Managing your way out of debt mindfully

Being in debt can be stressful, cause sleepless nights and many worries.

Meditation can help ease the mental strain but, it is not an escape. So facing the problem and dealing with it is important.

Mindfulness meditation can be useful from this point of view and help you to navigate your way out of debt in a kind and wise manner.

This blog post will take a look at the practicalities of this.


Acknowledging where you are

Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge that I've never really been in severe debt. When I was a student, I went into my overdraft to around the tune of a £1000 and once I had a job I managed to repay that.

Having practised mindfulness since I was 19 has also helped. I don’t want to sound all “saintly” and I have made a few mistakes, a couple of expensive holidays here and there, but I've not got carried away by spending.

I appreciate though I’ve been fortunate enough to have learnt meditation at an early age and been able to use it in all sorts of situations. I also appreciate how easy it is to get into debt.

Being in debt can feel embarrassing and difficult to face. So let's take a look at how mindfulness can help in this area first.


Facing difficult emotions mindfully

Sitting quietly, looking inward is revealing. It is not always easy but it is worthwhile! The need to overspend can be a need to fill an empty negative feeling; one feels happy for a short period when money has been spent and something nice has been acquired. There is a temporary feeling that satisfies, but it fades and what might be left is the negative empty feeling from before.

Then, if it is strong enough, one may feel they need to fill it; quench the thirst that desires that empty negative feeling to be a full and warm one.

This can be a vicious cycle as the more one feeds into filling up that negative space the larger it actually becomes.



Softening the cycle

This is how addiction cycles work, and they are hard to break! If you are in one that has lead to debt then professional councilling and help might be a good idea. Mindfulness can also help and I can offer some tips here.

Firstly is to try and give your mind a temporary break from the cycle of addictive tendencies by learning to, say, stay with your breath. I've written a couple of introductory blog posts on this:

Essentials of Mindfulness Meditation Part 1: The Breath

Essentials of Mindfulness Meditation Part 2: The Body Scan


With a little calm established (and it doesn't need to be a lot) starting to address that feeling of negative empty space is a positive move.

Just feeling that space is a good start.


There is that negative feeling. You might find the mind wanders straight off into a thought pattern, just notice it has done this, and come back to your breath. Then if that negative space is there, try to feel it again. The mind might well "wander off" again, but with gentle perseverance, you'll be able to feel fully that negative space more and more.


Noticing thought patterns

If you persevere, meditation will reveal that thoughts are the "froth" on top of emotions; thoughts condition us, push us into various actions, but need not be our masters. Mindfully seeing through them can be enough to ease their powerful influence and soften one's view of life, giving more choice and wiser choices over the directions you take.


Wisdom is beyond thoughts

This feeling of the negative space and coming back to the body is a way of breaking the habit cycles of constantly trying to fill up that space with something. In time you may find that space begins to soften; it is no longer feeding, you are taking away energy from which it grows: in the case of debt say the need to spend to feed into a temporary feeling of fulfilment.

Having some time getting used to the negative feeling of a "need to fulfil" in the space of meditation, eventually, can soften it, but remember to go softly with this approach; perhaps find a harmless but enjoyable pass-time so the approach is not too extreme!



The practicalities of managing debt

This mindful management of the emotion can help in the process of getting out of debt; helping with the mental health side. In terms of the practicalities of reducing the debt having boundaries, I would say, is essential.

Take a look first (if you haven't done so) on my blog on:

Managing Money Mindfully and Living in Well-Being

Next, I would say seek some professional advice; there are many agencies out there who can help you.

I always believed in the voice of experience and I found this great blog article on someone who’d managed their way out of debt and was kind enough to share it:

How to get out of debt – by someone who’s done it


Boundaries can be beautiful

In terms of mindful living, such a situation is about setting up some boundaries. "This is where I can spend" or "this is where I won't spend" Then within those boundaries, accepting how the mind reacts to them but not giving in, and if you do give in, then trying to keep those boundaries again and again and again is key!

You might find it is the trying again and again and again that wears the old negative habit down; changes the mental habit of always giving into impulses to one of being at ease living within boundaries.

Boundaries can be beautiful. Being free of debt and enjoying and appreciating what you have is priceless.


Being kind to yourself

Lastly, I’d like to say: don’t beat yourself up about debt. Sure it can feel embarrassing or shameful - which is natural. It is a natural reaction to such a situation. Try to notice these feelings and then use them in a positive way. “This doesn’t feel good, why?” It’s a good question to ask yourself, and the answer might be “I need to tackle this problem.”

That’s taking a negative feeling and using it wisely, and could be the spur to get you out of debt.

Going forward try to be patient with yourself, use meditation if you can to give yourself some space to breathe in each day while you slowly tackle the problem. Don’t expect to be clear of debt straight away but do be glad about little chips into the problem.

Once out - and there is light at the end of the tunnel if you keep at it - use the experience to manage your finances more mindfully; thus maintaining your well-being and peace of mind life.


Establish Mindfulness: image
About Paul

Paul has been practising mindfulness since 1997, but still has a "beginner's mind" approach to meditation. He is the author of the eBook series The Silence Between the Noise and primary contributor to the Establish Mindfulness online meditation centre.