"Mindfulness of Interpreting Financial Data" by Beth Crittenden

Imagine that I just handed you a financial report. Let’s say it’s a “Profit and Loss” report for your business. What might arise in you mentally, emotionally, even physically, as you read the report? How do you interpret the numbers on the page? For many of us, even just reading numbers is much more than a neutral experience, internally. They’re just figures...literal place-holders of some sort of value. Yet something like reading a financial report can lead to tremendous pain and self-judgment for some.

In my work as a financial wellness coach, I’ve appreciated learning the importance of practicing mindfulness while interpreting financial data. This topic of finances is universally-relevant, since everyone deals with money in some form or another in everyday life. Also, many people experience some form of difficulty around money, whether it’s shame, fear, envy, or all the above. Therefore, learning how to incorporate mindfulness when interpreting the numbers can have a major impact on our sense of well-being, no matter what the numbers say.

For me the experience of mindfulness practice is accepting reality as it is; being open to what arises inside of me, as well as outside of me, and doing my best to find peace with it as it is. I have a lifelong relationship with fairly chronic anxiety, and practicing daily meditation and mindfulness has made the anxiety much more tolerable (even though total eradication of it would be my preference!).

A few ways to practically incorporate mindfulness when reading financial data:

  1. Take your time. It’s ok that if you notice strong feelings arise while reading the report, to let yourself close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. The alpha brain wave state, where the anxiety messages physically cannot be transmitted, can be accessed by literally just closing our eyes and slowing down any stress response that may have started.

  2. Tell a friend, or a colleague you trust. As Brené Brown says in Daring Greatly, ”If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive.” This doesn’t have to be a long conversation. Sometimes I will text a friend, “I’m feeling nervous about opening this bill. I’ll let you know once I’ve read it.” I used to perceive that it would take too much time to share my difficult money moments with others; I thought I had to forge ahead alone. It turns out, it actually saves me time in the long run to share it in the moment or shortly thereafter. Not telling another person when I am experiencing difficulty, is a form of debt; it’s isolation, which tends to increase pain. I pay in advance, as it were, when I am willing to share in real time that I am experiencing difficult thoughts and/or feelings.

  3. Label your body sensations. For example, if I read a financial report and get nervous or fearful, I might notice tight throat, heat in the face, sore stomach, etc. Often there are mental interpretations going on such as, “I don’t have enough money!” Or, “What would Jim think if he saw this?” Or, “I don’t know what this line means, and I should.” Difficulty can be exacerbated by staying in that realm of mental interpretation. To label physical sensations without judgment or trying to change them can bring you back to the present moment, as it is.

Mindfulness is, of course, a lifelong practice. I personally appreciate how much opportunity for practice it gives me to interact with financial data! The word practice itself tells me that I am not striving for perfection, or some sort of fixed state. A painful experience will remind me soon enough to pick up my mindfulness toolbag again.

Beth Crittenden is a Financial Wellness Coach who focuses on harmonizing numbers and logistics with peoples' vision and values. She does bookkeeping, teaches others how to do it for their business or personal finances, and helps people achieve the freedom of clarity with their finances. Beth is a Profit First Professional, daily meditator, improv student, recovering perfectionist and avid tennis player.  financialwellness.coach


Listen to Beth's webinar: Befriending Your Numbers

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