frugal is not just thriving, it’s essential for a healthy life

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cairnI read a brilliant book last week, newly released by Lissa Rankin MD called Mind Over Medicine – Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.

Lissa Rankin is a medical doctor who turned to integrated medicine (a mixture of conventional and ‘alternate’ medicines) when she found conventional medicine to be insufficient for treating many illnesses. And yet, many patients were still walking out of her room suffering symptoms, despite there being ‘nothing wrong’ according to the tests.

After much research, Lissa found that many of her patient’s health problems stemmed from their lifestyle: an abusive marriage, a job they hated or money stresses, for instance.

She found that healthy relationships, a sense of work/life purpose, a creative outlet, a healthy sex life, a healthy environment, a healthy mind, and stable finances, as well as a healthy body, are all essential for good health.

This is whole-health philosophy is pictorialised in her healthcare cairn, and you can also get an excellent overview of her findings and the content of her book in Lissa’s TEDx Talk below (or you can see it here if the video doesn’t work).

I’m going to focus on the finance component of her whole-health cairn because I believe frugality underpins all other aspects of Lissa’s health philosophy.

Why frugality is essential for good health

The obvious way in which frugality, or prudent financial management, is good for your health is that it alleviates or prevents stress caused by money worries. In her book, Lissa goes into depth about how continuous worry (like financial worries) triggers our stress response and puts our body into a constant state of ‘fight or flight’. This stress depletes our immune system and makes us more susceptible to illness.

Being in control of your finances means that this is one area of your life that you don’t have to worry about. Getting a bill in the mail is not going to trigger your stress response because you’ve already got it covered. Your emergency fund insures you against potential future financial stress and gives you peace of mind.

However, as important as good financial management is for reducing the stress in your life, frugality is so much more.

Frugality allows you to be more in control of your work/life balance. It gives you an opportunity to do more than work-to-spend and spend-to-work. You may choose to do a less lucrative but more meaningful (to you) job. It may allow you to work fewer hours so that you can spend more time with family or pursue other goals. Financial security will make leaving that job you hate that much easier. Frugality may also be the difference between working or staying home to raise a family (if that is what you want to do).

Getting the work/life balance right also gives you time to focus more on meaningful relationships. You’ve got more time to spend with your spouse, your family and your friends. You’re frugal, so you’re not worried about keeping up with the proverbial Jones; you can be your authentic self and focus on enjoying the company your keep.

Humans are herd animals. We’re meant to live and function as part of a community. Close family and friends are important for our mental and physical health. People who have a strong social network or a strong sense of belonging to a community live longer and are happier and healthier.

“…loneliness can make you sicker than smoking cigarettes and being part of a supportive community can increase your life expectancy” [source pg. 90]

Frugal practices such as bartering, skill-sharing, volunteering, farmer’s markets, community gardens, buying and selling second-hand goods, freecycling, using the public library as well as other free public spaces and attending local community events all offer opportunities for positive human contact; opportunities to meet other people and make like-minded friends.

Frugality also encourages creativity. It encourages you to meet your needs creatively rather than opt for a big box solution. It also encourages you to learn new skills. When you choose to learn a new skill and make something yourself from scratch, you are flexing your creative muscles and increasing your happiness.

Turning off the TV and picking up a pair of knitting needles (or your hobby of choice, knitting is my favourite pass time at the moment), saves electricity, gives you a chance to be creative and in the ‘flow’; it is meditative and you end up with a useful end-product (avoid the store and get a sense of satisfaction and pride).

Frugality promotes a healthy environment. Many people who are frugal are so because they are concerned for the natural environment. By making your own cleaners, laundry soap and cosmetics using natural ingredients, you not only save money, but you are reducing the toxic load on your body and in your immediate environment, which improves your health.

The activities that you choose to engage in also affect your health. For instance, by choosing to have a walk and a picnic in your local botanical gardens (positive environment) rather than spending the weekend at the shopping centre (not so positive environment), you are both saving money and enjoying the health benefits of nature and exercise.

Finally, frugality promotes cooking wholefoods from scratch and avoiding pre-packaged foods. Better yet, grow your own foods and eat organic without the hefty price tag. Again, the benefits are two-fold: save money; improve your health with nourishing food.

Frugality is more than just saving money, it’s a lifestyle choice that leads to health, happiness and prosperity. It is the means to a thriving life. Your mind can heal your body; frugality will heal your life.

Image courtesy of Julian Povey, used under the creative commons licence.

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  1. You’re spot on! Though I think of my lifestyle as a simple living life style with the environment as a firm focus, call it what you will, it’s a healthy lifestyle with heaps of benefits on the side! Great post!

  2. Sorry! Re-commenting coz all my details were wrong! Fixed it now I hope.

  3. What a fantastic post. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Yes, I’m like Linda, coming at it initially from an environmental perspective (though now I’ve taken a redundancy from my public service job, frugality becomes more essential for its own sake!) – but to me they feel all interconnected: frugality, DIY, environmental concerns, community engagement – they’re all required for a truly sustainable lifestyle. Which is something we are constantly working towards, I hope.

  5. I agree. To me, frugal living, simple living, sustainable living, permaculture living, prepper living, homesteading…. etc etc are all cut from the same cloth. You can’t really be one without the other. I’m thinking of working towards being a penny-pinching permie prepper :).