Your Health Is Wealth: Why My Wellbeing Is Worth More Than Money

April 12, 2018
worth more than money

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of some new connection to draw, or a metaphor to make, about health and wealth.

If we consider wealth as far more than just money, then the prime example of how true that is lies in health, fitness, and physical and mental wellbeing. Health is wealth.

I didn’t always feel this way. My priorities in life used to be:

  1. Money
  2. More money
  3. How can I get more money so I can save more money?

It wasn’t that I was greedy. But I was scared.

Fear Is Not a Good Foundation on Which to Build a Relationship with Real Wealth

I understood how important it was to save and I knew better than to spend money I didn’t have. My parents instilled that in me from an early age.

And while I’ve never been a math whiz, it wasn’t hard for me to figure out the savings I could eke out from my meager salary from my first job (think $22,000 per year in 2011) was never going to add up to be enough to create the nest egg I needed to one day retire.

That reality freaked me out. I knew that one day I would not earning a paycheck through work (whether by choice or by circumstance, like age or another recession like the one I was living through at the time). And I had no idea where money would come from at that point.

Savings, in other words, was not going to cut it. I needed to leverage the ability to grow wealth through investments.

Investing is so powerful thanks to compounding returns. If you haven’t heard about compound interest yet, take a moment to check out some visuals that help illustrate how it works. Compounding is what makes investing a critical step to take if you have big financial goals.

When I realized this, I started teaching myself everything I could about investing wisely and safely. Again, this was in 2011 and 2012, when the Occupy Wall Street movement took up lots of airtime and there was intense backlash against big banks and financial services.

All this, combined with the fact that I’m skeptical person by nature, I knew financial types could not be trusted. I had to learn how to invest and I had to do it myself.

Funny that I ended up surrounded by financial advisors, and about to marry one — but at the time I had no idea the kinds of folks I work with today existed. I didn’t know about CFPs and fiduciaries. I thought all financial advisors were the same, and that was, in a word, “bad.”

So I studied. I lost myself in blogs and forums like Mr. Money Mustache and Bogleheads. While those sites provided great information that kickstarted my financial education, the facts came gift-wrapped in extreme packaging.

Spend 2 minutes on the Mr. Money Mustache (MMM for short) site and you’ll quickly find most aspects of your current life under attack. The creator of MMM and his audience are rabidly frugal and shun most forms of consumerism.

If that’s your cup of tea, cool. But the extreme approach to “financial success” only served to validate my fear that unless I scrimped and pinched every penny I possibly could, I was destined to die in a cardboard box, penniless and alone.

The result was from the time I was 22 to about 25, I saved and invested half my income — and did very little else with my life. If I didn’t have to spend money, I probably wouldn’t.

That included spending money on things that I’ve since learned are more important than financial resources. Things like time, and things like wellness, are worth more than money.

The 2 Things Worth More Than Money to Me: Time and Health

Don’t get me wrong: I still prioritize money in my life, but my relationship with financial means looks nothing like what it used to.

For one, it’s not the only thing on the priority list — and it’s also at the bottom. My priorities in life today look more like this:

  1. Time
  2. Health
  3. Money

Time and health are more valuable than money. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about cash, but it does mean that it’s not the driving force in my life. It’s important, but it’s not the penultimate thing — and it’s not important to the exclusivity of all other things like it used to be.

I think it’s also important to note that I define time and health very broadly, so that these categories include things like:

  • My autonomy, or ability to do what I want with my time (when I want to do it), including spending time with friends, family, or simply with myself
  • My mental and spiritual health, which means making room in life for everything from self care to reading and learning to exploring what spirituality means and looks like to me
  • My overall wellness, and my friends and relationships play a huge part in that. Although I didn’t list “friends” or “social life” on the list, they’re absolutely included because I want the time to spend with people I care about (and the time to meet new friends and foster budding relationships) and our relationships are incredibly significant factors in our overall, long-term wellbeing

I could go on and on with this list because health means so much in life. Health, strength, fitness, and wellness all exist on a spectrum, or represent different facets of the same thing.

And I truly believe health can literally be wealth, or at least money saved. Taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, usually means less healthcare expenses and costs down the road, or costs associated with the consequences and ramifications of poor wellbeing.

You Can Build Your Health Without Busting Your Budget

This belief means that I see whatever I spend on my health today as an investment, both in my own wellbeing and my future financial wellbeing.

But prioritizing health does not need to break the bank. Unfortunately, there is so much marketing and misinformation in the health and fitness industries. It’s really easy to get caught up in the countless ways you could spend a ton of money in the name of “I’m doing this for my health,” but healthy doesn’t have to equate to costly.

While my health is worth more than money to me at this point in my life, I’m not out to waste cash. Here’s what I do to maintain fitness and wellbeing without throwing my financial life off track:

  • I don’t go to a fancy gym. I have membership at Boston Sports Clubs that costs me $70 per month, and I’m there 5 times a week — meaning each gym visit in a month costs me $3.50. I also get access to the BSC’s fitness classes, which include yoga, abs, spin, and more.
  • I hop on opportunities for free fitness classes every chance I can. Sometimes spin studios or boutique gyms will run specials where you can get a class free, and many send you a free class for your birthday. I sign up for mailing lists so I don’t miss those offers. I also keep an eye out for free outdoor fitness classes in Boston in the summer.
  • I run, and running is free. (Also, in a city like Boston, I feel like not running is kind of a crime!)

That covers the workout side — although you could even reduce the cost of exercise even more if you skipped the gym membership. I love the Bodyboss workout program, which is something you can do at home — no gym required (although the guide does cost about $60, depending on whether you order the digital-only or print-and-digital books).

If you want something completely free, here’s what I’d suggest:

  • Follow trainers on Instagram. I get lots of new workout ideas from fitness accounts when they share how they work out! (And I even post my own workouts from time to time 😉
  • Check out resources like SELF. They have great, simple, straightfoward workouts and most come with GIFs to show you how to do all the exercises.
  • Get ideas for bodyweight exercises, then create your own routine. Pick 7 exercises, do them for 20-40 reps, and repeat that cycle 3 times.

Once you workout, you need to give yourself time to rest and recover. Sleep is critical to good health and something you must prioritize for yourself.

The good news is that it doesn’t cost you any money to go to sleep. But you do have to learn to manage your time to give yourself the full, restful 7 or 8 hours you need to fully recharge.

I learned more about this — and how important sleep truly is — at a health and wellness forum here in Boston earlier in the month, StrongProcess. Here are the guidelines I started following myself after what I learned at the event for more and higher-quality sleep:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. I’m aiming for a 10pm bedtime and a 6am wakeup. I need 8 hours of sleep, but you may only need 6, or you could need 9. Be aware of your energy levels and respect them.
  • Use the NightShift setting on your phone. You can find this under the “display” settings on iPhones. It reduces the amount of blue light your screen emits.
  • Have absolutely no screens at all 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Create a nighttime ritual to help you prepare for sleep by signaling to your brain it’s time to start shutting down.

After I attended the forum, I started practicing my own nighttime ritual and I love having this routine to help complete the day and prepare myself for rest. Here’s what I do:

  1. At 9pm, I get ready for bed. I wash my face, brush my teeth, and exchange my contacts for glasses.
  2. After that, I grab my notebook and write down 3 things I’m grateful for from the day.
  3. I continue writing if I feel compelled to do so. The purpose is to give my mind an opportunity to get out any last thoughts, feelings, concerns, or questions so they’re on the page instead of running through my head, keeping me awake.
  4. Once I feel I’m done writing, I meditate for 10 minutes. I use the Headspace app to guide me.
  5. I then grab whatever book I’m reading, and read until 10pm.

I haven’t been following this ritual too long, but I feel it’s already making an impact in my sleep quality. I feel I’ve woken up feeling more refreshed recently than I had been in the past.

Sleep may be a free way to look after your health… but what about nutrition? Yes, groceries can get pricey. But as I also learned at StrongProcess, a lot of the expense in the foods you buy is probably more about marketing than actual value.

There is no study that shows eating organic versus conventional produce will provide you with better health. There’s just no data supporting this (but there are a WHOLE lot of marketing dollars spent to convince you one is better than the other).

And, friendly reminder, if you’re avoiding organic because you think it’s cleaner, it’s not. If you need to save money, buy the conventional stuff. Then wash it before eating.

There’s also no one diet that is best for everyone. One of the biggest takeaways I got from StrongProcess was this: you are an individual. Get the data, examine the facts, then try something out and pay attention to how it works for you.

The truth is, you are the only person who can determine what kinds of food (and movement, for that matter) benefit you the most. If you need any kind of rule of thumb, use Michael Pollan’s guideline: eat real foods, mostly plants, and not too much.

It’s really that simple. Unfortunately, we tend to over-complicate things and nowhere is this more true than it is in the realms of health and wealth.

Want Success? Keep It Simple

The foundations for success, whether in fitness or finance, and pretty similar. They’re also simple (but not always easy to manage).

It’s all about aligning your actions with what’s important to you. It’s about taking the steps today that will put you where you want to be tomorrow. It’s about building positive habits that you can stick to over time. It’s about avoiding extremes and seeking out balance you can sustain.

Too often we get caught up in the gimmicks and the supposed shortcuts. We fall for the sales pitches that promise fast results with little effort. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at your money or your wellbeing: there is no hack that will help you avoid the hard work required.

Sometimes it’s a slog because to get to success, you have to stick to the little things that over time add up to something significant. It takes time to see real, lasting results. But it’s really worth it. Just focus on the simple stuff, don’t get distracted by promises of “there’s an easier way to do it,” and stay consistent with your good habits over time.

This isn’t rocket science, and it really is easy to maintain good physical and financial fitness. The reason why most people can’t do it, though, is because they feel like there must be something more difficult, more complicated. It has to be hard. What usually happens to those people is that, subconsciously, they go out and make it hard for themselves to achieve what they want.

It doesn’t have to be this way. At the end of the day, I think health and wealth both come back to one major factor that serves as the ultimate foundation for success: self-awareness.

If you don’t have awareness, or you don’t pay attention to your own preferences, habits, wants, tendencies, strengths, values, stories, and shortcomings, you’ll find it hard to know the right path to take to reach success.

Making optimal decisions that make you healthier and wealthier start by knowing yourself. Only then can you be in a position to make the choices that equate to progress, improvement, and achievement.

Keep up with the conversation as it unfolds.

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