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If you want to be financially healthy, eat cake!

By The Rev Ian Dewar, Lead Chaplain, UHMBT.

Not the advice that you would expect? Well, let me explain. A number of years ago someone I know well was working for the Department for Work and Pensions.

They were dealing with someone who had recently been made redundant and was feeling extremely down that money was suddenly tight and they couldn’t give a child the birthday that they wanted to give them.

After a bit more conversation the person I know said: ‘It only takes a cake to make a birthday.’ They went on to explain that whilst they understood the difficulty of the situation, a young child will gain as much pleasure, if not more, from playing football in the park with dad and friends and sharing a cake, as they would from an expensive computer game.

This can sound a bit trite, but when I speak to my adult children, their memories do not consist of things but of moments. Some of which I have forgotten about, as I remember different moments.

There is a profound truth underlying all this and it has a deep significance for financial health.

The truth is this. The human mind does not work in possessions and objects but in moments, memories and perceptions. To test this, recall a pleasant memory. It may be a visit to a park, a sporting event, a holiday. What happens when you do that? My money is on a reinforced positive emotion, a bit of feel good factor. If you then ask yourself, how much did this cost you, I bet that you would struggle to remember.

Conversely, if you recall a bad memory, you might well remember every penny! This is because the pennies are tied to the memories, not the memories to the pennies.

So, how can we use this to help us resolve or wrestle with financial difficulties?

Well, firstly, recognise that some things in life that are good, are free. If you live in Morecambe, a walk along the prom, with one of the best views in England, costs nothing.

Secondly, learn to treat yourself. I know that this might sound paradoxical, but trust me it's true. If you are working hard at sorting out your finances, build into that little rewards. They can be as simple as: ‘I’ve sorted through the bills, I’m feeling a little fearful, but I’ve done well. I'm going to have a cup of tea and 20 minutes with my favourite book.’ There is fantastic example of this in a book called: ‘One small step can change your life’, by Robert Maurer, in which a businessman called Jack, who has rheumatoid arthritis, ends up becoming world body building champion for his age group, in his seventies. Also in the book, Maurer refers to the work of the neuroscientist, Ian Roberts and his concept of Mind Sculpture, to help us make changes. If you want a taster of this, listen to The Bay Health Festivals interview with Ian Robertson.

Thirdly, take yourself seriously. There’s more to you than you think. When people have financial struggles, they slip into ‘survival mode’. They think, ‘I just need to get by.’ ‘If I could just clear this debt.’ This is perfectly understandable. Let’s be honest, you may need support for Citizens Advice or a similar organisation, but you have to have one eye on the future, you don’t want to be here forever. Let’s take an example, that may or may not apply to you but gives you an idea of what could be achieved.

The founder of MoneySavingExpert, Martin Lewis, thinks that some people are capable of saving £1,000 per year by spending a day looking at their finances. To hear more, listen hear: Martin Lewis shares the best ways to save money This can be achieved, by looking at where they are overpaying, examining what they could cut, but also what they might invest in. if you have managed to squirrel away a bit of savings that you are determined to hold on to, check out the banks and get the best savings rate. It’s your money!

In summary, the way to financial health is paradoxical. Yes, it is about counting the pennies, but it is also – perhaps more so - about cultivating a good attitude towards money and life. Money has a profound effect on mental health and as a consequence on all your relationships with the world. But, to flip the coin, your mental health can have a profound effect on sorting out your money and building a better future.

So, go and get yourself a piece of cake!

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