Moolah on the Mind

            The free-spirited, barefoot hippy in me wants to start this post with a proclamation that money has absolutely nothing to do with happiness.  And I really like to believe that, someday, that will be true, and that maybe that is already true in certain pockets of existence.  But today, at least in the part of the world I inhabit, money and happiness are very much linked together.  Because if I don’t have enough money for the food needed to keep my stomach full and my body working, I’m inevitably going to be grumpy.  And if I cannot afford clothing to cover that body, I’m not going to get very far before my butt-naked self gets thrown into somewhere not very nice.

            Of course, the above examples are extreme.  But the truth is that we use money to help fulfill all kinds of needs and wants in our day to day lives.  And unless you want to begin some kind of communal sharing living situation (which came up in pretty much every other conversation I had throughout college [if this sounds appealing to you, check out thesimpleway.org]), you will have to develop a good relationship with money in order to experience happiness.

            Allow me to be crystal-clear: I am in no way saying that having more money equals having more happiness.  I do not believe that is how it works.  But I do believe that there are a few very common – and dangerous – mentalities concerning money that make being happy more difficult.

  1. Ignorance – It has been said that ‘ignorance is bliss.’  Not with money, people!  I am always in shock when a friend has no idea what is in their checking account, yet is swiping their debit card for dinner and/or a movie and/or a latte.  If this is your money management style, the fear of reality keeps you living in a fantasy world…until overdraft charges begin to pile up and you have to borrow money to cover rent.  Knowing you have very little money is not fun, but it can be the start of making some positive changes.
  2. Hoarding – Hoarding is a very sad and very serious issue where, basically, a person clings to certain things and is unable to get rid of them.  Hoarding can manifest in many ways, and one of those ways is with money.  This often has to do with control and the fear of the uncertain future.  This is not the same as saving.  It is an inability or unwillingness to spend money on anything but the bare essentials.  People who do this have such a tight grip on their funds in hopes that, when disaster ultimately strikes, they will be as prepared as possible.  Overcoming this mentality first requires a commitment to understanding the underlying causes.    
  3. Materialism – This is the classic ‘keeping up with Joneses’ where happiness is as elusive as the ever-changing desire for more and better stuff.  People of this mentality are constantly chasing contentment through material possessions, whether through shoes, cars, the latest technology, the nicest house, and so on.  But the problem is that, while sometimes a new item can help us feel happy, real happiness does not come from anything.  Often, people who struggle with this mindset find themselves feeling empty when the ‘new thing happiness’ wears off.  A good way to begin to change this is by shifting one’s focus away from material gains and onto other, more fulfilling parts of life.

So what does a good money mentality look like?  Tune in next time…!    

The Healthy/Happy Changes List

After posting about the start of my wellness journey, I thought it might be helpful to simply list out the lifestyle changes we have implemented (or are in the process of trying to implement!) in an effort to be happier, healthier people. Some of them may seem insignificantly small to you, while others may appear impossibly difficult. As I wrote last time, please remember to be patient and kind with yourself wherever you are on this path (even if you’re just looking at it for now and trying to decide whether you want to walk on it)!
Some of what I will list took a lot of research and discussion; others were ‘no-brainers.’ Some we stay true to easily; others may ebb and flow in terms of how well we stick to them. A lot of this process simply involves these decisions becoming automatic as we continue to make them over and over (especially concerning what we buy and/or eat). We have also learned that some changes really only apply to one of us, which may be the case for you if you are creating these changes in a household with different people.
Here we go!
1. Eliminated high fructose corn syrup
2. Eating smaller portions
3. Choosing snacks more carefully
4. Drinking pop only as a rare treat and instead drinking more water and 100% juice
5. Drinking vitamin-rich smoothies (we buy Bolthouse)
6. Consuming kefir and greek yogurt for probiotic health (good job, hubbie…I’m not there yet)
7. Buying and eating more fruits and veggies
8. Purchased a water filter (we use a container you put in the fridge, not the kind that attaches to the faucet).
9. Choosing whole grain products (and trying to avoid bleached, white flour)
10. Choosing products with lower sugar content
11. Switched to organic milk
12. Learned about the ‘dirty dozen’ and decided to only buy this produce if organic
13. Increased fiber intake (if you like cereal for breakfast, this is an easy place to find high-fiber options)
14. Switched to organic, cage-free eggs
15. Started a garden
16. Discovered ewg.org to help us shop smarter (thank you, EWG!!)
17. Began switching some of our hygiene products (some of these include deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body soap, & hand soap; some are bought, others are simple DIYs)
18. Started using more natural cleaning methods (say hello to vinegar, baking soda, and lemons!)
19. Replaced some cleaning products with Dr. Bronner’s castile soap
20. Changed many light bulbs (we received free CFLs through our energy provider, but eventually I’d prefer LEDs)
21. We unplug electronics when not in use (this and some of the following are more an efficiency issue, but smaller bills contribute to our happiness!)
22. Winterizing the house for colder months (this year, it’s been about 4 or 5 months!)
23. Purchased and use a programmable thermostat (we have it at 67 when we’re home and 62 for away/sleeping – we make it warmer for guests!)
24. Running an air humidifier regularly
25. Using a humidifier at night (great Christmas gift we received)
I hope to be able to add using all-natural lip balm and essential oils soon…but, as always, one small step at a time! What are some of the changes that you have made?!

Boundaries

This may seem like a strange post on a blog about loving life (Boundaries? Ick!  No fun!), but I’m realizing more and more just how essential boundaries are for experiencing peace and joy in our lives.

 In fact, we had an unpleasant lesson on this topic in our home just recently. An impoverished and ‘somewhat  homeless’ neighbor we have had a relationship with for years was in our kitchen alone while my husband went to check for empty cans & bottles we could give him.  Later that evening, we realized some money was missing from an envelope that we had forgotten was laying on a nearby counter.  We did some legwork in hopes that our initial conclusion was wrong, but unfortunately, all the evidence (including a peanut butter smear on the envelope) pointed to this man that we had called friend.

 Our boundaries with him are now going to change. That doesn’t mean we no longer care for him or that we hate him or that we want to completely cut him from our lives.  It means we are making adjustments in our relationship with him in response to this saddening occurrence.

 Boundaries are important in multiple areas of our lives, but I want to focus on what I consider three of the most obvious:

  1.  Relationships – As my mom always said, ‘You teach people how to treat you.’  I’m pretty sure this concept shows up in many psychological-based books on relationships.  As much as we want to, we can’t ever change other people; we can encourage and help growth, surely, but we can’t make the actual growth happen.  What we can control is ourselves and what we allow in our relationships.  This often involves some uncomfortable conversations (like the one we now have to have with our neighbor), but being honest about what you expect from others is a great way to grow those relationships and – hopefully – weed out negative behaviors.
  2.  Work – This one can be tricky.  As an employee, you are paid to do certain tasks and, as such, have entered into an agreement of work with your employer.  Obviously, none of us want to piss off the person signing our checks. All communication regarding boundaries requires tact, and perhaps this is most evident in our work lives.  But if your work load has continuously increased with no compensation, perhaps there is a manager or someone you can go to about such concerns.  Or maybe you’ve been picking up more and more slack for a co-worker and you feel they’ve begun to take advantage of that.  There’s nothing wrong with finding a good moment to tell them how you feel and explain the limits to how much you are able to help them from now on.
  3.  Time – As you may have already realized, good boundaries are set in place as a form of protection.  They are not walls; they are not created to keep people out, but rather to ensure the enclosed space is both defined and respected.  I find that time is one of the areas my husband and I have to be most on guard to protect.  It’s like we could blink and – poof – four days in a row are filled with plans with little time for rest or each other.  So we carefully consider when we make social plans, how much we can volunteer, and how many different activities we can commit to.  This takes honesty about our wants and needs, as well as some hard-core prioritizing.  But I think protecting our time is well worth it.

 What areas of your life might need some better boundary building?