Research has shown that practising gratitude has real mental health benefits, and those can extend to our financial wellbeing as well.
When it comes to personal finance, many people focus on the practical aspects like budgeting, saving, and investing. However, it’s important to remember that our financial wellbeing really starts with the way we approach these kinds of things.
We all have attitudes towards money that are shaped by emotional and psychological factors, such as what we learnt from our parents, and our past experiences. Our financial context — which includes our social and work environment — also plays a significant role.
Importantly, however, the emotions we bring to our money don’t have to be permanent. We can adjust our attitudes by changing our perspectives. And a powerful way to approach this is through practising gratitude.
This might sound like a vague concept, but research has shown that practising gratitude — simply acknowledging and appreciating the positive things in our lives — can have tangible benefits for our mental health, physical health, and relationships. And it can do the same for our finances.
The benefits of gratitude
Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough have defined gratitude in terms of a two-step process. Firstly, “recognising that one has obtained a positive outcome”. And, secondly, “recognising that there is an external source for this positive outcome”.
This doesn’t have to be about big things. We could be grateful that we are able to afford a cup of coffee in the morning, or that we can buy a birthday present for a niece. What is important, is acknowledging, and appreciating, that we have the means to do things that bring some satisfaction and joy to our lives.
The psychological impact of this has been studied extensively. In a 2018 white paper, the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley noted that:
“Many studies have examined possible connections between gratitude and various elements of psychological well-being. In general, more grateful people are happier, more satisfied with their lives, less materialistic, and less likely to suffer from burnout.”
Gratitude and your finances
When it comes to our finances, this plays out in three ways.
Firstly, gratitude can help us shift our focus from what we don’t have to what we do have. When we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others and focusing on what we lack, it’s easy to fall into a scarcity mindset.
This can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction with our financial situation. However, by focusing on what we’re grateful for, we can cultivate a sense of abundance and contentment.
Secondly, gratitude can help us be more mindful of our spending. When we’re grateful for the things we have, we’re less likely to take them for granted. This can help us be more intentional about how we spend our money.
Thirdly, gratitude can help us develop a healthier relationship with money. When we’re grateful for what we have, we’re less likely to be consumed by the desire for more. This can help us avoid the pitfalls of overspending, debt, and financial stress. By cultivating a sense of gratitude for what we do have, we can learn to appreciate the value of money without becoming obsessed with it.
Three practical steps
Using gratitude to improve your financial wellbeing does not require any great investment of time or energy. But it does need some deliberate focus.
Here are three practical ways to introduce it into your approach to your money:
1. Keep a gratitude journal
Each day, write down one thing you’re grateful for related to your finances. This could be anything from having a steady job to being able to afford a haircut. By regularly reflecting on what you’re grateful for, you can shift your focus from what you lack to what you have.
2. Practise mindful spending
When you’re making a purchase, take a moment to reflect on why you’re making it. Are you buying something out of necessity or because you’re trying to keep up with others? This helps to ensure that you are using your money in a way that aligns with your values and goals.
3. Express gratitude to others
Finally, make a point to express gratitude to the people in your life who support you financially. This could be your employer, your partner, or a family members. Let them know that you appreciate them and their contributions. By acknowledging the role that others play in your financial life, you can both deepen your sense of gratitude and strengthen your relationships.
Gratitude is an overlooked aspect of financial wellbeing, but it can be a powerful one. By developing a feeling of greater satisfaction with our financial situation, we can be more intentional about our spending, and develop a healthier relationship with money.
PREVIOUSLY ON TEBI
WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT FROM LIFE?
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