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How to Overcome a Negative Money Mindset

April 19, 2023

Tax season is a time of year that everyone is thinking about money. Although this time of year may heighten money woes, worrying about money is not exclusive to the spring. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), money remains a top cause of stress in the United States.

Society tells us that one way to counteract money worries is to spend less and work more—which Americans have taken to heart. As a result, American workers’ work time has increased dramatically in recent years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey found that 89% of people with full-time jobs spend an average of 8.5 weekday hours at work each day—31% work an average of 5 hours and 24 minutes on weekends.

But long working hours directly impact your physical, mental, and emotional health. According to a study published in the Frontiers journal, long working hours will deprive people of their break time and cause serious harm to their health—increasing the risk of hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. 

Additionally, poor mental health, such as job burnout, occupational stress, and depression, are associated with long working hours. Aside from that, stress directly impacts your hormones. Reactions to stress are associated with enhanced secretion of hormones, including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormones, and prolactin [1].

Simply working more won’t solve your money woes. But focusing on a holistic approach to financial wellness may. 

Here’s what to consider. 

Financial wellness is defined as how well a person manages their economic life. Feeling financially well includes having a sense of security and having enough money to meet your needs. It’s about controlling your finances and having the freedom to make choices that allow you to enjoy life. 

When focusing on financial wellness, often, the approach is directed toward practicing better money habits, setting goals, or creating a roadmap to achieve them. Although beneficial, financial wellness doesn’t begin (or end) with these things. To effectively enhance your financial wellness, you must cultivate a healthy money mindset that supports your goals and promotes better financial habits. 

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How Are You Spending Money?

The path toward financial wellness is not therapy but a self-guided process. And this process often starts with recognizing what you’re telling yourself regarding money. 

But first, is your money happy? Ken Honda, the author of Happy Money, says there are two kinds of money: happy and unhappy. “Happy money is the kind that a ten-year-old boy uses to buy flowers for his mom on Mother’s Day,” Honda says. “All money circulated with love, care, and friendship is happy. And in many ways, happy money is an active form of love.” 

Conversely, unhappy money is what you begrudgingly use to pay your taxes or household bills. “Money circulated in frustration, anger, sadness, and despair is unhappy money,” Honda says. “This makes people feel stressed, desperate, aggravated, depressed, and sometimes violent—depriving people of their dignity, self-esteem, and gentleness.”

Depending on which you choose, your outcomes and life will vary. “It is not about how much money you make or have that categorizes you as Happy Money or Unhappy Money,” Honda says. “The energy in which your money is given and received determines your flow.” 

Furthermore, Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money, says, “Examining your attitude toward money―earning it, spending it, and giving it away―can offer surprising insight into your life, values, and the essence of prosperity.” 

“For most of us, the relationship with money is deeply conflicted, and our behavior with and around money is often at odds with our most deeply held values, commitment, and ideals—what I call the soul (not referring to a religious interpretation),” Twist says. “Under it all, when you uncover what you’ve been told to believe regarding money—under the fears and upsets—everyone wants to love and be loved and make a difference with their lives.”

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Beliefs About Money

We all have ingrained beliefs about money—some are helpful, and others are limiting. But regardless, they likely stem from your childhood. Research says that your family’s financial decisions and behaviors significantly influence how you behave with money. “We didn’t learn the lessons of money as we did in school. Instead, we absorbed them—seeing, hearing, and feeling them from a young age,” Honda says. 

Consider these negative money beliefs you may have heard. 

  • Money is bad. You view money negatively and are cautious when dealing with it. 
  • Money disappears fast. And when you need it the most, you cannot find it. 
  • Money hurts people. You may believe that money causes harm—whether as a weapon or used to buy things that cause damage. 
  • Money is scary. You think money can accomplish anything—making it bigger (and scarier) than it is.
  • Money creates trouble. You have bad memories of money or a time when money caused you or someone you love problems. 
  • Money sparks jealousy. Having a lot of money can cause negative attention, and that’s something you want to avoid. 

On the contrary, don’t negate the positive things you may be telling yourself about money. 

  • Money supports people. Money enables people to make a living—helping them learn new things and providing security. 
  • Money makes people happy. “You can feel happy about money, even if you have only a little,” Honda says. “Money can make someone feel good when given or received with happy energy.” 
  • Money permits dreams. Money helps you reach your big or small goals.
  • Money connects others. When spent wisely, you believe that money helps you connect with others—like a family vacation to create lasting memories. 
  • Money promotes good. Donating money warms people’s hearts, and because of this, money promotes good. 

Regardless of what you believe, you must reconcile discrepancies. 

Joyce Marter, LCPC, psychotherapist, entrepreneur, and mental health thought leader, says, “When our family’s beliefs affect our spending or saving behavior, we give power to the past to determine our future. It’s hard to make positive changes unless we deal with emotional challenges and behaviors linked with our outdated money beliefs.” 

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Overcoming a Negative Money Mindset

Now that you’ve understood where your money mindset derives from, it’s time to consider overcoming the negativity. 

First, take note of your past and its influence on your money mindset.

  • When you were a child, how did the adults in your life view money? How did they talk about money with you? 
  • Did you have any severe or traumatizing experiences as a child (not just financial) that might have a lasting impact on your finances?
  • How were you permitted to spend money as a child?

Next, assess your current money mindset. 

  • When you spend money, what feelings follow?
  • If you spend impulsively, what are your primary triggers? 
  • What does your self-talk say if you make a “bad” money decision? 
  • If you’ve tried and failed to stick to a money plan in the past, what were the factors—logical or otherwise—that impacted your success?

Once you have a good understanding of the past and its implications on the present, you can reinvent your money mindset to match your goals more closely. 

  1. Replace your negative money mindset beliefs with positive ones. For example, money is a tool I can use to reach my goals. 
  2. Enhance your financial education. Read books, take classes, and listen to podcasts—the more educated you become, the better your mindset about money and overall financial wellness. 
  3. Create financial goals. Set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) goals that motivate you toward your financial goals rather than overwhelm. 
  4. Focus on mindfulness. Establishing a mindfulness practice helps you tune into how and what you’re spending money on and why you might be doing so.
  5. Practice gratitude. Aim to appreciate your current financial status while focusing on your future goals. Gratitude, in and of itself, opens the pathways for abundance, especially regarding the flow of happy money.

Overcoming your negative money mindset is only one aspect of your complete financial wellness. But understanding how you spend money and interpreting the limiting beliefs you adopted during childhood, are sure to positively impact your money mindset well beyond the tax season.

About the Author

Heather Cherry is a freelance health and wellness writer and content marketing coach. She helps businesses create strategic, creative, and conversational messages as well build effective content teams. She is a student of the IAFHH Functional Hormone Specialist Certification Program, writes frequently for IAFHH and has also been published in Forbes, Sleepopolis, SELF, Insider, and author of Market Your A$$ Off.

Article Sources

  1. Ranabir S, Reetu K. Stress and hormones. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Jan;15(1):18-22. doi: 10.4103/2230-8210.77573. PMID: 21584161; PMCID: PMC3079864.

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