Eat less and move more. Those are the two pieces of advice you receive when you want to lose weight. But, in addition to those suggestions, there are other healthy habits you are encouraged to form. You should be mindful to get more sleep, drink more water, and consume less caffeine. Along with those healthy habits, you should also work to reduce your levels of stress. One of the most significant ways you can reduce your stress and improve your health actually has nothing to do with diet or exercise. It’s got to do with your wallet. That’s right, getting out of debt is one of the biggest ways you can cut stress and regain your health. There’s a strong connection between financial health and physical health. Here are six ways being debt-free benefits your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Getting Out of Debt- 6 Ways to Improve Your Health & Wellbeing
Financial stress is ranked as one of the most stressful situations you can find yourself in. In a Life Events Inventory study compiled by the Society of Occupational Medicine, people were asked to rank 100 life events based on how stressful they are. “Getting into debt beyond means of repayment” ranked 5th, only after the death of a spouse, a jail sentence, and the death or attempted suicide of an immediate family member. Financial stress was ranked higher than an affair, being homeless, a serious illness in the immediate family, losing hearing or vision, divorce, miscarriage, losing custody of your children….
Those are some huge life stresses, and money worries topped almost all of them! Plus, when you consider that almost all of those life stresses are completely out of your control, it makes it seem like the obvious choice to take charge of the one you can change- your finances!
Chronic stress impacts your body at the systems level. It taxes your immune system, making you more susceptible to getting colds or viruses. Stress increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It impacts your digestion and can lead to ulcers. Reducing stress impacts your physical health.
Getting out of debt means reducing the amount of stress you feel about money. There’s no guarantee that being debt free will save you from every possible money crisis or financial setback, but it does guarantee that you’ll be in a better place to handle it if you are.
Better Mental Health
In their 2018 Planning & Progress study, Northwestern Mutual surveyed American adults to gain insights into their attitudes and behaviors about money. In their findings, 54% of participants expressed that they had anxiety about money, 52% felt insecure about money, and 48% had feelings of fear related to money. Anxiety, insecurity, and fear. Three big mental health stressors that can dramatically improve by getting out of debt.
Chronic anxiety activates a stress response from the body. This alert happens at the cellular level and can impact every system. Over time, this stress response wears down the body and manifests in physical issues- headaches, body aches, or a racing heart are common complaints.
People who suffer from long-term stress are more likely to develop anxiety and depression. Danish researchers conducted studies on rats and found that- when they were exposed to chronic, stressful situations- their brain’s ability to keep itself healthy diminished. The hippocampus shrinks under stress, reducing short-term memory function and the ability to learn. At the end of the study, many rats showed depression symptoms such as the inability to feel joy, a lowered pain threshold, sleep issues, and reduced working memory.
Getting out of debt relieves some of the mental stress that can trigger anxiety and depression, which can improve your mental wellness.
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Improved physical health
Did you ever watch The Biggest Loser? It was a reality show on NBC that featured contestants who were overweight or obese who competed to win a cash prize by losing the highest percentage of weight relative to their initial weight. Each week they had different challenges or areas of focus. It was always so interesting to me when the financial specialists came in to discuss money and finance with the contestants. In almost all cases, the contestants were in a large amount of debt.
Turns out, there are underlying behavior patterns between gaining weight and debt. In their article “The Relationship Between Weight and Money” Vivien Schapera and Drew Logan discuss seven underlying behaviors that connect the two, including excessive consumption, a disparity between what’s coming in and what’s going out, comfort seeking, a loss of control, family patterns, and environment. Chances are if you struggle with excessive consumption with food, you do with money as well. If your parents had poor money habits, it’s likely you picked up some of those behaviors. If you seek comfort in new clothing or shoes, you probably also seek comfort in food. The good news is, getting in control of one often leads to improvements in the other.
Remember all those negative effects of stress and depression on the body- the headaches, the heightened sense of pain, the sleep issues? Getting out of debt reduces your levels of stress and anxiety, which manifests in notable changes to your physical health.
In his research titled “Self-Control, Financial Literacy and Consumer Over-Indebtedness,” published in the Journal of Economic Psychology, John Gathergood surveyed UK household consumers and found that both a lack of self-control and financial illiteracy contributed to excessive financial debt. Consumers who had issues with self-control were more likely to exploit store credit cards and payday loans. They were more likely to suffer income setbacks and have unforeseen expenses on things like televisions and cars. Perhaps most interestingly, his research showed that issues with self-control were stronger causes of being in debt that a lack of financial literacy.
The good news is that when you work to get out of debt, you improve your self-control. Working to be debt-free requires you to make a plan and stick to it. You accomplish your goals by consistently and regularly practicing self-control. And like a muscle, the more you practice it, the stronger it becomes.
Be sure to snag the FREE Financial Goal Setting Printables below to start planning and tackling your own financial goals. This printable will help you create term specific SMART goals, and get you thinking about the steps you’ll need to accomplish to make those debt-free dreams a reality!
More intentional living
Getting out of debt requires you to make intentional choices and habit changes. You have to create a plan and go after it. You have to commit to keeping your debt-free priorities in front of you daily. It takes work to get out of debt.
But, after spending so much time being intentional with finances, that intentionality spills out into other areas of your life. You become a more intentional person. You’re more mindful of how you use your resources in all areas of life. More aware of how you spend your daily allotment of calories. More cognizant of how you spend your hours. More alert to your habits and how they affect your daily life. Being intentional with your money is just the start of the life change you can experience.
Whenever you set a goal and work to accomplish it, you grow in confidence. Each step in your new direction builds the idea inside of you that you can do this. When you begin getting out of debt, bill by bill, chunk by chunk, you build your confidence. You show yourself that you have what it takes to create a life change and go after what you want.
Getting out of debt gives you confidence that can be transferred to multiple areas of your life. After becoming debt-free, many people tackle other scary life goals they had been putting off. They might pursue a new career, downsize houses, move to a new region, or branch out to try a new hobby or skill. Whatever the next step, the lessons you learn on your debt-free journey instill confidence in you to go out and make your big dreams happen.
Getting out of debt can transform your life!
Living with debt takes a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health. However, getting out of debt can transform every aspect of that as well! Every journey starts with the first step. Let today be the day you say “No more!”