Two things you don’t realize are important, until something goes wrong with them – money and health. Many of us are lucky enough to take them for granted, and yet they are two of the most fundamental pillars of our happiness. And while they may seem like two separate matters, it turns out that your health and your wealth are linked in a number of ways.
It’s no coincidence that some of the most popular resolutions are to lose weight, exercise more, eat a cleaner diet or save money, set a budget and clean up your financial habits. And there are several prominent research studies linking the two factors and suggesting that if you have good health, you’re more likely to have a robust bank account, and the other way around too. So learning to listen to your body is important. Some of it is undoubtedly to do with being the type of person who plans for the future. If you’re thinking of managing your finances and squirrelling savings for the future, you are probably also safeguarding your health by making good dietary choices and making time for regular exercise.
So, what can you do if the above scenario doesn’t describe you? What if your lifestyle and spending habits haven’t been a paragon of virtue for the past few years? Well, the power is in your hands. The crucial finding from a study by Duke University which linked low credit scores and cardiovascular disease was actually that it’s the skills of the individual that make the difference- if someone has the skills to manage their health well, they usually also apply these to their financial affairs. And that is very good news – because skills are something that can be learned, meaning we all have the chance to turn it around and learn what we need to in order to become healthy and wealthy. And learning these skills is all a matter of getting the basics of your well being right…
Start with what you put into your body. Do you plan your meals, or end up grabbing food on the go? If you do rely on restaurants or takeaways too much to keep you fed, it’s bad news for your waistline- and your wallet. Poor nutrition through eating too much fast food too often leads to a higher likelihood of increased body fat and BMI, but it also has an effect on your bank account, as eating out frequently is expensive, with preparing meals at home on a weekly basis costing about half of relying on convenience food. Those type of foods also tend to be higher in sugar, fat and salt than those made at home, and this doesn’t only affect your physical wellbeing but also your mental abilities – making your brain more sluggish and lowering levels of brain functionality – which all means less capacity to make intelligent decisions, including those about finance.
It all comes down to personal discipline and the ability to say no to temptation – whether that’s in the form of that calorific takeout burger, or in the form of a ‘must have’ pair of shoes bought on impulse. If you do need to access some emergency funds, do your research first – read more here. Learning how to develop self-control is the key discipline to master each of these areas. Start by committing to planning in advance- both meals and finances. That can include eating out on occasions, but they should be mainly planned in. You are trying to step away from snap decisions about your health and your spending. It also means less waste, as you will be buying the right ingredients for a planned week of meals in one go, rather than snatching impulsively from the supermarket that night.
If you’re feeling super organized, you could even batch cook some simple recipes, separate them into bagged up portions and pop them in the freezer. That way you have a nutritious meal ready prepped that will only take a few minutes to heat up, and it eradicates the excuse of not having time to prepare something.
Equally as important as food is getting some form of regular exercise throughout your week. It all comes back to the same concept of providing energy for your brain to boost clear thinking. The myriad health benefits of taking at least 30 minutes of exercise per day are well known – it can lower our risk of hundreds of diseases, regulate our weight and help to flush toxins out of our systems. But it’s the mental benefits which are even greater, from reducing stress and anxiety to boosting feel-good hormones and making us feel in control of our lives. Keeping a non-active lifestyle could well mean that you aren’t firing on all cylinders when it comes to the mental demands of your job – and this could easily lead to a drop in performance, being passed over for critical projects and even missing out on promotions. Not being able to perform to the best of your abilities at work can have a serious impact on your future and consequently on your finances.
Many studies have also linked regular exercise to an increase in self-confidence, and this positive can-do attitude is something that will help you to make the right choices about your money. Confidence enables you to seek information and make an informed decision when you need to, as well as making you more creative when it comes to money making strategies and investments.
The key is making physical activity an integral part of your day, such as biking into work or taking a power walk at lunchtime. Or you could even download your favorite show on Netflix onto your tablet or phone and fit in a session on the elliptical machine while you watch. You just have to find what works for you and make it consistent.
Then, take that dedication and focus and apply it to what you need financially. Whether you need to pay down debt or boost your savings account, the discipline required to stick to achieving a financial goal is identical to what you need to achieve a healthy lifestyle.