The Power of Mindfulness
It seems everywhere you turn these days, from news shows to news articles to local advertisements, there’s this idea of promoting “mindfulness” in our day-to-day lives. Mindfulness is generally accepted as focusing one’s mental state on the present moment, being completely aware of all elements around us.
Some financial professionals have expanded this idea of mindfulness to financial management. In an effort to help achieve this, some people practice a no-spending day, no-spending week or no-spending month. By avoiding expenses at all costs, we are forced to assess if and why we need to make certain purchases.1 For example, if you go into a store for one item, you shouldn’t leave with six more. Likewise, you might find you end up consuming all of the canned foods in your pantry before you feel the need to buy more.
Recognizing the difference between wants and needs is probably the biggest benefit to conducting a no-spend day.2 It’s also a good way to allocate your retirement income streams to help ensure your money doesn’t run out. In other words, you could designate steady and reliable income streams (such as Social Security, a pension or an annuity) for necessities such as food and utilities in retirement, while any other variable income can be used to pay for occasional indulgences.
There’s a growing body of research that supports this idea that mindfulness-focused activities, such as meditation and yoga, can help decrease anxiety, depression, stress and pain, as well as help improve general health, mental health and quality of life. In fact, one study concluded that the impact of ongoing mindfulness activities was both significant and long term compared to taking a short-term vacation which, at the outset, was very successful at relieving stress.3
Neuroscience studies also have correlated the impact of aerobic exercise on cognitive clarity. In fact, vigorous exercise has been identified as the only known trigger to create new neurons in the brain. These newly produced neurons appear in parts of the brain associated with learning, memory, concentration and time management.4
When comparing brain scans of young-adult cross-country runners to young adults who don’t engage in regular physical activity, scientists found that overall, the runners demonstrated greater functional connectivity for activities such as planning and decision-making.5
On the surface, it may seem that the older we get, the less sharp our minds become. But alas, there also are studies that demonstrate more mature minds benefit from “crystallized intelligence.” This represents the knowledge and data that we have accumulated over decades of work and life experience. Older workers in particular can counteract age-related cognitive lag by relying on this foundation of experience to troubleshoot problems and innovate new solutions on the job.6
Some educators believe that the medical profession should take this new focus on mindfulness into consideration, not just as a means to help patients cope with health conditions but also to help physicians become better at their jobs.
Doctors are sometimes guilty of taking a set of symptoms at face value and settling on an incorrect diagnosis because they are not tuned in to other symptoms or patient data that may have bearing. Medicine is an inexact science that takes years of experience to become adept at recognizing a wide array of conditions, yet it is equally important not to let that experience and confidence close the mind to other possibilities.
This is where the practice of mindfulness can help physicians become more attuned to each patient’s full array of symptoms and their own biases. To date, some experts believe a missing ingredient in medical education and medical practice are courses or workshops that teach physicians the practice and impact of mindfulness.7 This has become even more critical now that health care delivery has become more of a volume and administrative business with less time spent with patients.
Are you practicing mindfulness in the various areas of your life? Please give us a call if we can help you be more mindful of your current financial situation and long-term retirement income goals.
1 Maggie McGrath. Forbes. March 8, 2016. “Turbo-Charge Your Finances with the Power of Mindful Spending.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2016/03/08/turbo-charge-your-finances-with-the-power-of-mindful-spending/#2eba22013796. Accessed Feb. 21, 2017.
3 Monique Tello. Harvard Health Publications. Oct. 27, 2016. “Regular meditation more beneficial than vacation.” http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/relaxation-benefits-meditation-stronger-relaxation-benefits-taking-vacation-2016102710532. Accessed Feb. 21, 2017.
4 Melissa Dahl. New York Magazine. April 21, 2016. “How Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running.” http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/04/how-neuroscientists-explain-the-mind-clearing-magic-of-running.html. Accessed Feb. 21, 2017.
5 Alexis Blue. World Economic Forum. Dec. 19, 2016. “Want to give your brain a boost? Running may be the answer.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/12/running-isnt-just-good-for-your-fitness-it-could-give-your-brain-a-boost. Accessed Feb. 21, 2017.
6 Kim Blanton. Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Dec. 8, 2016. “Inside the Minds of Older Workers.” http://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/inside-the-minds-of-older-workers/. Accessed Feb. 21, 2017.
7 Knowledge@Wharton. Feb. 16, 2017. “How Mindfulness Can Lead to Better Health Care Outcomes.” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/how-mindfulness-can-lead-to-better-health-care-outcomes/. Accessed Feb. 21, 2017.
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