Med­i­tate your debt away: A mind­ful ap­proach to money

National Post (Latest Edition) - - WORLD -

Money is, with­out a doubt, one of the key stress points of mod­ern life. Whether it’s mount­ing debt or trou­ble se­cur­ing a loan, the fi­nan­cial world is full of stres­sors that can wreak havoc on our emo­tional well- be­ing and men­tal health.

Though money can be an en­abler for us to live our best lives, too many of us are caught in neg­a­tive cy­cles when it comes to our ap­proach to fi­nances.

If you’re feel­ing stuck in a fi­nan­cial storm, it may be time to set aside the spread­sheets and bal­ance books for a mo­ment and take a more mind­ful ap­proach to your fi­nances.

Mogo’s fi­nan­cial fit­ness coach Chantel Chap­man has been re­search­ing the link be­tween per­sonal fi­nances and men­tal health and be­lieves med­i­ta­tion and other types of self- care may be the key to get­ting con­sumers fi­nan­cially fit.

A study out of The Ur­ban In­sti­tute has con­firmed the link Chap­man is pur­su­ing. Re­searchers there found peo­ple who have debt are three times more likely to have men­tal health prob­lems such as de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

“Fi­nan­cial prob­lems are typ­i­cally l i nked to other emo­tional is­sues such as de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, low self­es­teem, com­pul­sion and shame,” Chap­man ex­plains. “Hav­ing money is­sues can cre­ate stress, but on the flip side stress or de­pres­sion can cre­ate money is­sues.”

It’s a cy­cle that’s dif­fi­cult to break. To truly get in con­trol of your fi­nances, it’s of­ten cru­cial to not only t ackle money prob­lems head- on but to also ad­dress re­lated is­sues.

As Chap­man puts it, “it’s im­por­tant to look holis­ti­cally at what’s go­ing on if you want to heal.”

It’s this ap­proach that has led Chap­man to also rec­om­mend med­i­ta­tion to peo­ple strug­gling with debt and other money prob­lems. While med­i­ta­tion may seem l i ke an un­con­ven­tional method in this realm, it has long been a use­ful tool for those deal­ing with men­tal health is­sues such as ad­dic­tion and de­pres­sion.

A 2017 study out of Cov- en­try Univer­sity found that mind­ful ac­tiv­i­ties like yoga and med­i­ta­tion can re­verse the ef­fects of stress and anx­i­ety on the body and even change the way our genes are ex­pressed, lead­ing to long-term ben­e­fits.

Sci­en­tific stud­ies have also shown med­i­ta­tion can thicken the left hip­pocam­pus, which is re­spon­si­ble for emo­tional reg­u­la­tion — a key fac­tor in over­spend­ing.

Hiroko Demiche­lis, the co-founder of Mo­ment Medi- tation, a med­i­ta­tion cen­tre in Van­cou­ver, ex­plains that med­i­ta­tion ac­tu­ally changes the way the brain func­tions, lead­ing to a bevy of ben­e­fits for those who prac­tice it.

Demiche­lis com­pares med­i­ta­tion to a com­pass that can help nav­i­gate the of­ten tur­bu­lent forces of na­ture we en­counter in our lives. “Mind­ful­ness or other med­i­ta­tion tech­niques, the best way I have to de­scribe what they can do is find­ing the eye of the tor­nado or the cen­tre of the hur­ri­cane — the only still place in a very chaotic situation,” she says.

“The more you can cul­ti­vate the pos­si­bil­i­ties of mind­ful­ness to find that calm, silent, still place,” she says, “the more you’ll be able to iden­tify thoughts or be­liefs as­so­ci­ated with money and cre­ate or­der — a way to man­age [your] money.”

Once you’re able to cre­ate that sense of or­der, man­ag­ing money is­sues may seem more sur­mount­able. Out­side of med­i­ta­tion, Chap­man also ad­vo­cates to bring mind­ful­ness into your day-to-day ap­proach to your fi­nances and to choose fi­nan­cial prod­ucts that sup­port this ap­proach. For ex­am­ple, Mogo’s Mogo Card of­fers mo­bile no­ti­fi­ca­tions for each pur­chase, prompt­ing the shop­per to con­sider each trans­ac­tion once it has been made and be aware of their re­main­ing bal­ance, which can help curb com­pul­sive spend­ing.

“It makes you stop, look at what you spent and think about how it im­pacts your bot­tom line,” Chap­man says.

She also sug­gests con­sumers con­sider their own im­pulses and be­hav­iours when se­lect­ing credit prod­ucts. If com­pul­sive spend­ing is an is­sue, for ex­am­ple, us­ing prod­ucts like a credit card that is eas­ily re-ad­vance­able is not an ideal prod­uct for some­one on the path to debt free­dom.

Hav­ing an in­stal­ment loan that re­quires you to pay to­ward the prin­ci­pal in each pay­ment and does not al­low you to re- bor­row is a bet­ter op­tion than a re- ad­vance­able credit prod­uct.

“If you don’t trust your­self with spend­ing,” she says, “cre­ate a bound­ary and don’t al­low your­self ac­cess to credit cards that let you re- bor­row again and again. Be­ing debt and money-stress free is the ul­ti­mate re­wards pro­gram.”

On Nov. 24, Mogo will be host­ing an event called Mind + Med­i­ta­tion + Money with fi­nan­cial fit­ness coach Chantel Chap­man, med­i­ta­tion teacher Robyn Wa­ley and a cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­a­pist at the Mogo Lounge on Queen West in Toronto. See Face­book.com/Mo­goMoney for de­tails on how to get tick­ets.

Re­searchers have found peo­ple who have debt are three times more likely to have men­tal health prob­lems such as de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

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