By Luke Mase
Mindfulness. If you’ve read anything to do with wellbeing recently, there’s no doubt you’ve already come across this term several times. But what exactly is mindfulness – and what does it have to do with our finances?
What it means to be mindful.
It's a common misconception that mindfulness is the same as meditation. So, for those of us with busy lives, setting aside an hour each day to meditate in the hopes of reaching enlightenment doesn't seem appealing. Thankfully, it turns out that mindfulness is nothing like this. In fact, it doesn't even have to involve any meditation at all.
Mindfulness is the act of being fully aware of the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. None of the thoughts or feelings you have are “right” or “wrong” – they are simply just there. In other words, mindfulness is observance without criticism.
In practice, mindfulness is as easy as pausing to ask yourself “how am I feeling right now?” and acknowledging why you feel this way. It can even be focusing on your breathing – in fact, concentrating on anything that is happening to you in the moment is being mindful.
'How can something so simple as being “present” make any difference to my wellbeing?'
Research by psychologists Killingsworth and Gilbert published in the journal Science found that on average, we spend 47% of our time thinking about something other than what we’re doing. Not thinking about what we’re doing and running on autopilot is, in a sense, mindlessness. And it turns out that not being present causes unhappiness and exacerbates our existing stress too!
In contrast, mindfulness and being present lessens stress by allowing us to identify our experiences and how we feel about them.
Practising everyday mindfulness.
Initially, it might feel strange to focus solely on your thoughts and feelings in the current moment without letting your mind wander (usually onto preparing for my next meeting), but after the first couple of tries, it does become easier.
The great thing about mindfulness is that there’s no schedule or set time attached to it. You can reflect in your own time, whether it be for one minute or half an hour. And with how busy our lives are, it’s liberating to be able to sit back, de-stress and just process what’s happening right now.
Where mindfulness and money meet.
It might not surprise you to learn that money worries are consistently reported as the number one cause of stress in Australia.
According to the 2015 Australian Psychological Society Stress and Wellbeing in Australia survey, 36% of us report having a significant level of stress in our lives. On top of this, 72% of Australians admit that stress affects their physical health, whilst 64% state that it affects their mental health.
One of the many benefits of mindfulness is that it helps reduce stress. Thinking mindfully about your financial habits means that you’ll be able to identify any money issues that you otherwise might not have known existed. By allowing yourself to reflect on how you feel and act around money, you’ll find it a lot easier to build better financial habits – and relieve your financial stress.
The most valuable lesson I learnt from mindfulness.
I’m a big advocate for living “at cause” rather than “at effect’. It’s a concept that I’ve introduced into my own business and is something that myself and my team members reflect upon every day.
Being at cause means that you’re running the show and are the reason for everything that’s happening in your life. On the other side of the coin, being at effect means that you’re taking a backseat and your actions are made in response to the actions of others.
Choosing to live at cause means understanding what's happening in your life and taking proactive steps to get to where you want to be. Mindfulness has given me the ability to easily identify what is going on in my life, meaning that I am able to recognise whether I am at cause or at effect in both my work and personal life.
While I can’t guarantee that mindfulness will be for you, if you’re looking for a way to decrease your stress, there’s no harm in giving it a shot. You never know – the results might surprise you.