Do you believe in the saying that money makes the world go round? In our society, money is equated with power and control. Both of these give us an illusion of success and happiness. Money also gives us security and freedom. It buys us comfort.
When you lack money to spend for your wants and sometimes even your needs, the experience can be scary. It can be a constant source of stress if you do not know how to come to terms with your situation.
Can one actually live a happy and meaningful life without it? Yes, I do believe so. I am lucky to have had the first-hand experience of living in desperate conditions after disasters. Whether it may be surviving the storm surge that went with Super Typhoon Haiyan, or working with the people of Vanuatu a day after Cyclone Pam hit them and took away their crops, or providing the needs of villagers escaping ISIS jihadis in Mosul; I’ve seen how resilient the human spirit is. These are situations when the affected populations live in an almost non-monetary economy. They either lost everything or they have money but have no use for it. Their ability to bounce back, survive and even laugh off their situation by barter system or just relying on other people’s kindness.
In a study called Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (“RISK”) Project, the researchers, by a stroke of chance were able to measure the pre-and post-disaster levels of happiness among 491 female participants. They were asked, “If you were to consider your life, in general, these days, how happy or unhappy would you say you are?” According to lead researcher Rocio Calvo, an assistant professor at Boston College’s School of Social Work, almost 89% of women remained in the “somewhat happy” or “very happy” categories a year after the disaster. Don’t you find that interesting? What could be the secret to happiness when one has nothing?
Happiness is an intentional internal feeling that is an effect of chemical reactions in our body. Isn’t it wonderful to know that we can manipulate and control our emotions through different exercises and activities? I’ve jotted down some tips on how to be happy without a budget for you below because the best things in life are free!
1. Do not forget to smile.
In a study done by Michigan State University, they asked customer service workers to think of positive thoughts. Everyone just lit up like a light bulb and smiled! They’ve also reported an improved mood. (I think we already know that would happen!) If you do not feel like smiling right now, think of a happy thought and force those muscles. The secret here is to fake it until you make it.
2. Be mindful.
Take control of your thoughts. If you notice it straying to the past or future, consciously bring it back to the present – the now. Let go of all the anger and regrets you have of yesterday or your worries for tomorrow. Instead, find joy in the present. Put your focus and attention on what you are doing. Spend your time on something that you find meaningful. Use your time to add value to yourself.
3. Be grateful.
Fall into the habit of being thankful for the big things, the little things and the things in between. When you have a grateful heart you become a magnet of blessings. Nobody wants to be with people who are pessimistic. Whining will not help you win! To help you with this exercise, start a gratitude journal.
4. Move your body.
When I don’t have money, I usually get so sad that getting out of bed is a struggle. I encourage you to get up and exercise right in your own home or in a park! This releases feel-good hormones and burns out stress chemicals. You get an all-natural high that is way better than Prozac! It also gives a feeling of accomplishment. There’s no need for a gym membership to do this.
5. Get some sunshine.
Exercise outside or even take your lunch out in the open just to soak in that free vitamin D from Mr. Sun. An added bonus would be a nice tan that will give you that healthy glow.
6. Practice contentment.
Stop complaining about the lack of provision. Change your perspective. Happiness depends on the way you look at life and the people around you. Everything is temporary so do not let your today define your tomorrow. Stop scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram account so you would not have a constant reminder of what you are missing out. Do not compare yourself with what others have accomplished.
7. Embrace minimalism.
With little money, you will be forced to live with fewer material possessions. Accept that reality and start caring less about owning more. Owning more will only make you happy for a few moments because we will always want more. If you need to buy something, do it consciously and deliberately.
8. Be kind to others.
Speak nicely and always find an opportunity to help. Do not be afraid to be altruistic. Helping others adds more meaning and purpose to our lives. It has also been found out to help the release of endorphins so we feel good after doing good to others.
ALSO READ: How to be Kind and Warm to Others
9. Sleep well.
Get a good night’s rest. It helps our body recover and repair so when you wake up you will be more focused and more productive. Sleep deprivation affects the hippocampus, a part of the brain where positive memories are processed. Lack of sleep then affects your brain’s ability to recall happy memories. It also affects our sensitivity to negative emotions like stress, anxiety, anger, and fear.
10. Enjoy quiet times.
Find time to connect with yourself through different activities like reading, meditating, praying, and journaling. This allows you to unload your daily burdens as well as plan out your next steps. A few minutes of silence per day helps your hippocampus store memories.
At the end of the day, know that although money can buy us comfort, it can’t buy us happiness. Because happiness can’t be found through things but through living a meaningful life. It can also be considered a skill. Identifying what makes you happy on
The key lesson here is to use your current financial status to discover how you can become a better version of yourself. When you look back on this period of your life you will understand that what you once thought was a stumbling block was actually a stepping stone.
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Photo by Dương Trần Quốc