06 Feb

Written by Kathryn Vercillo on February 6, 2009

Dear Kathryn: As the economy has worsened, I find myself getting really stressed out about money. Everyone else in my life also seems to be more stressed out than usual. Is it possible to keep a positive attitude about finances – and about life – even in these economically tough times?

This is such an important issue in today’s society. Our global economy is changing. Many people are dealing with financial problems that they hadn’t faced in the past. This is creating a strain in many ways – people are doing jobs that they don’t like just to have work, dipping into their finances to pay their bills and generally worrying about the state of their finances today and in the future. It’s no wonder that you’re feeling the kind of stress that you’re feeling; there are really legitimate reasons for that. However, a change in your approach to money and the changing economy could reduce that stress and help you to get back that positive attitude that has been lost recently.

You may be thinking that changing your attitude is easier said than done. That’s true. But it’s definitely do-able and worth doing. If we focus on the blessings that we do have instead of the losses that we’re incurring, take it upon ourselves to see the silver lining in the economic cloud and find creative ways to approach our new financial situations then we can change our attitudes one day at a time. Doing this will likely encourage those around us to do the same and, before you know it, that negative mood will be lifted from everywhere around you. Let’s take a closer look at each of these three ingredients for a positive economic outlook.

Focusing on our blessings

The first thing that you need to do to regain your positive feelings about life is to focus on the blessings that you do have. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in our losses especially as the economy fluctuates. We lose jobs, we lose friendships as people we love relocate to cheaper geographic locations, we lose touch with our inner selves as we work harder to earn the same amount of money. But focusing on these losses immediately takes us to a stressed-out and negative state of mind. We have to make a concentrated effort to focus on the great things that we do have in our lives.

Here are some easy tips for bringing your focus back to what you do have:

• Make a list of all of the non-financial things that you have which you value. This includes everything from your family to your health to your favorite old sweater or your vegetable garden. Post this list where you can see it regularly so you don’t forget those things that you truly value and which you have not lost.
• Think about any thing that you have which does have monetary value. It can help to realize that you have money in the bank whether that’s in the form of a literal savings account or a car that you can sell in an emergency or a friend that you can ask for a loan if things really get out of control. You may never have to rely on these things but it can be comforting to realize that they are there.
• Keep a gratitude journal. Once a day, sit down and list everything that you feel grateful for that day. Include both big things and small things. Simply by listing what you feel thankful for, you can improve your attitude about life and reduce the stress that you have.
• Celebrate the small things. Even in the midst of a financial crisis, we can celebrate our lives. Have a potluck dinner with friends or a board game night once a week to simply celebrate each other and the lives that you do have together.
• Take time for yourself. One of the first things that we give up in times of financial crisis is the time we need to just relax. We focus so much on finding ways to get money that we forget that our time is also of value. Are you still taking the time you need each day to read a book, listen to a favorite piece of music or go for a walk? These things are important and we must do them no matter what else is going on in our lives or in our economy.

Figuring out what the silver lining is

After celebrating the blessings that you do have in your life, you may want to turn your attention to the bigger picture of the changing economy. It may seem like everything’s bad right now but that’s not actually true. Some great changes have happened as a direct result of the problems in the economy. Try to find this silver lining by thinking about the positive things you’ve seen happen as a result of global financial changes. Here are some of the things that I’ve noticed if you need some examples:

• There is less waste. People are trying to save money which means they’re buying fewer things that they don’t need. They’re also finding ways to re-use items in the home. This means that there is less waste which is a good thing overall. Many of the things that we do to save money also help to save the earth – examples include using less energy around the home and using public transit instead of cars.
• Communities are coming together. People seem to really be pulling together to help each other out in these tougher times. There is more empathy for others. Maybe we’re bartering our services or maybe we’re just getting together to enjoy a cheap cup of coffee and some inspiring conversation. Whatever approach we’re taking, we’re coming together more and that’s a good thing.
• Service levels have improved all around us. Everyone who has a job today wants to hang on to it which means that job performance has improved and customer service has improved along with it. We’re all doing the best that we can and I think that’s a positive change.
• Everyone is really re-assessing our values. A large percentage of the population has realized that money and material wealth won’t make us happy. We’re really looking at what we value and creating lives that we can live by. If it takes a bit of a downturn in the economy to allow us to start living more in line with our authentic values then maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Finding creative ways to approach our finances

Once you’ve brought your focus back to those things that we do have and found a way to improve your attitude about the economy, you can turn your attention to dealing with your financial situation. The first thing that you’ll want to do is to look realistically at any changes that have occurred recently in your personal finances. Then you’ll want to create a fresh budget for your life that takes these changes into consideration.

The most important thing that we can do here is to really think outside of the box when it comes to money. Find as many creative ways as you can to both save money and earn money. Keep reading blogs such as this one to regularly get creative tips on living a frugal life. Start thinking about where you spend your money and consider whether there’s a creative alternative. For example, if you spend money for the services of a dog walker and also for a gym membership, perhaps you should give up both of those things and start taking the time to walk the dog yourself!

The more creative that you can be with saving money and generating income, the more money that you’re going to create even in these tough times. And something else will happen as well – using your creative juices will make you feel inspired. The feeling of being inspired will counteract the negative feelings that you’ve been having and will start to make you feel better about life regardless of the money you save or earn. Just approaching life creatively will have a positive impact on your mood.

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