. As a nonprofit, Simplicity only charges members what it costs to invest their money. It already has more than 12,500 plus members who, together, are saving more than $3.8 million annually in fees. This year, New Zealanders will pay more than $525 million in KiwiSaver fees. Why pay more than you need to? It takes two minutes to switch. Grab your IRD # and driver’s licence. It really is that simple.

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