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How to make healthy financial choices every day, according to a financial psychologist
How reframing your emotions and changing your daily behavior can help you save money.
- There is a psychological connection between your emotions and your spending habits. Many people live in a "reactionary" mode where they spend money in reaction to the day's events.
- Living in "intention mode" can help you reframe daily financial decisions - "how will this get me closer to my future goals?"
- Financial psychologist Dr. Tracy Thomas shares her tips for harnessing the power of emotion and intent to create a healthy, financially stable life.
How your emotions drive your financial habits
Your feelings and emotions deeply affect your financial habits...learn how to control them for better financial decision-making.
Image by Lightspring on Shutterstock
Dr. Tracy Thomas is a psychologist and self-proclaimed emotional scientist who helps highly driven, emotionally sensitive people harness their emotional strength to live an elevated life.
"At one time," Thomas explains, "emotional-sensitivity was believed to be a weakness. However, new work into emotional sensitivity reveals that emotionally sensitive people aren't just overly-emotional, 'touchy' or 'hyper-sensitive'. Without knowing it, they actually possess an incredible gift of creativity, intelligence and intuition."
Your feelings deeply affect your financial habits.
When emotionally sensitive people combine their gifts with drive and motivation, it becomes an asset that can lead them to wealth, success, and happiness.
There is a psychological connection between your emotions and your spending habits. As human beings, our emotions drive most everything we do — and the choices we make with our money are deeply affected by how we interact and react to things that happen in our lives.
Living in reaction is something we do most of the time, according to Dr. Thomas. When we're in a reaction, we tend to create chaos. We aren't able to harness our emotional energy into creating positive investments and outcomes.
Living in reaction means that we're often simply reacting to our immediate situation, immediate wants, immediate "needs" with little thought to the needs of our future self.
The more reactive you are, the more you will simply "engage with life" instead of investing in building the life you truly desire.
Acting with intention when it comes to your financial life doesn't mean removing all emotion from the situation at hand. In fact, you are just redirecting those emotions.
To act financially with intention, Dr. Tracy Thomas suggests that we consider what our future self would want us to invest in today. Making emotional choices doesn't have to be a bad thing - as long as those emotional choices live to serve you in the future instead of in the moment.
Living in a state of reactivity also creates distractions. We are sidetracked from our original, long-term goals and lose sight of what we really care about. Ridding your life of financial distractions can help you focus your energy on giving your future self what they desire most.
Changing the way we think about finances
Reframe what it means to "save money" into something that is more positive by placing emotional meaning in your investments.
Photo by ShutterOK on Shutterstock
Most people, according to Dr. Thomas, are reactive by nature. We react to our immediate emotions, needs and desires - often putting our long-term goals at risk. The first step in changing the way you interact with money is recognizing that there are emotions and behaviors in your life that need to change.
Monitor your behavior: Am I going to be intentional or reactive today?
A big part of this change, Dr. Thomas says, is monitoring your daily behavior and really taking note of when you are reactive and when you are intentional.
From there, you will be able to identify healthy and detrimental behaviors that are affecting your ability to live a financially healthy lifestyle.
When you go to spend any of your money, Dr. Thomas suggests you ask yourself these kinds of questions:
- Is this an intention? If so, what is my intent with this purchase?
- Is this a reaction? If so, is this a valid reactionary expense or something I can avoid?
- How will this purchase (or lack of purchase) bring me closer to my future goals?
- Will this decision create my desired outcome?
Think about money as a motivation, not a restriction.
Thinking about money in terms of "savings" can feel restricting and often unmotivating. However, thinking about money in terms of "motivation" for your future goals (whether that be a house, a car, a trip, etc) can help you reframe what it means to "save money".
In your mind, no longer is "saving money" something you "have to do" - it's something you want to do. Saving money becomes a goal in itself, rather than something that feels like a burden or responsibility.
Refocus on what you are really invested in by adding meaning to your investments.
Reframing what it means to save money includes refocusing on what your investments are, both financially and emotionally.
If you are currently invested in a home in which you want to do major renovations, that can be a financial motivator. Saving money (to later spend on renovations) will increase the value of your home.
If you are currently investing in a trip for your family, this can be a great emotional motivation. Creating life-long memories and providing a fun vacation for your loved ones is a wonderful goal to keep in mind that will help pull yourself out of reactionary choices and help you think more rationally when it comes to saving money.
The importance of thinking about your savings on a deeper, emotional level
According to Brian Tracy, a leading sales, management, and business success advocate, one of the most important things we can do to better our financial choices is to become a life-long student of how to save money.
Investing is about more than just what's in your bank account - it's a way of life.
Dr. Tracy Thomas also believes that changing the way we view our savings (and money, in general) is about more than just making smarter decisions with the money we have - it's about changing the way we view money at all.
"Your savings goals are really your outcomes for your life. It's about creating something you really want." says Dr. Thomas. If you spend your life in a reactive process, savings tends to lack the powerful drive that successful, wealthy people give to it.
While impulsive, emotional purchases are key signs of bad spending habits, there is merit to pulling yourself out of that reactionary spending mode and still maintaining and emotional intelligence when it comes to your spending habits. Completely separating your emotions from your finances can only make things more difficult, as there are no motivating, impactful meanings behind your financial decision-making processes anymore.
The key is to take yourself out of emotional reactionary spending and still maintain an emotional motivator to creating a healthy financial life.
Thinking about your finances as a powerful and emotional driving force that will create a better life for yourself and the things that are important to you in your life (your business, your family, etc) can make things more cognitively clear when it comes to making day-to-day financial choices.
"The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations." - Jacob Lew
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The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
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Vegans and vegetarians often have nutrient deficiencies and lower BMI, which can increase the risk of fractures.
- The study found that vegans were 43% more likely to suffer fractures than meat eaters.
- Similar results were observed for vegetarians and fish eaters, though to a lesser extent.
- It's possible to be healthy on a vegan diet, though it takes some strategic planning to compensate for the nutrients that a plant-based diet can't easily provide.
Comparison of fracture cases by diet group
Credit: Tong et al.<p>The results showed that vegans were especially vulnerable to hip fractures, suffering 2.3 times more cases than meat-eaters. Vegetarians and pescatarians were also more likely to suffer hip fractures, though to a lesser extent.</p><p>One explanation may be that non-meat eaters consume less calcium and protein. Calcium helps the body build strong bones, particularly before age 30, after which the body begins to lose bone mineral density (though consuming enough calcium through diet or supplement can <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/" target="_blank">help offset losses</a>). Lower bone mineral density means higher risk of fracture.</p><p>Protein seems to help the body absorb calcium, <a href="https://www.bonejoint.net/blog/did-you-know-that-certain-foods-block-calcium-absorption/#:~:text=Historically%2C%20nutritionists%20have%20warned%20that,may%20increase%20intestinal%20calcium%20absorption." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">when consumed in normal levels</a>. The recent study, along with past research, shows that people who don't eat meat tend to have lower levels of both protein and calcium. When the researchers accounted for non-meat eaters who supplemented their diets with calcium and protein, fracture risk decreased, but still remained significant.</p>
Credit: Pixabay<p>Another explanation is body mass index (BMI). Non-meat eaters tend to have a lower BMI, which is associated with higher fracture risk, particularly hip fractures. In the new study, vegans with a low BMI were especially likely to suffer hip fractures. That might be because having more body mass provides a cushioning effect when people fall.</p><p>Still, the study has some limitations. For one, White European women were overrepresented in the sample. The researchers also didn't collect precise data on the type of calcium or protein supplementation, diet quality or causes of fractures.</p><p>Another complicating factor: Producers of vegan products, such as plant-based milk, are increasingly fortifying foods with nutrients like calcium and protein, so modern vegans are potentially at lower risk of deficiency.</p><p>The researchers wrote that their findings "suggest that bone health in vegans requires further research."</p>