What is Minimalism? Start with 4 Tips.

One topic that comes up often in conversations of sustainability and wellness is minimalism. Not minimalism as the art or interior design style, but minimalism applied as a lifestyle. What does that look like and how does it apply to topics such as sustainability and wellness?

Minimalism as a lifestyle means different things to different people. But there are some core values we can narrow it down to. In this way, minimalism is a tool for simplifying your life, something that many of us can benefit from.

In this article, we’ll look at:

  • What is minimalism?
  • What minimalism is not.
  • What are some possible downsides of minimalism?
  • What are the benefits of minimalism?
  • How do you start to implement minimalism in your lifestyle?

What is Minimalism?

Minimalism is a tool people use to simplify their lives. What your simple life looks like depends on you, but there are some core values the minimalism follows. One of the biggest is having purpose and intention in life.

When we are distracted by life’s excesses, we miss out on time to focus on what matters to us. Minimalism urges us to examine what is in our lives, and discard what is no longer serving us or no longer brings us value.

Minimalists often talk about possessions, and only owning what serves purpose or brings value. This is part of minimalism, but only focusing on this aspect can negatively impact the movement as it ignores other dimensions.

In addition to minimizing our possessions in order to focus on what is important, minimalism also urges applying this to the activities that consume our time, the media we consume, and the thoughts we linger on.

Minimalism is also useful in breaking free from the consumerist cycle our modern society perpetuates. Deeply considering purchases and reducing what we bring into our lives helps us achieve financial independence which leaves more time for things we love outside of work. Practicing minimalism also helps our sustainability efforts.

What is Not Minimalism?

Some things often get mistaken for minimalism, when they’re really just the preferences of some minimalists. Kind of like how different people like different flavours of chips. Unfortunately, these misconceptions may turn people off from minimalism and make it seem like an unachievable ideal.

Minimalism is not stark, barren white walls or wearing the same outfit everyday. While it’s totally okay to like this aesthetic, it’s not a necessary component of minimalism.

Minimalism is not owning nothing, or only owning x number of possessions. While some people may want to practice extreme minimalism for their own reasons, and a blogger quantifying their possessions can make an inspiring read, it’s not at all a requirement.

Minimalism is not having no hobbies or collections. Many minimalists have hobbies that require equipment or have a dedicated book or plant collection. In fact, minimalism gives you more time to engage in hobbies and appreciate your collections.

Minimalism is not only for the young and single. You can own a house and have kids and still be a minimalist.

Minimalism is not simply being frugal. Buying less will result in saving money, but that’s not the original intent. Additionally, when minimalists do make purchases they often opt for higher quality items, which, while they will last longer, often also come with a higher price tag.

What are the Downsides of Minimalism?

Some people adopt a minimalist lifestyle and then decide it’s not for them. Although they still found the benefits, there were negatives that outweighed them. I think many of these “ex-minimalists” still use some principles of minimalism in their lives. It’s a matter of picking and choosing what supports your goals in life.

One issue with minimalism has to do with storing food in a smaller space. Generally, minimalism encourages minimizing the size of your home. The problem you run into with this is that a small kitchen and pantry doesn’t hold a lot of food.

This means having to go grocery shopping more often and not being able to store groceries bought in bulk. For people who don’t live near a grocery store, this is a problem. Not having a lot of space also makes it difficult to buy in bulk to take advantage of savings.

I think you can have a bigger kitchen and still be a minimalist. If it simplifies your life, by allowing you to spend less time shopping and to save money, then I believe it’s still considered minimalism.

Another problem with the smaller living area minimalism encourages is not being able to entertain or have guests stay overnight. While some people living in tiny homes may be able to squeeze in 6+ people, it’s not ideal. If entertaining and providing a place to sleep for guests is important to you, a bigger space may better fit your values.

One issue that makes minimalism seem classist at times, is that while a box of spare parts and backup electronics may seem like clutter to some, for others it may be a tool to save money. If you won’t be able to afford a new computer if your current one dies, it may be necessary for you to have spares on hand.

While decluttering is often seen as the hallmark of minimalism, it can have downsides. It’s better to sell old stuff than to drop it off at a thrift store (both of which are better than sending it straight to the landfill). But selling stuff can be frustrating and time consuming, and you may not sell for the price you were looking for.

Additionally, some people often get swept up in decluttering and get rid of something that they then need to replace (at a steep cost) or give up things that may be irreplaceable.

So, How Do You Become a Minimalist?

I think it’s important to start with the knowledge that minimalism is a tool, not an end goal or destination. Minimalism is a journey, by embarking on it you’re essentially already a minimalist. You’re just an especially inexperienced minimalist.

Here are some steps you can take to start your minimalist journey off on the right foot:

  • Assess your current lifestyle; where your time and money goes
  • Determine what you value most in life
  • Declutter your physical and mental space
  • Ask the questions before buying anything
  • Learn about minimalism from other minimalists
  • Adapt the “minimalist lifestyle” to fit your values
  • Gradually implement minimalism into your lifestyle
  • Use your newfound free time doing what you love

Final Thoughts

Minimalism is a tool that can be adjusted to fit your needs. It helps you simplify your life in order to have more time to focus on your values and passions. There are plenty of benefits to this lifestyle, and most to all of the downsides can be dissolved by using only the parts of minimalism that suit you.

3 Steps for Improving Your Social Wellness

Social wellness is one dimension of our overall wellness; it’s domain is our relationships with other people.

From a quick glance, social wellness seems to be influenced by the outside world — the people we work, live, and interact with — but, in fact, good or bad social wellness comes from within us. With this information, we know that our social wellness can always be improved.

In exploring social wellness, we’ll look at:

  • What is social wellness?
  • Why is good social wellness important?
  • How do you cultivate social wellness?

What is Social Wellness?

Social wellness is concerned with our interpersonal relationships and social skills. The pursuit of social wellness involves building an identity and sense of self worth in order to build healthy, fruitful relationships with others.

Someone with good social wellness is able to manage their responsibilities and their relationships so that neither interferes with the other. If they’re in a romantic relationship, they balance it with their relationships with friends and family. They have a social support network they can turn to for help, and also feel comfortable with who they are as an individual.

Why is Social Wellness Important?

Someone who lacks a social support network, does not create new connections with people, or who has poor social skills may suffer from isolation. Social isolation can have severe mental and physical effects comparable to smoking cigarettes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Another benefit of social support networks is the different types of support they can provide. Emotional support in times of crisis helps with stress and anxiety. Your social support network may also provide instrumental support, such as physical acts, lending items, and gifts. They may also share information as a form of support.

When your social wellness improves, other aspects of your life improve, such as:

  • Communication skills
  • Self-esteem
  • Comfort in social settings
  • Emotional resilience
  • Assertive skills

How to Cultivate Social Wellness?

Improving your social wellness is different for everyone as we all have different starting points and different areas of weakness. We’ll look specifically at three areas:

  • building social skills,
  • maintaining existing relationships, and
  • creating new connections.

Social skills allow you to ask for what you need, communicate clearly, and understand others. Maintaining relationships is necessary for the health of the relationships and also because it leads to social interaction which prevents isolation. Creating new connections strengthens our social support network and may broaden our world view.

Building Social Skills

Social skills are how we communicate with, relate to and understand others. Good social skills allow us to communicate effectively and appropriately. Poor social skills may lead to conflicts, miscommunication, or an inability to express how we feel which can all deteriorate our relationships with others.

Before considering how we communicate with others, we must look at how we perceive ourselves. Our sense of self-worth will impact how we communicate with others. Exploring and understanding your values can help you surround yourself with like-minded people and set boundaries for what you are and are not comfortable with.

Open communication is necessary for both parties in a relationship to feel heard and understood. Communication goes both ways; you need active listening skills and empathy to provide emotional support for others and also assertive communication skills to stand up for your needs and boundaries.

Maintaining Relationships

Relationships need maintenance to remain strong and effective. Maintenance serves the additional purposes of further strengthening your relationships and facilitating social interaction. Maintaining relationships includes time spent and also how that time is spent.

Taking time to catch up with old friends and setting regular “dates” with friends, family, and your partner is an easy way to maintain relationships. Equally important is to ensure you don’t spread yourself too thin and burn out!

Part of valuing yourself and others is protecting yourself in your relationships. This includes setting healthy boundaries, asking for what you need, and leaving toxic or abusive relationships.

When conflicts occur (which they may), don’t jump to conclusions regarding others’ motives. During conflict, take responsibility for your actions and use assertive communication to express your needs and feelings.

When communicating with others, show appreciation both verbally and non verbally. Be honest, supportive, non-judgmental, and non-critical. Practice self-disclosure, that is, sharing your thoughts and feeling with others

Creating Connections

Beyond the benefit of expanding your social support network, creating new connections is a fun way to practice communication skills and to expand your worldview. Beyond school and work, here are some ideas for places to meet people with similar interests:

  • Volunteer for a cause you are passionate
  • Join a hobby group
  • Take a class
  • Visit the dog park
  • Join a gym or exercise group
  • Visit a community garden or park
  • Take part in neighborhood events
  • Join a music or theater group
  • Travel to new places

Final Thoughts

Socializing seems to come easy to some people; if it doesn’t come easily to you, don’t fret! Implementing the strategies and improving your weaker areas will improve your social wellness. Over time, social habits that were difficult will become second nature.

For people with mental health conditions, such as social anxiety, and for those with especially underdeveloped social skills, the route social wellness is much tougher. You may want to consider therapy, counselling, or social skills training.

I hope you take something away from this article, and please share what you do to cultivate social wellness. I’m sure we can all improve our communication skills and make the world a better place. And if you want to learn more about wellness, subscribe to my email list to hear about new posts and get first access to special projects I’m working on.

20 Habits for Great Environmental Wellness

We’ve been exploring the dimensions of wellness and how we can improve them. Environmental wellness refers to our personal environment and the health of the planet.

At first glance, environmental wellness appears unique. It seems to emphasize the outside world, as opposed to the internal changes the other dimensions prioritize. But if we examine how to improve our environmental wellness, we’ll see otherwise.

While environmental wellness is impacted by the world around us, it is improved by changes we make in ourselves. The goal of environmental wellness isn’t to solve the climate crisis; that’s too big a demand for an individual.

Instead, we change our mindset and behaviors, to have a healthier relationship with the planet, our personal environment, and ourselves.

In this post we’ll look at:

  • What is environmental wellness?
  • What are some ways we can minimize our impact on the planet?
  • What are some actions we can take to make our personal environment a place where we can flourish?

What is Environmental Wellness?

More often than not, environmental wellness is spoken of with a focus on the planet. Learning to live sustainably is a huge part of taking care of the environment and building a relationship with nature, but there’s also much more to environmental wellness than taking care of the Earth.

Environmental wellness also includes our personal environment; where we live, work, and play. When these places are safe and healthy we thrive, and the opposite is true as well. A poor personal environment can negatively affect our health well-being.

In this article, I’ll give tips for improving your environmental wellness. This includes ways to help the planet, and ways to make your personal environment a place where you can flourish.

10 Tips for Minimizing your Impact on the Planet

Individual actions won’t change the massive environmental damage caused by agriculture and industry. But the mindset of caring for the planet and conserving resources helps connect us to higher purpose, and over time the collective shift in society will shift industries.

1. Conserve Energy

A lot of the energy we use comes from fossil fuels, so we want to use as little as possible. Spend some time thinking mindfully about ways you can reduce your energy use. Some common ways of conserving energy are:

  • Unplug electronics that are not in use,
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room
  • Make use of natural light
  • Minimize the use of appliances (air conditioner, dishwasher, washer and dryer)
  • Ensure your home is properly insulated

For more reading, check out these guides from Kathryn at Going Zero Waste on conserving energy in the kitchen and in the bathroom.

2. Walk, Cycle, Use Public Transportation, or Carpool

Cars create emissions and use fossil fuels. By using alternative modes of transportation when we can, we reduce the emissions we’re responsible for. These tips can also save you money and can be healthy.

3. Follow the Rs

By going beyond the 3 Rs we learned in school, we can ensure we’re making environmentally responsible decisions. Followed in order, we can reduce waste produced and sent to the landfill.

4. Shop for In-Season Locally Grown Produce

Produce that is in-season and grown locally has less of an environmental impact as food grown elsewhere has to be transported. If you have access to fresh produce near you, take advantage of foods that are in-season; not only is it better for the planet, it will likely be cheaper and fresher.

5. Spend Time Outside

Getting in touch with nature is a fun and easy way to strengthen your connection to the planet. Having a connection with nature strengthens your environmental wellness and is also good for your mental and physical wellness.

6. Phase Out Single-Use Products

Single use products are incredibly wasteful and usually have a reusable counterpart. Even though single-use products are often cheaper and more convenient, their environmental impacts are expensive to the planet and the reusable version will save you money in the long run.

Here are 3 reusable swaps you can DIY.

7. Use Less Water

Clean, fresh water is a limited resource. Conserving water is more than short showers and not running the tap; most items and foods require water to be produced. You can use an online tool to calculate your water footprint and get ideas for how to reduce your water use.

Also, check out this awesome list Shelby put together on her blog of 55 Ways to Conserve Water.

8. Vote for Environmentally-Minded Politicians

Beyond federal elections, following and voting in municipal and provincial or state elections is incredibly important for protecting the planet. These are the governments that are most directly responsible for projects and decisions that affect the environment, so our elected representatives should have comprehensive environmental policies.

9. Support Sustainable Brands

Not everyone can afford or has access to sustainable brands, and there are still tons of other ways to minimize your impact. But, if you’re in a position to do so and you actually need the item, shopping from and supporting sustainable brands shows the industry what people want and can help spur change.

However, with increased demand for sustainable practices some brands are trying to get your business without actually doing anything for the environment. This practice is called greenwashing, and it’s something to look out for.

10. Knowledge and Awareness

Learning about sustainability is probably the most important thing you can do for the planet. By understanding the principles of sustainability you can make better choices and you share what you know with others.

10 Ways to Take Your Personal Space to the Next Level

Taking care of the planet is important for our future, but we also have to take care of ourselves. By cultivating a happy, healthy personal environment we set ourselves up for success.

11. Safety and Security

Take time to do a safety audit of your home: examine windows and locks for security, and test your alarms regularly. Not only will this give you peace of mind, it can save you and your loved ones in case of an emergency. Part of safety and security is being aware of toxic materials to avoid bringing into your space.

12. Physical Comfort

Having a place to relax can help you feel more rested and ready for your other activities. What this place looks like depends on the individual; a comfy chair or couch, or simply a mat on the floor. What matters most is that it works for you.

13. Pleasing to the Senses

Taking time to decorate your personal environment with things you like, such as pictures, colours, scents, and sounds, can make your space somewhere you enjoy spending time. You might be limited by money, or because your space is shared, but you can start by thinking small and creatively.

14. Adequate Lighting

Eye strain can cause headaches and tension, and over time may lead to poorer eyesight. Ensuring your personal space as enough lighting is essential. Natural light is ideal if possible, but even simply adding a lamp for reading can help.

15. Bring Some Nature Inside

Houseplants can help filter the air, but more importantly they’re nice to look at and bring a sense of nature inside when you may otherwise be stuck indoors.

16. Minimize Noise

The world is a lot noisier than it used to be. Background noise is not only distracting, but can also lead to headaches, tension, and irritability. You can reduce background noise in your house by unplugging buzzing electronics and setting your phone ringtone to silent.

When possible, avoid noisy areas (near train tracks, highways) and if you’re a homeowner, strategically planting trees around your house can help reduce the noise from the environment. Insulating walls and windows and installing heavy, noise-blocking curtains can also help.

17. Separation

Especially for those with a smaller personal environment, having separate areas for sleeping, eating, working, and relaxing creates needed distinction for your brain. Using your personal environment creatively to create separation can help your brain shift gears when it’s time to focus on an activity.

18. Be Conscious of the Vibes and People in your Space

By bringing mostly positive thoughts, vibes, experiences, and people into your personal space you create an atmosphere that is conducive to positivity.

19. Engage with your Community

Find and take part in local, community activities. Not only will it improve your sense of community, you’ll get to know your area and neighbors which can make your personal environment feel safer.

20. Declutter

Often, we have too much stuff in our space that isn’t bringing us value. You’ve likely heard the saying, “cluttered desk, cluttered mind” and it’s true. Removing distractions and clutter that creates stress will make your personal environment more effective.

When you declutter, do so mindfully; don’t just send everything to the landfill. An easy way to do this is to follow a zero-waste decluttering technique like this 10 in 15 challenge.

Final Thoughts

Not everyone is privileged to have the time, space, and money to create the perfect Instagram-worthy personal environment. And that’s okay! You don’t need to compare yourself to others, and you don’t need to drop hundreds to have a space that works for you.

Take what you can from this list and do what is in your power to change. Leave the rest and don’t stress; It’s not worth your time. Think creatively and be flexible.

Let me know what you do to live sustainably and create a healthy, positive environment.

Everything You Should Know About Mindfulness

You’ve probably heard somewhere that you should start meditating or practice mindfulness. I’m going to tell you that as well, but why? What exactly is mindfulness and why is it so good for us? How does it work, and how do we get started?

Mindfulness, the way we understand it today, has been sneaking its way into the public sphere since it was first developed in the 1970s. In the 2010s, mindfulness finally went mainstream and it’s been blowing up on apps, books, and websites.

Mindfulness is closely related to our wellness journey in that it supports and creates a strong foundation for mental and physical health.

Many of the ideas behind mindfulness predate their modern applications. The practice of mindfulness that is growing in popularity today has roots in Buddhist and Zen meditation.

The founder of the American wellness movement, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, was influenced by Buddhist philosophy when he developed his 8-week program: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR.

This program is the oldest mindfulness-based intervention and has influenced many others. It is used as the standard in most psychological mindfulness research, which has found many exciting benefits of its practice. Modern technologies for imaging the brain have allowed neuroscientists the opportunity to begin exploring how mindfulness affects specific areas.

The best part of mindfulness is that anyone can learn to practice and strengthen it. I’ll explore some formal and informal practices at the end of this article.

In all, we’ll look at:

  • What is the meaning and history of mindfulness?
  • What are the benefits of a mindfulness practice?
  • How does mindfulness work to produce these benefits?
  • What are some ways of practicing mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is commonly defined as a purposeful moment-to-moment awareness of the present, cultivated without judgment. It is derived from sati, which is commonly understood to mean attention in Buddhist texts. The term mindfulness was first used in 1881, in a translation of Buddhist texts by T.W. Rhys Davids, an English scholar.

Mindfulness is a purposeful moment-to-moment awareness of the present, cultivated without judgment.

Rhys Davids’ decision to translate sati as mindfulness, instead of attention, has played a key role in the evolution of mindfulness over the past 140 years. Mindfulness, as it is used today, strays from the Buddhist idea of sati in a number of ways.

Mindfulness as we understand it today is based on the Mindfulness-based stress reduction program developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. We’ll look at some of the foundations for MBSR to get a full picture of mindfulness.

Eric Harrison, a mindfulness and meditation teacher, has translated the Buddhist texts since Rhys Davids and explores what Buddhism meant by sati. By understanding sati and how it differs from how mindfulness is often taught today, we can enrich our mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness in the 21st Century

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is often considered the founder of the American wellness movement, combined Buddhist, Zen, and vipassana meditation techniques with modern cognitive-behavioral psychology to create his secular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.

MBSR was designed to help regular people implement mindfulness in their daily lives. The goal is to help improve a variety of life issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and insomnia.

Some techniques and ideas taught in MBSR, and other mindfulness programs:

  • Mindful awareness of internal emotions, thoughts, and feeling
  • Mindful awareness of external senses and events
  • Mindful awareness of the interactions between internal and external aspects
  • Non-judgemental curiosity
  • Acceptance of natural pain, loss, and change
  • Bringing attention to the present

MBSR uses formal techniques such as breath awareness, body scan, and various forms of meditation. It also teaches informal techniques; ways to practice mindfulness in daily activities.

Mindfulness in Buddhism: The Definition of Sati

Through analysis of the meaning of sati, we can understand the original Buddhist teachings that influenced our modern mindfulness practice.

Sati refers to sustained attention, that is, holding an object in one’s mind and resisting outside temptations. This correlates to the mindful practice of focusing on present sensations and redirecting the mind when it wanders.

Sati is often combined with sampajanna, which means evaluation and judgment. This seems to contradict the definition of “non-judgmental awareness.”

Sati can also be divided into samma-sati, meaning “right attention”, and miccha-sati, which means “wrong attention”. That is, the Buddha differentiated between good and bad ideas to pay attention to.

The Buddha taught mindfulness in 4 contexts:

  • body,
  • emotion,
  • state of mind,
  • and thoughts.

Body: The Buddha teaches meditation focusing on the breath. Paying attention to bodily senses, and being mindful during daily activities is also important to the practice of mindfulness. The combination of mindful meditation and mindfulness in daily activities strengthens your attention.

Emotion: The Buddha taught us to explore and be mindful of the underlying moods and emotions associated with events and objects.

State of mind: Buddhism lists 5 hindrances, negative states of mind, which should be watched for and removed when found. In order to avoid their arising in the future, one must explore what leads to its arising. The 7 factors of enlightenment are states of mind deemed good and are to be cultivated and strengthened.

Thoughts: The Buddhist practice involves exploring what makes up you: your body, perceptions, feelings, action tendencies, and consciousness.

What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

Mindfulness research has exploded in recent decades along with advances in brain imaging technology. These are some of the benefits researchers have found in those who practice mindfulness.

Mental Health Benefits of a Mindfulness Practice

Practicing mindfulness improves the quality of attention, by improving one’s stability, control, and efficacy. It has been found to boost empathy and compassion, which can positively influence interpersonal behavior and may help with job-related burnout suffered by healthcare practitioners.

A mindfulness practice can help those suffering from some mental health problems. It’s been found helpful for preventing relapse from depression and the treatment of anxiety and PTSD. Studies have found evidence that it could even be comparable to the effects of antidepressants in treating depression.

Physical Health Benefits of a Mindfulness Practice

MBSR has been used to help sufferers of chronic pain reduce symptoms and has been found effective for treating insomnia. Practicing mindfulness may also boost the immune system and the brain.

Additionally, since mindfulness can reduce the intensity and duration of stress, it prevents many of the negative effects of long-term stress on the mind and body.

How Does Mindfulness Work?

The scientific study of how mindfulness works on the brain is still developing, but there are some possible ideas:

One idea is that by practicing mindfulness, you strengthen the ability to pull away from negative thought patterns and focus on better ones. This eliminates stress from ruminating over problems and can also help you make healthier choices in reaction to situations.

With advances in technology, neuroscientists are able to look at the brain of long-term meditators, and also compare the brains of patients before and after starting a mindfulness practice.

Studies have found evidence of growth in the gray matter of brain areas associated with attentional regulation, working memory, affective regulation, and impulsivity. Other studies have found decreased activity in the amygdala (emotions) and increased activity in the prefrontal cortex.

How to Practice Mindfulness

Now that we know all the great benefits of mindfulness, how do we incorporate it into our lives as a practice? A combination of formal and informal exercises, using techniques that work best for you, will form the basis of your mindfulness practice.

Formal Practice: Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is probably the best-known way to practice mindfulness. And sitting meditation is the most commonly seen way to meditate. However, meditation does not need to be seated.

You can do standing, walking, or moving meditation. You can do a seated meditation in a chair instead of on the floor. You can even meditate lying down (although it’s a quick way to put yourself to sleep).

When you’re meditating for the first couple of times, it may be helpful to do a guided meditation. This is as simple as listening to a recorded guide while you meditate.

Another type of meditation is Loving-Kindness Meditation. It’s believed to increase empathy and compassion. Also, it’s super wholesome and will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.

By trying different ways of meditating, you can be sure to find the one that works best for you.

Informal Practice: Mindfulness Breaks

It can be hard to find the time and space to meditate, especially when out or intense situations. This is where these mini mindfulness-breaks come in handy.

Informal mindfulness practices are often meant to be done in a shorter period of time and can be done anywhere. Some are meant to be done during certain activities, while others can be done as a way of centering and focusing your mind.

Informal mindfulness practices include:

Final Thoughts

The benefits of mindfulness speak for themselves, but starting a daily mindfulness practice is quite easy. So try out some of the techniques, and see what works for you!

Let me know what your mindfulness practice looks like by sending me an email or a DM on Instagram. And if you want to learn more about wellness, subscribe to my email list to be the first to know what’s new.

15 Habits for Emotional Wellness

If you’ve read my introduction to wellness, then you’ve heard of the concept of emotional wellness. Even if you haven’t, you’ve most likely had a bad experience linked to your own or someone else’s poor emotional wellness.

Emotional wellness is the dimension of wellness concerned with our emotions. Specifically, it includes our awareness of our feelings and their physical signs, the ability to acknowledge and accept our emotions, our capacity to appropriately express strong emotions, and our coping strategies.

Someone with poor emotional wellness may spend hours agonizing over natural emotions such as envy or anger. They may lash out when irritable, regardless of the true source of their irritation. A society full of people who are not in tune with their emotions would not function very well.

As I’ve said before, the best way to change our behavior is to create habits. Our brains learn from repeated actions; we can take advantage of this by training our minds with activities that improve our emotional wellness.

Unmanaged stress can lead to overwhelming negative emotions. Accordingly, habits that reduce stress can help your emotional wellness. We’ll also discuss habits more specific to the unique aspects of emotions.

Simple Stress-Busting Habits

  1. A balanced diet
  2. Adequate sleep
  3. Exercise

Stress negatively impacts our relationships, performance, and physical and mental health. These negative effects can lead to events and issues that trigger strong negative emotions that challenge our wellness. Therefore one of the best ways to help your emotional wellness is by developing habits that reduce stress.

Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising can all reduce stress from a physiological level. And, because these are (usually) things you can control, you create a feeling of empowerment that follows as you go about the rest of your life.

If you want to start exercising, check out my post about common fitness goals and how to achieve them.

Many of the other habits I talk about below also help reduce stress although that’s not their primary purpose.

Habits to Cultivate Self-Awareness

  1. Self-compassion
  2. Mindfulness
  3. Listening to your body

Self-awareness, the ability to recognize emotions and signs of stress, is the foundation for emotional wellness. This skill can be built through different activities; what works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa.

Making a habit of treating yourself with compassion can build the confidence required to explore your emotions. A daily mindfulness practice strengthens your mind and can help you recognize strong emotions in the moment. Developing a custom of taking time to listen to what your body is telling you can assist in noticing the beginnings of stress.

Habits to Facilitate Emotional agility

  1. Failure as a learning opportunity
  2. Gratitude
  3. Optimism

Emotional agility refers to the ability to move on after setbacks and failures. A sign of poor emotional wellness is being dragged down and discouraged for weeks and months after a setback. An emotionally agile person is not discouraged by failure; they see it as a learning opportunity.

This positive outlook is an essential custom for the emotionally agile person. Additionally, creating habits around practicing gratitude and cultivating optimism can raise your level of emotional agility over time.

Habits to Support Self-Acceptance

  1. Neutrally label emotions
  2. Explore causes
  3. Accept what you cannot change

Self-acceptance allows you to release any guilt or shame you may have. The opposite is to bury and repress memories; which is not a great way to deal with emotions long-term.

When encountering emotions, there are three actions you can do, in succession, to help regulate your feelings. First, identify and label your emotions, neutrally. The last part is essential as it doesn’t help to beat yourself up about your feelings; they’re a natural reaction.

Second is to identify the causes of your emotions (and if they’re really justified). Again, this should be done in a neutral fashion while practicing self-compassion and understanding. Third, identify what you can and cannot change about the situation. Change what you can and accept the rest.

Habits for Coping With and Expressing Strong Emotions

  1. Practice mindfulness
  2. Learn relaxation techniques
  3. Journal

In the heat of strong emotions, it can be difficult to control what may be inappropriate behavior. By practicing coping skills while calm, and processing feelings after the fact, you can better regulate emotions in the moment.

One of the best practices to help focus yourself while in the throes of emotion is mindfulness. Building habits around mindfulness, you develop the ability to avoid chaos by calmly acknowledging emotions in the moment.

Learning a variety of relaxation techniques, and practicing them in downtime, can help you calm down when you notice signs of stress or strong emotions. Some techniques are deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and focusing on your senses.

Making a habit of journaling can help you understand events and corresponding feelings. Approaching your emotions with curiosity and compassion will help you accept them in a healthy way.

Final Thoughts

Good emotional wellness can help you prevent issues caused by inappropriate expressions of emotion. I hope you can incorporate some of these habits into your life, to find emotional clarity and understanding.

Did I miss any habits? Let me know!

If you learned something new, subscribe to my email list to learn more about wellness with me every week!

Practice Gratitude to Support Your Wellness Journey

I’ve been exploring the dimensions of wellness, and the actions that support them. The importance of practicing gratitude has come up numerous times. Developing one’s sense of gratitude through daily practice is not only achievable but it can also benefit everyone.

To understand why gratitude is so beneficial we should understand what it means. To see how gratitude can support wellness, we’ll look at specific benefits of gratitude that research has found. Once we know all that, we can delve into a daily gratitude practice.

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is the feeling or practice of being thankful for the good in life and the kind actions of others. It may arise spontaneously, some people are more prone to feeling grateful than others, and it can also be cultivated consciously.

Like happiness, gratitude can arise as a spontaneous feeling. This may be caused by gratitude serving as a useful emotion in our evolution; the same way fear evolved to protect us. Some people may have a trait of gratitude, and feel grateful more often. But waiting for this spontaneous feeling is not enough.

Instead, our aim is the practice or trait of gratitude. That is, instead of waiting for something to provoke gratitude within us, we cultivate it. Similar to other habits of wellness, we must actively focus our thoughts on practicing gratitude which means looking for the good in our lives, appreciating it, and being thankful.

Why Practice Gratitude?

Reasons for practicing gratitude used to be limited to anecdotal evidence and spirituality-based activities, but today there is a lot of research backing the claims of the benefits of practicing gratitude:

Physical Wellness and Gratitude

On average, people who practice gratitude have better physical health than those who don’t. This includes lower blood pressure, better sleep, and less stress. Additionally, they exercise more, experience fewer aches, and have a stronger immune system; these are all benefits on their own, but they also compound to further benefit your physical health.

Mental Wellness and Gratitude

Practicing gratitude also strengthens our mental health. In addition to less stress, the practice is correlated with increased happiness, improved optimism, stronger self-control, and a lower risk of anxiety and depression.

Social Wellness and Gratitude

People who cultivate gratitude have been found to feel less lonely, and more forgiving, compassionate, and generous. Gratitude may help form new relationships, and couples that express gratitude to each other often have stronger and healthier relationships.

How to practice gratitude?

Key aspects of any gratitude practice:

  • Acknowledge the good in your life
  • Take time to appreciate it
  • Recognize where that good comes from

An additional aspect of gratitude to take your practice even further is to return the kindness you have received or perform acts of kindness unprovoked.

Suggested Practices to Cultivate Gratitude

  • Create a daily practice of listing what you are grateful for; whether at the start or the end of the day.
  • Note good things when they happen.
  • Spend time investigating good things in your life and what their causes are.
  • Write thank-you notes for those who have helped, mentored, or inspired you.
  • Try the “mental subtraction” exercise of imagining what your life would be like if something good had not occurred.
  • Practice “counting your blessings” regularly.
  • Spend time in meditation.
  • Give thanks in prayer.

Not all of these ideas will work for everyone, but try as many as you can to see what works best for your strengths and personality. When you like something, it’s so much easier to stick with it!

To help your practice stick, it may be helpful to build habits around the methods you use. Check out my guide for building habits.

Final Thoughts

Gratitude is a way to avoid the traps of negative thoughts and instead appreciate the good that is around us while improving our wellbeing. What does your gratitude practice look like?

If you want to learn more about wellness and practices such as gratitude and mindfulness, subscribe to my email list to be the first to know when I post!

What is True Happiness and How Can We Achieve It?

When I told my editor-slash-husband that I was going to write about happiness, he wasn’t convinced. But it kept coming up with other topics so I knew it was something I wanted to explore. See, humans have always worried about happiness in some form or another (some cultures actually have a fear of being too happy!)

Before I dive in, I want to share a bit about my experience with “happiness.” I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for over 5 years and it’s that part of me that’s brought me to the journey I’m on today. I don’t mean to imply any of the ideas I’m sharing are quick cure-alls or substitutes for medication; they’re not. But they are useful in addition to medication, and also for people who aren’t dealing with mental illness.

I believe America (in the broad sense of the prominent culture in The United States and Canada) is going about happiness wrong. And it’s hurting people and the environment. I’ll explain how in a moment.

I’ll also explore other ideas about happiness, and share some ways to go about making yourself happier; the better way.

What We Have Gotten Wrong About Happiness

Americans are hyperfocused on being happy and living a perfect life. It’s not the average person’s fault; we’re bombarded by images in advertising, on TV, and on social media. Celebrity and “rich kid” culture makes us feel as though we don’t have enough; if only we had a bigger house, nicer clothes, fancier vacations then we’d be happy. This isn’t necessarily true.

Consumer Culture Makes Us Unhappy With More

We’re living in a consumer culture of more, more, more! where we buy nicer and bigger things to make us happy. But it isn’t actually making us happy. Why? Research in psychology points to the theory of hedonic adaptation (otherwise known as the hedonic treadmill) for a possible answer.

Hedonic adaptation states that positive and negative experiences do not affect happiness in the long term. Instead, while there is an immediate increase in happiness or unhappiness, over time we tend towards a set point. Our set point, or baseline level of happiness, is influenced by our genetics, our attitude and behavior, and our circumstances.

Hedonistic adaptation means that hedonism, the pursuit of immediate pleasure and avoidance of struggle, won’t increase our happiness in the long run. What we’ve been doing is not working. Worse, consumer culture is taking our time, wrecking our health, and hurting the planet.

Trying to Always be Happy Makes Us Unhappy

Our culture’s hyperfocus on happiness makes any grief or sadness unbearable. So we mask it or try to solve it: if shopping doesn’t work, we turn to medication. The happiness culture benefits pharmaceutical companies and anyone else who can market “sadness cures”. But unhappiness isn’t always something we need to fix.

Anything worth doing is going to be unpleasant sometimes. And when we accept that fact, we can stop feeling despair when we are in low spirits. It is normal to have off days. In effect, not worrying about being happy all the time, can actually make us happier.

An idea which is pervasive on social media is that we should always have everything organized and tidy; that we should always be happy and doing exciting things with lots of friends. When we get too fixated on the fake lives of online influencers, we can lose track of what matters.

Having a perfect matching kitchen is not as important as cooking nutritious food. A table full of pretty fruits and pastries is not as important as the people around you. If we focus on the “perfect life” that we want to live, we miss out on our real lives. And, we’ll never be satisfied; there will always be something else we want.

What Really is Happiness?

When you consider happiness, it can be looked at as overall life satisfaction, or as the experience of positive emotions. When you define happiness as the latter then the focus is on experiencing good things, and you easily fall into the happiness trap I described above. What feels good now won’t always feel good in the long run, and some unpleasant experiences are necessary to grow as a person.

The Ancient Greeks, Buddhists, and the new field of positive psychology focus on happiness as life satisfaction. The Ancient Greeks coined the term eudaimonia as an alternative to happiness as a life goal. Buddhism focuses on happiness through a positive mindset. Positive psychology studies the good experiences that make life worthwhile.

Happiness in Philosophy and Religion

Eudaimonia, whose biggest proponents were Plato and Aristotle, can be roughly translated to fulfillment. In the eudaimonic tradition of living, one focuses on living life in a worthwhile and satisfying way. Instead of trying to avoid bad experiences, you instead trust that while many of life’s projects may be unpleasant at times, they are also what makes life worthwhile.

In Buddhism, there is a distinction between transient pleasure, called preya, and real, lasting happiness, known as sukha. Happiness is defined in Buddhism as a state of mind. To be happy is to actively work on replacing negative, unproductive thoughts and actions with ones that foster gratitude and compassion.

Happiness in Positive Psychology

When hedonistic adaptation was first introduced in the 1970s it was prematurely concluded that we cannot do anything to make ourselves happier. No matter what we do, we will always return to our baseline of happiness. But new research in the field of positive psychology suggests otherwise.

As mentioned earlier, while our baseline is determined by genetics and external circumstances, it is also partly determined by our attitudes and behaviors. This implies that by changing the ways we act and think, we can make ourselves happier.

How Do We Really Make Ourselves Happier?

You cannot become happier by wanting to be happy. When you want something, you tell yourself you don’t already have it. And the feeling of needing more to be happy, which is a symptom of the consumer culture we live in, is bad for our health, our wallets, and our planet.

Instead, to become happier you should focus on creating a positive mindset and finding enjoyment in the processes of wellness. Wellness is the active pursuit of a more successful existence. It’s about conscious decisions to engage in activities and behaviors that serve to improve some aspect of your wellbeing.

Many of the habits that will make you happier are similar to the habits for wellness I recommend. Wellness is the process of improving your existence; it’s about finding satisfaction and fulfillment (as well as maintaining good health.) Of course your life satisfaction will improve as you work on your wellness!

Part of mental wellness focuses on your thoughts and how you perceive the world. By fostering a positive mindset throughout your day, your overall mood is improved as you spend more time feeling gratitude and contentment.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve woken up to find yourself surrounded by a consumer culture that is trying to sell you empty happiness, don’t be discouraged. Every action opposed to consumerism and every act of self-care is a step in the right direction; for you, and the rest of the world

Have you been focusing on the wrong things trying to make yourself happy? Did I miss your favorite activity to make yourself happier? Let me know in an email!

If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more about wellness, subscribe to my email list so I can keep you updated with new posts!

9 Ways to Boost Physical Wellness

Of all the dimensions of wellness, the physical aspect is the one most often agreed upon and the one focused on the most in wellness programs. Two main reasons why we focus on the physical dimension so often are the activities involved and the criteria for measuring improvement.

Exercise and diet are big components of our physical wellness, and, conveniently, are something we’re hyperfocused on as a society. (A little funny considering our hunter-gatherer ancestors had the whole thang figured out.) When a school, workplace, or organization implements a wellness program, these two tend to be a top priority.

Since poor exercise and diet contribute to being overweight, it’s easy to measure the “success” of a program by monitoring participants’ weights. The success of more abstract components of our wellness, like social, emotional, and spiritual, is a lot harder to measure. For a hypothetical committee in charge of improving wellness scores, it’s easier to implement a wellness program that focuses on diet and exercise.

Of course, there’s so much more to physical wellness than just moving and eating nutritious foods! Hopefully, I can expand on the more common activities and suggest some habits and activities that will be helpful for even the more developed wellness practitioner.

Practice Personal Hygiene

Current global pandemic aside, practicing personal hygiene is a good idea any day. From brushing (and flossing!) your teeth to washing your hands before eating, personal hygiene keeps us all healthy and in good shape.

Monitor, Manage, and Prevent Illness

If you know you have a disease, such as diabetes or anxiety, it’s important to educate yourself and practice monitoring your symptoms so you can notice if it gets worse. This may mean monitoring with medical equipment, or simply being mindful of your body.

By understanding how your body reacts to stressors, you can intervene before your illness becomes serious and requires medical intervention. For example, knowing what dehydration looks like or learning to notice symptoms of depression means you can get help as soon as you need it.

Even if you’re healthy, you should practice awareness of your body so you will know right away if anything goes wrong. Monitoring your body’s signs helps prevent illness from the beginning. This includes getting necessary medical check-ups, like x-rays of your teeth and pap smears (for those who need them).

Reduce Stress

Stress, as the name implies, is a heavy burden on our bodies. The best cure is to reduce stress as much as possible. This may mean different things to different people, but some simple suggestions include taking time to relax, focusing on what you can change, and not overcommitting.

Foster a Healthy Sexuality

For most people, sexuality is an important and intimate part of who they are. Taking time to explore your interests and set boundaries will create a strong foundation for personal connections. In the wise words of RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Practice Safer Sex

High School Sex Ed likes to show gnarly pictures of STIs, but sometimes you can get an STI from someone who isn’t showing symptoms. Practicing safer sex helps protect you and others. It’s not rude to insist on using protection with someone; it’s smart.

Additionally, for maximum enjoyment (and to prevent tears that hurt and let in bacteria) make sure everyone is warmed up and use lube liberally. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for wanting to use lubrication (on that note, I recommend a water-based lubricant without any fragrances.)

A part of safe sex that I don’t see mentioned often is the understanding between partners. Feeling uncomfortable or unsafe creates feelings of stress which can affect your physical wellness in the long run. It’s important to discuss boundaries, needs, and desires in a safe, non-sexual environment with your partner.

Limit Alcohol and Tobacco Use

Humans have been consuming alcohol and tobacco for thousands of years. Winemaking has a rich history, and the Mediterranean diet, which strongly features red wine, is correlated with long lives marked by good health. Tobacco has cultural and spiritual roots in South and Mesoamerica.

Our modern lives are full of stresses our ancestors didn’t have to deal with, and some people turn to substances such as alcohol and tobacco to deal with them. This is unhealthy in two ways; it doesn’t actually address the problem (only puts it off) and abuse of these substances is damaging to our minds and bodies.

When consuming substances such as alcohol or tobacco, be mindful of the amount you’re consuming, the quality of what is entering your body, and the reason why you’re using.

Stay Hydrated

We’re made out of water! We really are. If you don’t already, carrying around a big water bottle with you everywhere makes it easy to keep sipping. Plus, you’ll save money and resources by not buying plastic water bottles AND when you finish your water bottle you get the awesome feeling of knowing you just drank a bunch of H2O.

Keeping hydrated helps your body work at it’s best. Plus, sipping on water all day is an easy way to prevent headaches and avoid snacking when you’re not hungry.

Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep is so good. We all know this, but we’re probably not getting enough. Getting enough sleep improves the functioning of your mind and body. It’s an important time for our minds and bodies to grow and repair.

Having a wake-up and bedtime that stays consistent can help you create a sleep schedule. Additionally, putting away electronics before bed can help you fall asleep faster.

Exercise (or Just Move) Daily

You’ve heard it a thousand times; exercise is vital for a strong body and a strong mind. When choosing an exercise activity, we want to make sure we’re equally building our endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. This means mixing up your routine with a handful of different activities is beneficial.

Setting fitness goals for yourself can create motivation and a feeling of achievement to keep you going.

For more information about how exercise strengthens the mind, I recommend Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey.

Focus on  Eating More Vegetables and Less Processed Foods

Information surrounding diet and nutrition is cloudy and full of misinformation. However, there are some key principles that remain strong: eat more vegetables and less processed food.

Vegetables (and fruits) are not as calorie-dense as many other foods, so filling your plate up with them makes it easier to avoid overeating (check out this article I wrote about how understanding calories makes it easy to lose weight). Additionally, vegetables have lots of good nutrients and organic chemicals that are awesome for our cells and our gut biome.

Final Thoughts

The dimensions of wellness extend well beyond the body. But creating a strong foundation of physical wellness will help you as you continue on your wellness journey.

If you like this post, I’m doing a whole series about improving each aspect of wellness. So far, I’ve covered financial wellness and intellectual wellness. Subscribe to my email list so I can let you know when I post!

Powerful Habits for Wellness

We engage in and improve our wellness when we pursue activities and follow behaviors that benefit us. I’ve written a whole post about what wellness consists of and the principles behind it. This post suggests a few specific activities and behaviors for each different dimension of wellness.

In another post where I discuss how habits work and are formed, I write about how building habits can help automate good behaviors and eliminate bad ones. By developing habits for specific dimensions of wellness, you make the work of improving yourself infinitely easier. Below are some suggestions of habits you can form for the different dimensions of wellness.

Physical Wellness

Physical wellness is the dimension concerned with your body. It includes physical activity and nutrition, as well as maintaining health.

Environmental Wellness

Environmental wellness refers to the world around us. It’s about educating ourselves about and taking care of our environment.

  • Seek to minimize your environmental impact
  • Practice eco-conscious habits
  • Educate yourself about the environment
  • Help improve your community through volunteering
  • Spend time outside

Financial Wellness

Financial wellness recognizes the impact poorly managed finances can have on our overall wellness and seeks to prevent it.

  • Track and manage your spending
  • Have a safety net
  • Create and follow a budget

Learn more by reading my 5 rules for financial wellness.

Occupational Wellness

Occupational wellness (or academic wellness) is concerned with our satisfaction at work or in school. This includes relationships with peers as well as finding personal meaning.

  • Set career goals for yourself
  • Manage workplace conflict
  • Explore different career paths and options

Intellectual Wellness

Intellectual wellness covers the curious and creative natures of our minds.

  • Cultivate curiosity
  • Engage in creative activities
  • Pursue lifelong learning
  • Read and expose yourself to different opinions

Check out this post for more ideas of activities that build intellectual wellness.

Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness refers to our ability to recognize, accept, and manage our emotions and stressors, and good emotional wellness promotes resilience.

  • Foster awareness of emotions through mindfulness
  • Practice acceptance of your emotions
  • Recognize indicators of stress
  • Develop your sense of self
  • Take needed me-time
  • Don’t stress what you can’t change

Social Wellness

Social wellness encompasses our relationships with others as well as partly with ourselves.

  • Actively listen to others
  • Maintain interpersonal relationships
  • Practice respecting others
  • Foster self-confidence
  • Spend time with positive people

Spiritual Wellness

Spiritual wellness is the dimension of wellness concerned with our beliefs, values, and worldview.

  • Explore and expand your beliefs, values, and world view
  • Find purpose by living according to your values
  • Surround yourself with a sense of community
  • Do good for others
  • Pick up meditation

Final Thoughts

Wellness is all about actively engaging in the activities and behaviors that will bring you the results you are looking for. That’s why it’s the perfect place to apply what we know about forming habits.

5 Rules for Better Financial Wellness

What is Financial Wellness

Financial wellness can only be achieved by being aware of your financial situation and managing it effectively. Like all other dimensions of wellness, financial wellness is intertwined with the others. Not being aware of or managing your money poorly can have negative impacts on other areas of your life.

I will be the first person to tell you that your life shouldn’t revolve around money. It’s not healthy to constantly chase money in order to buy the stuff you don’t need (we all know the saying money doesn’t buy happiness.) At the same time, I can not stress how important it is to have enough money for what you need and to have a safety net for when things go wrong.

If you don’t have money, you can’t afford good food, health, and you’ll have stress. At the same time, it’s important to recognize when you’re spending too much time focusing on money and should focus on other areas of your life. It’s all about achieving balance.

I am really grateful I learned about finance early and that my parents were able to support me until I was 20. This has helped me learn what good and bad habits are when it comes to financial wellness. I’m gonna share what works for me.

These are the 5 rules I follow for good financial wellness:

  1. Pay off and avoid debt
  2. Limit mindless spending
  3. Track my spending
  4. Create (and follow) a budget
  5. Have savings

Pay Off and Avoid Debt

It’s really easy to get sucked into buying things we can’t afford. Financing programs are a trap, to sell us stuff we can’t afford and don’t need. They encourage constant upgrading to the next new thing and commit us to spend time in the rat race.

Also, you don’t want to end up in a position where you have payments to make but an inadequate source of income. It’s much better to be patient and save until you can afford to pay upfront for what you want.

Limit Mindless Spending

Being aware of where your money goes is important when you want to keep a budget. Do you know the feeling of checking your bank balance and wondering where all your money went? That’s exactly what I mean. When we’re not thinking about our purchases it’s all too easy to fritter away money. (It’s also really easy to eat out too often and to accumulate stuff which isn’t good for us or the environment when we’re not being conscious of our spending.)

Tracking your spending and having a budget can help you avoid mindless spending if you’re conscious of it.

Track Your Spending

The best way for me to track my spending is to write down every purchase I make. Before I had online banking, I would have to go to the atm to check how much I had in my account. I would then write down every purchase in my bullet journal and I would write the balance left in my account.

Even with my online bank app, I still take time to record individual purchases in my bullet journal, and at the end of the month, I total the amount I spent in different categories. This gives me an overview of how I am spending my money.

My system is not perfect, but I think the act of taking the time to record each purchase makes me more conscious about my spending habits. And that’s a good thing.

Create a Budget for Yourself

When you have a plan of how much you want to spend, you’ll work within the limits you have set. Similarly, if you don’t set a budget, you don’t hold yourself accountable.

Of course, sometimes our lives are hectic and we can’t always predict costs. My solution to this is leaving a little money left over for incidentals.

How to Create a Budget

  1. List all your fixed weekly/monthly/yearly costs
  2. List all your sources of income and how much you expect to get
  3. Determine where your money goes
  4. Set goals for how much you want to spend in each category
  5. Set money aside for saving
  6. Set money aside for incidentals

It’s important to be expecting and to be aware so there are no surprises, especially since many of these costs may be automatically withdrawn which could cause you to overdraw if you don’t have enough money in your account.

You need to know what you’re working with.

This should be done by tracking your spending for a few weeks or months. You should be able to organize your spending into broad categories. My categories include groceries, dining, entertainment, technology, school, household, drug store, clothes. Depending on what you usually buy, it may be helpful to have other categories; makeup, sports, gardening, art supplies, games, alcohol, if you spend a lot of money in a niche category, you may want to track that separately from the rest of the broader category.

In part how much you plan to spend will be influenced by what you’ve spent in the past, but this is also a good place to challenge yourself to spend less and to be more thrifty.

I like to put money into savings as soon as I get my paycheque so it’s like it never existed. Then I go on business as usual. I also try to avoid dipping into my safety net except when it’s absolutely necessary.

Of course, one of the categories you allocate money to should be for incidentals, which are any expenses that come up unexpectedly. This way you don’t have to dip into your savings when something pops up.

The Importance of Saving

One time my mom remarked on the amount of money I had in my chequing account. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I remember her mentioning how she and my Dad always try to keep a certain amount of money in their chequing account for emergencies. Ever since then, this has been a baseline I try to keep on hand.

I’ve had the experience of having no money in my bank account. It’s a very tense and anxious way to live; that’s not good for our bodies or our minds. That’s why keeping a safety net of money is really important to our financial wellness.

Additionally, if you’re a student or are otherwise subject to fluctuating employment, by living below your means while employed and saving money you will have more security when you’re in between jobs.

Instead of arbitrarily choosing a number like 2k, consider looking at your budget and determining how much you’d need to support yourself without and income for 3 months. Then, once you have that much saved, you can increase your emergency und to 6, 9, 12 months.

Although this requires a more detailed post, I want to briefly mention the importance of investing. A traditional savings account will have a fairly low-interest rate (this is the percentage your bank pays you for saving money with them). The benefit of these savings account is that your money is safe from whatever happens to the market and can also be withdrawn quickly.

When you’re saving money, especially for a long time, you want it to grow. This is where investing in a high-interest savings account, stocks, and accounts like a TFSA and RRSP (for Canada) or a 401k (for the United States) is important. This all requires a longer post though.

Final Thoughts

Having a lot of money won’t make you happy. But not having enough money will make you unhappy, stressed, and unhealthy. Poor financial wellness leaks into the other areas of your life to hinder your success. Likewise, good financial wellness can set a strong foundation for your other activities.

Let me know in an email if I missed any tips that have worked for you. If you found these rules helpful, I’m writing a series of ways to improve each dimension of wellness. You can start by reading about what exactly wellness is, and my 9 tips for working on intellectual wellness.