Financial Wellness May Be Able To Buy You Happiness - Here's How To Start

Money may not be able to buy you happiness in the tangible sense, but a high level of financial wellness can reduce your stress and improve your quality of life, ultimately leading to a boost in happiness and a positive outlook. But financial wellness isn't just about earning money to pay the bills — it's about taking care of yourself comprehensively and holistically.

Think of it as an all-encompassing discussion of your well-being and how money can both help you and hinder you, though the examination of financial wellness also extends to the development of skills for financial resilience and confidence when addressing situations involving money. Importantly, your version of financial wellness won't look like anyone else's version of financial wellness, since each person's life, goals, and priorities are different; remind yourself about this when you begin to fall into traps of comparison or feelings of inferiority surrounding money matters, advises Nava Benefits.

When you prioritize yourself when it comes to financial wellness — rather than focusing on the negative emotions you may feel when it comes time to pay bills each month — you can cultivate a greater sense of control over your financial future. By taking care of yourself, you can make the best decisions for yourself in the present to get to where you want to be tomorrow. Not sure where to start? Invest in yourself, literally and figuratively: Learn more about why financial wellness is important and how you can cultivate positive patterns in your own life.

Financial wellness matters more than you may realize

While you may have thought of financial wellness as having largely to do with your wallet, it's far more than that — it can also affect other areas of wellness, including your personal health. According to Tufts Health Plan, the negative impacts that financial stress, anxiety, and overwhelm can have on your health are numerous: Among the potential risks researchers have linked to financial stress are sleep disturbances, increased risk for diabetes and heart disease, and mental health conditions such as depression, lowered self-esteem, and relationship difficulties. The physical, mental, and emotional effects of financial stress all compound one another in a funnel that can easily suck you in, so knowing how to prioritize your financial wellness and seek new, beneficial opportunities is necessary for establishing healthy habits across all areas of your life.

On the flip side, there are a plethora of health benefits you may experience when financial wellness is built from a solid foundation of education, compassion, and empathy. BetterUp shares that feeling confident in financial wellness — which, again, isn't synonymous with making lots of money — can decrease stress and negative reactions to monetary matters, improve relationships and household dynamics, and encourage greater creativity, innovation, and desire to engineer one's life in new ways. So if your financial wellness isn't quite where you want it to be, start building the habits to improve now — for the sake of your wellness as a whole.

Approach financial wellness with curiosity

One of the biggest hurdles to achieving true financial wellness is that it simply isn't often discussed. The EveryGirl reveals that since openly speaking about personal money management and financial matters is often discouraged in modern society, there's significant education lacking about the foundation of financial wellness, which boils down to a commitment to take care of yourself. Addressing topics related to personal finances can be uncomfortable, but know that they're uncomfortable for most people at some point, and you aren't alone in your experience. Deciding to learn about financial wellness is the first step that many people never take, so applaud yourself for being curious enough to explore ways to strengthen the quality of your life as you build protective skills against harmful financial stress.

According to United Healthcare, nearly three out of every four adults have experienced financial stress at some point while receiving little to no counseling in financial matters. But when you commit to taking control of your own financial wellness, you'll learn how to make financial decisions with clarity and eventually be able to discern extraneous stress from those related to your financial goals, unforeseen circumstances, and plans for the future.

Above all, pursue your new education of financial wellness with curiosity, not through clouded judgment filled with stress and fear. Going back to the basics can be a beneficial place to start, if merely as a refresher of concepts and principles of caring for yourself.

Seek out a supportive education

The thought of financial wellness education is likely to conjure thoughts of money management courses. While learning about money management from experts or financial institutions is vitally important, there are also other areas of education worth pursuing to improve your relationship with money. For instance, learning how to ground yourself in the present moment and connect with yourself on deeper levels will provide you with skillsets and insight about your relationship with money that'll serve you beyond the calculations in a budgeting book.

The EveryGirl encourages mindfulness habits around money and financial wellness, spending time in nature away from daily stressors, journaling about your feelings concerning financial matters, and using meditation for introspection and calming your nervous system. Compassionate self-care techniques such as exercising regularly, eating well-balanced meals, establishing good sleep hygiene, and taking care of your basic needs will also expand your ability to cope with financial hurdles and pursue financial wellness with relaxed clarity. You'll find that you'll begin to cultivate conscious awareness of your spending and saving, which aids your intentional goal setting.

Since discussions of personal finances are frequently vulnerable and uncomfortable to initiate, speaking with a mental health practitioner trained in navigating difficult conversations can be a healthy outlet for better understanding your relationship with money, underlying fears, and ways to invest in your financial wellness. Support groups for financial wellness and money management are also available as resources for learning about finances through hearing the experiences of others.

Your budget is a love letter to yourself

Seeing budgeting as an act of love for yourself rather than boring paperwork is another mindset change worth gifting to yourself. As you work through the nitty-gritty of monthly money management, have your favorite snack or an exciting activity planned for when you're finished. Harvard University recommends finding a distraction-free, simplified way to write down your current income and earnings along with all your financial responsibilities — your rent, utilities, insurance, and other necessary payments to be factored into your monthly budget. Don't forget to include subscription services, like streaming payments, apps, food delivery services, and any other money that regularly exits your bank account. (This is also a great time to delete accounts you no longer use to save money!)

After you've handled the required budget items, shift your lens toward one of intentional enjoyment when choosing how to spend or save the money remaining after all bills are paid. The EveryGirl emphasizes that creating positive associations with your budget can make you more excited about financial wellness, though it takes ardent efforts to develop habits around this guiding principle. A good rule to follow is to strive to become consciously aware of how you feel when you spend money, ultimately prioritizing the experiences and items that bring you the most fulfillment and positive connections with people you genuinely appreciate. Eliminate spending money on things that aren't fulfilling for you, instead saving for things that make you happier.

Manifest your goals through matters of money

It can be eye-opening to discover how many things you spend money on that don't actually satisfy you, so as you continue to notice how you feel when you spend money on non-essentials, consider tracking each purchase you make in a journal or notebook along with how you felt during and after the transaction. This is a great way to simultaneously monitor your spending while deciding which pursuits are worth ditching and which you wish to continue. As the unfulfilling items slowly leave your monthly budget, take this opportunity to focus the money you're saving either on building up a savings account, paying off debt to reduce your financial stress, or investing in yourself and your goals by choosing to actively spend money on things that will help move you toward where you want to be in the future.

For instance, investing in more nutritious food is money you'll spend to help you achieve a nutritious diet for the benefit of your health and longevity, while paying for a membership to a gym or exercise studio can help stimulate the daily physical movement habit you've been wanting to incorporate. When you put your money toward the habits you want to cultivate and goals you want to achieve, you're likely to find a way to make them work — not wanting to waste your hard-earned dollars is a powerful incentive.

Understand and address self-sabotaging behaviors

The negative effects of financial stress can easily compound into something that's hard to escape — stress and shame spirals are called "spirals" for a reason! One way this dynamic can be exacerbated is through unintentional self-sabotaging of your own financial wellness. Clever Girl Finance defines self-sabotage as acting in contradiction to one's defined goals and aspirations, frequently through behaviors a person is unaware of in the moment — such as making "justified" impulse purchases that break your budget. But stress from the fallout of self-sabotaging behaviors ultimately comes back around, further compounding the side effects of financial stress. For example, you may have a goal to save money for a dream trip next summer, but tendencies to impulsively shop online drain your bank account, depleting the savings funds for the trip. 

Impeding your own financial wellness goals is likely unintentional, but self-sabotage happens nonetheless — and stopping it isn't always as easy as setting goals like "no impulse purchases." Psychology Today shares that financial trauma around past experiences of financial scarcity, including lacking fulfillment of basic needs as either a child or adult, can keep a scarcity mindset running like a never-ending hamster wheel. To stop the spinning of the wheel, speaking with a professional financial coach or mental health clinician who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you identify patterns and become aware of your self-sabotaging behaviors, why they occur, and how to intervene so you can accomplish your financial wellness goals.

Forgive yourself for financial hurdles and emphasize self-compassion

In all realms of your life, practicing self-forgiveness and reassuring yourself of your capability to pick yourself up when you stumble are some of the best life skills you can develop through mindfulness, introspective work, and spending time expanding the depth of your relationship with yourself. Applying this to financial matters shouldn't be an exception.

Given that many discussions of personal finances and money are rooted in shame — such as the judgment of debt or not being able to maintain financial responsibilities when faced with adversity or unexpected events — many people suffer in silence, too embarrassed to speak out, and instead internalize their shame and guilt, reports CNBC. And those who stumble financially face further shaming when they try to get help. No matter the reason for someone's financial hurdle, current personal finance guidance often provides unhealthy, highly dysfunctional advice insinuating — or even outright stating — that personal responsibility and failure are to blame. At the end of the day, though, we're all doing our best, and we're all experiencing the same emotions that come with being human in today's modern world. 

According to the debt relief network, affirming your humanity and mortal limitations is an act of great self-compassion you can extend to yourself, strengthening your self-connection through mindfulness and making it easier to forgive yourself when you stumble. This self-kindness slowly helps eliminate financial shame and stress, allowing financial wellness to thrive even when you still have bills to pay.