❝Meditation is nothing more or less than the art of choice. It's the art of paying attention to what really matters.❞ -Sam Harris
I'm in a pretty good mood as I'm making lunch on a nice summer day. There's a very comfortable breeze coming through the windows and door. Our dog, Bingo, is lying down nearby, hoping I “accidentally” drop some food. Today is a nice relaxing day. Then, out of nowhere, Bingo starts barking ferociously. This is the kind of bark that indicates somebody is at the front door, but there's nobody at the front door. I'm trying everything I can to get her to be quiet. She's not listening to any of it. I calmly try to get her to stop barking one last time, but instead of listening, she actually gets louder. I instinctively snap.
The way I yell at Bingo comes out of nowhere. It sounds like how I would yell at somebody breaking into my house. That's when I look up and see my 85-year-old neighbor at my side door with a look on his face that is equal parts surprise, fear, and judgment.
My inability to stay calm was quite embarrassing. Fortunately, there is something we can do to lessen the likelihood of these embarrassing situations.
WHAT MINDFULNESS IS
Mindfulness is effectively being aware of the present moment, no matter what you are doing. More specifically, it's about keeping your attention on your experience in the present moment without judging it and without wishing it was different.
What might be more important is what mindfulness isn't. It's not simply a stress ball that can be used to relax; it's not a way to change your thoughts; it's not something that prevents you from thinking about the future.
WHY MINDFULNESS IS HELPFUL
Mindfulness helps by increasing our awareness and sharpening our attention. You can think of awareness as everything you could notice, and attention is where you focus. It helps you be open to what is happening right now with acceptance rather than wishing it was different. Mindfulness also keeps you from identifying with thoughts, emotions, and moods. In other words, it helps you feel angry rather than be angry.
Finally, it helps you make a choice. Rather than reacting mindlessly to whatever is going on in the present moment, we get to choose the appropriate response.
WHERE MINDFULNESS HELPS
This shows up in many areas of our lives. If you are like most people, for example, you may have had the experience of losing your temper. Losing your temper is reacting to a situation with anger rather than choosing a more appropriate response. Thus, being more mindful helps us remain calm and have healthier, more productive conversations.
Mindfulness also helps with our spending. It's easier and easier to spend money without knowing we're spending money. If you use a shopping app or go online to shop, there's a good chance you linked your credit card or debit card a long time ago so that each time you make a purchase, you don't really have to get your wallet to pay. When we go into a shop for lunch, we no longer have to fork over or cash or write a check; instead, we tap a card to a reader and don't get a receipt. This is what I call mindless spending; spending that we are unaware of. By being mindful of our spending, we can use our money more intentionally.
This is true with spending in general, but it's definitely true with so-called retail therapy. Retail therapy is when people go shopping to ease some kind of emotional stress. It's common for those partaking in retail therapy to regret their decisions the next day when they realize they've spent more than they had or at least more than they wanted to. Being mindful helps you recognize what you are doing and gives you a glimpse of how you might feel tomorrow, before you make the purchase.
RECOGNIZE AUTOMATIC THOUGHTS
Thoughts come and go much the same way sounds do. It's helpful to think about it in that way, as well. We don't get to choose when a new sound arises or stops. Similarly, we don't get to choose when thoughts arise or when they go away. Having thoughts isn't a problem, but thinking without knowing we're thinking and identifying with our thoughts can be a problem.
Mindfulness helps us recognize our automatic thoughts, allowing us to challenge those automatic thoughts. Not everything we think is true. Automatic thoughts that are around money can be thought of as Money Scripts. By understanding what story we're telling ourselves and challenging those thoughts, we can choose a more appropriate response.
CALMLY CHOOSE YOUR RESPONSE
Ultimately, anything we can do to grow the space between impulse and action will help us live more intentionally and more mindfully. If we respond automatically, we are just reacting to whatever life throws our way. If we can slow down our thinking and be more mindful of what's happening, we can grow the space between stimulus and response and choose how we want to respond.
Being more mindful of your life is the key that unlocks your level of calm and tranquility. Being calm is contagious. It helps promote healthier actions. Striving to be calm does not mean ignoring anger, sadness, fear, or any other emotion. It's simply being aware of which emotion is present and not being controlled by those emotions.
It's worth trying.
You only have one life; live intentionally.
If you know someone else who would benefit from reading this, please share it with them. Spread the word, if you think there's a word to spread.
Related Money Health® Reading
References and Influences
The Happiness Lab Podcast: Calm Can Be Contagious
Harris, Dan: 10% Happier
Harris, Sam: Waking Up
Irvine, William: A Slap in the Face
Kabat-Zinn, Jon: Wherever You Go, There You Are
Klontz, Brad & Ted Klontz: Mind Over Money
Miller, William: Listening Well
Reivich, Karen & Andrew Shatte: The Resilience Factor
Rosenberg, Marshall: Nonviolent Communication
Sofer, Oren Jay: Say What You Mean
Wallace, David Foster: This is Water
Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.