Building a Better Mood about Your Money

December 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Money and Behavior

Today I am writing about building a better mood about money.  About replacing despair over what happened and is happening economically in 2008 with gratitude for what we still have.

You are probably asking yourself if I am ill.  It’s not like Mr. ToughMoneyLove to lift the pedal off the metal when it comes to targeting and attacking our individual and collective money woes.  That’s what the hard truth is all about.

No, I am not sick (well sort of, but only in a mentally deranged way.)  Here is what happened.  I read something at another blog that affected me and in a positive way, no less.  Here we are only two days from Christmas and Mr. ToughMoneyLove was prepared to write another rant (accurate but a rant nonetheless) about what our government has been doing to our collective financial futures and to my 401(k) in particular.

But this other writer caused me to stop myself and say “not today.”  There will be plenty of opportunities for ranting when the Obama team begins feeling and stumbling its way through our economic mess.

You see, tonight Mrs. ToughMoneyLove and our three sons will be converging at our vacation home.  On a lake.  I’m not trying to boast but think about what I just wrote.  A family celebrating together at a place that hard work and yes, money, made possible.  Where memories have been made and will continue to be made.  A place to physically and mentally retreat from all of the stuff that tries to annoy us and instead concentrate on pure and simple pleasures.   A guaranteed mood elevator.

Gratitude is the key word for building this better money mood.  So today and for the rest of the year I’m going to concentrate on being grateful for what we have.

Forget the stock markets.  (Right after I harvested some tax losses.  Ouch.)

Forget the bailouts and budget deficits.

Forget the high taxes and inflation that are to come.  (This one was really hard folks.)

So what triggered this “money mood” thing?  The spiritual message of Christmas is part of it.  The other part was actually more scientific so I thought I would share it with you.

I am interested in the interplay between psychology and money.  I follow a blog that talks about that subject.  Recently, the psychology and money blog published an article entitled “Better Mood from Gratitude.”  Yes I know – we’ve all heard this before.  Think pleasant thoughts, be grateful and you feel better, blah blah blah.  But this was a little different because there was science behind it.  The engineer and hard truth logician in me likes that, so I paid more attention.  (Remember when the Anchor Man Ron Burgundy justified his outrageous statements with “it’s science”?  I love that part.)

Anyway, the article suggested a two minute technique, as follows:

All you need is enough time – as little as two minutes – to think of three things that you are grateful for: that benefit you and without which your life would be poorer. Then, if you’ve got time, you can think about the causes for these good things. And that’s it.

The author acknowledged that it sounded so trivial that it might discourage some skeptical people from trying it.  (Like me, for example.)  So she even gave some simple gratitude examples to get you going:

I don’t have a headache today.
I had a good lunch.
I have my family.
My new socks keep my feet warm.
I made a joke and people laughed (got to take whatever I can get!).

So I said what the heck, I can’t tell a joke but I’ve had good lunches before so I’ll give this a try.

I thought about and then wrote about tonight (5th paragraph above).  It took me about 60 seconds to do that.  And I felt better.  A lot better.

So now I am in a better mood about our money.  That better mood was induced by acknowledging and being grateful for what our money has already accomplished in our lives.  I don’t think you need to be grateful about money stuff to get yourself in a better money mood.  Being grateful about other things (like your family being with you at Christmas) should do it.

So give it a try.  Let me know if the gratitude exercise puts you in a better money mood.  I don’t want to think it’s just me getting soft in my later years.

Photo credit:  Robbie Owen-Wahl

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