How can money affect our wellbeing?

It’s now thought that there are over three million adults in the UK with both mental health problems and financial difficulties and unfortunately this number is set to increase.1 With this in mind and as part of our wellbeing month, we’ve taken an in-depth look at the impact money can have – including how it can affect our lives, how it can make us feel mentally and physically, and what we can do to help keep on top of things.

What effect does money have on our lives?

Money touches and influences most parts of our lives and there’s probably not a day that goes by where we don’t think about it. And as the well-known saying goes – it makes the world go round.

Primarily money enables us to meet our basic needs – like keeping a roof over our heads, heating our homes and buying food for the family. It also affects our ability to achieve the things we want from life and the choices we make. For example, if you have enough disposable income it can give you the freedom to do the things you enjoy doing, like having hobbies or being able to go away for the weekend with your family. However on the other hand when money is tight, it could mean that you have to choose to do things that you might not want to do – like take a job that you don’t enjoy because the pay is better. It can also mean that you could make the wrong choices, out of desperation – like turning to lots of credit that you can’t afford to pay back.

And finally, there’s the huge effect money can have on somebody’s behaviour and emotions – be it our happiness, our self-esteem, our sadness, our fear and our anger, to name but a few.

How can money make us feel?

Money can makes us feel a multitude of emotions for a number of reasons, so let’s explore four of the main ones…

Happy

It’s true that money can’t buy happiness, but the connection you place between the two will differ depending on the type of person you are. There are some people that use money to make themselves feel happier – for example, they may turn to spending lots of money if they’re feeling sad. However, this can often just give a short-term burst of happiness, as it’s unlikely that using money in this way will give long-term satisfaction.
Many of us also dream of winning the lottery and think that this will make life so much better. However, that’s not necessarily the case, with many lottery winners claiming that the money ruined their life and their happiness.

The key to long-term happiness? We think the key is feeling content – content with your lifestyle and content with your relationship with money. It’s knowing you’re in control of things, that you know what money’s coming in and what’s going out. It’s about spending within your means and that feeling of satisfaction you get when you’ve saved up for something that really makes you happy – whether that be a holiday with your family, a deposit for your first house or for your wedding. Genuine happiness comes from that balance and the joy of reaching your goals.

Isolated

A study carried out last year found that more than nine million adults in the UK either always or sometimes feel lonely.2 But how can money play a part in this? Well, we think there’s a couple of ways to look at it.

Firstly, if you’re struggling for money or finding it hard to keep on top of your finances, then you can sometimes start to feel alone and isolated if you think you can’t get any help or support, or just don’t know who to turn to. It could also be that you start to feel ashamed of your situation and keep yourself away from others because you don’t want anyone to know about it. However, it’s important to remember that the more you don’t talk about problems, the worse the problems can get.

On the other side of the coin, it can be said that people who earn a lot of money or who come into a large sum of money, can also feel isolated. If you inherit a lot of money, for example, you may be wary of people’s intentions and it could also have a huge impact on your relationship with your partner and family, which could cause you to withdraw. It could also be that you’ve had your fun splashing the cash and then start to realise that it’s not actually making you happy deep down.

Frustrated

In many instances, the feelings of frustration in regards to money can stem from comparing ourselves to others. When you see people doing things or with material possessions that you would love, it can be easy to feel envious and feel like you wish you had more money. This can often result in feeling very frustrated with your current situation, instead of being happy with what you have. The key thing to remember here is that material possessions won’t bring happiness in the long-term and try to remember that what you see online or on social media is a polished version of somebody’s life. So try not to let envy of others and frustration rule you – just focus on yourself.

Like a failure

Money troubles can be overwhelming and can make you feel like a failure when things aren’t going to plan. This is especially true if you see others around you doing well for themselves and having everything in control, whilst you’re struggling. Remember though that you don’t always know what others have on – they may seem in control, but really they’re not. So to try and avoid the feelings of being a failure, try and not be too hard on yourself. Take things one step at a time and don’t be overly critical.

How does money affect our physical wellbeing?

It’s not just our mental wellbeing that money can affect – it can hugely influence how we feel physically too and sadly this is more likely to affect those who struggle to make ends meet.

First of all, financial stress can have huge physical impacts. Managing on a low income can be stressful and when you’re stressed out, it can physically hurt. It can affect your sleeping, leaving you feeling drained and exhausted; it can affect your breathing and can lead to panic attacks and it can give you migraines.

Top tip: If you ever feel like stress is having a physical effect, take some steps to look after yourself. Talking about problems can help you ease physical stress and so can taking a step back and breaking things down into more manageable chunks.

There’s also the impacts of not being able to afford basic needs, like healthy food or heating, which can negatively affect physical health. For example, if you can’t afford to keep your house heated during the cold winter months, you will be putting your health at risk of things like colds, flu and even pneumonia.

Top tip: Don’t think you’re alone. There is support out there if you ever find yourself in this situation. For example, you may be able to get food donations through food banks, so have a look at what community support is available in your area.

What steps can we take to keep on top things and look after our own wellbeing?

Don’t be afraid to talk about things

As tight-lipped Brits, it’s in our nature to keep schtum about things. Our attitude has always been to just carry on and say we’re fine, rather than asking for help. However, what we must remember is that it’s ok to not be ok. And even though it’s never easy to admit, a problem shared is always a problem halved. So if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, always reach out to somebody you feel comfortable talking to – whether that’s your partner, a friend, a family member or even charities like StepChange or the Samaritans, who will be able to help you tackle things. You don’t have to deal with everything yourself.

Take your time

Don’t be afraid to go at your own pace and don’t try and keep up with others. We’re all different and it’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than wish you were like someone else. Know yourself and tackle things the way that works for you. This is especially true when it comes to keeping on top of your finances and remember that you don’t have to do everything at once. When you think of everything in one big chunk it can feel overwhelming, but instead look at what you want/need to sort out and then break things down into manageable chunks.

Look after yourself

We take vitamins and eat our greens to keep our bodies healthy, but it’s also important to do things to help keep our mental health well. Keeping active can really help our minds unwind and by finding exercise that you enjoy doing, it’s less likely to feel like a chore. It also doesn’t have to mean going to the gym either – a nice walk in the countryside or a swim can be a great way to get away from things. Eating well can also help how your mind feels and so can a sensible attitude where alcohol is concerned. Finally, make sure you take some time away from things when you can – chatting to a friend over coffee or watching a film are just a couple of ways to do this.

We hope you’ve found this feature helpful, you can find more tips for staying happy and on track here.

1 Statistic taken from: https://www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/money-and-mental-health-facts/
2 Statistic taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/18/feeling-lonely-meet-people-extreme-isolation-found-happiness