Can Money Actually Help Your Mental Health?

Can Money Actually Help Your Mental Health?

Let's analyze the correlation between low income and mental health.
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Ahh, the age-old philosophical question of whether or not money can fulfill a person's life. Of course it cannot, I mean, the only thing that can fulfill your life is love and God and doing good in the world.

That person must have never been broke.

I've done some hard hitting research through mental health in relation to socioeconomic welfare to try to analyze whether money can actually buy happiness. Of course, the knee-jerk reaction is no, it cannot, but why is it that people with lower levels of income are seemingly less happy (on the whole) than people who aren't struggling for their rent, or their next meal.

So the first thing that comes into play when discussing happiness is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. We have probably all been made familiar with this chart through either psychology or health classes. At the bottom of the pyramid, there are things you need to survive, such as shelter, food and water. As you climb the pyramid, you require more and more to become truly self-actualized (the realization or fulfillment of one's talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need that is present in everyone).

Things like love, sense of self, and pride are higher on the pyramid, because in nature we need to take care of surviving before we can love, and love before we can be self actualized (I'm paraphrasing this concept by a lot, but I think we all at least somewhat understand).

If a person cannot afford to pay rent, or feed themselves or their children, they use a lot of energy on those things, versus people who don't have to worry about it, and instead focus on being happy, or self-aware. For this reason, money can in fact buy happiness.

There is also a legitimate health risk to having less money. We all know the salad at McDonald's is about $5 whereas a burger is $1.12, and that's a big contributing factor as to why people who have less money are in worse shape (typically). Healthy food costs more money, and if your options are either not eating or eating a greasy burger, I think it's obvious what the choice is. The worse you eat, the worse you feel, and the less happy you are.

Aside from the cost of food, you also have to analyze things like money to own a gym membership, or time to use a gym. The more hours someone needs to work to make ends meet, the less time they have to focus on working out and recharging themselves mentally, which in turn can make someone's emotional tension build up quite a bit. Prescriptions and mental health treatment is also something low income people often go without. Healthcare is expensive without insurance, and without insurance, "extra" things like therapy and doctors visits are the first to go.

Stress can wear on a person's happiness to the point of developing problems such as depression, anxiety, or even eating disorders. "Happiness" may be hard to define, especially universally, but basic things such as the willingness to be healthy and motivated are decent measuring sticks of happiness as a starting point. It can be impossible to be truly happy solely through means of finances, but it sure is a good place to start.

Merriam-Webster has several definitions of happiness, including prosperity, good fortune, and contentment. If someone is unable to feed their family or live in a safe home, how would they be able to say they are prospering, have good fortune or are content?

People who are happy are productive members of society, and are statistically more likely to have better approval ratings at their place of work and do well in school. We as a nation should prioritize a better society, and that's why our government regulates things like welfare, and section nine housing.

Money can buy security. Money can buy a full stomach and a roof over your head. Money can buy therapy and doctor's visits. Money can buy safety. Happiness is made up of these things, and many more that can't be achieved before these, and therefore, money buys happiness.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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A Low FODMAP Life

I thought I knew how to take care of my stomach.
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For many of you reading this, you may be confused as to what FODMAP is. Well, it is an acronym for Fermentable Oggliosaccarades Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols. These “ingredients” are found in most foods. And people don’t usually think twice before eating the bag of chips or that bowl of fruit in their house. However, I have learned that my stomach doesn’t like most foods.

My entire life I have lived with stomach problems. Just recently I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This is something that cannot be cured, so I have to find ways around it. One of the suggestions from my doctor was a low FODMAP diet. A high FODMAP diet is what usually causes stomach problems while a low one allows your stomach a break from harsh foods.

The concept of the diet is for me to give my stomach a break for a while so it can get back into working order. This diet though isn’t something that I’m supposed to be on forever though. I completely change my diet for about four weeks and then slowly reintroduce certain foods to see which irritate my stomach so I know for the future. At the time when my doctor told me about the diet, I disregarded it. I thought I knew how to take care of my stomach.

However, after multiple trips to the bathroom after eating some questionable chicken parm and pasta from the dining hall I was done. I started doing some intense research on what I would have to do to start this low FODMAP diet. After reading up on it, I realized it wouldn’t be easy.

Although my school’s dining hall has plenty options, most of them don’t agree with the diet. It’s difficult to try and plan my meals around the appropriate foods. I have to look at the daily menus and then think what I can get from each station that will allow me to still stay on track.

Will I go completely head in with this diet? Probably not because I’m still at school and my options are limited. I wrote this article while eating Goldfish and as I looked at the ingredients I realized how much of a non-friendly FODMAP food they were.

I still have a month left of school, so I’m going to try to eat some of the “good” foods from the low FODMAP list. However, if I have to eat pizza one day then I eat pizza. Maybe when I go home for the summer I will go more in depth. Summer is always the worst time for my stomach (so much ice cream). At home I can customize what I want to eat and have the freedom to make my meals.

This most definitely isn’t going to be easy. But it’s really worth a shot. Anything that I can try and do to help myself and my health is a win. Hopefully this will work and my stomach can go back into working order.

Cover Image Credit: UD Dining

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5 Self-Indulgent Ways To Practice Self Care

Because YOU are your most important investment
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As the looming demands of adulthood bring endless challenges to our lives, it can be difficult to find time for yourself. With the never-ending flood of homework, exams, stress from work, and taxes, self-care is often moved to the back burner. Even though studies have shown the benefits of getting sufficient sleep, healthy eating, and exercise on work performance and well-being, many people still never take time for themselves until they're utterly exhausted and burnt out. This is due to, in part, a culture that demands work at the expense of personal well being, contributing to long-term effects such as symptoms of anxiety and depression. Personally, as a graduate student attempting to juggle research projects, teaching, lab management, mentorship, and personal life goals, I’ve come to realize the importance of self-care in my own life. Here are 5 of my favorite self-care activities.

5. Paint Your Nails

Painting my nails always reminds me of good company and conversation. When I was 5 years old, I used to sit on the floor of the kitchen and watch my grandmother and aunts paint their nails at the kitchen table. It was a way to bring the women in our family together and have conversations that were just for them. Similarly, in college, my best friends and I would sit on the floor of our dorm rooms and paint our nails. We'd spend time venting about our struggles and sharing our future life goals, all while shaping nails, trimming cuticles, and choosing a color. Even now, making that all so important decision forces me to clear all other thoughts in my mind other than "What do I want?" Additionally, painting nails requires some skill and precision developed over time, allowing me to completely focus on the task at hand (pun intended).

4. Write in a journal

As a form of self-care, writing in a journal is a common suggestion that I never really thought would work for me until I actually tried it. Personally, I find that my thoughts are so hectic and swirling in my mind, that I often ruminate on things, letting them build inside me. Talking to others definitely helps this somewhat, but writing forces me to slow down, my thoughts coursing faster than my hand can write. Writing down the events of the day acts as a transfer of information from my mind to the page, and I can let go of those emotions, knowing that they are safely contained within the bound covers of the journal.

3. Read a good book

When I was younger, I used to read every day. In high school, I would look forward to finishing my homework so I could resume reading my novels. Now that I’m in graduate school, I read far more academic journal articles than novels these days. My pile of books sits on the bottom shelf of my nightstand, begging to be read. In carving out time to practice self-care, I can set a timer for 45 minutes at the end of the day and lose myself in the adventures of Robert Langdon in Dan Brown's latest mystery novel. Reading right before sleeping also reduces the amount of time I spend on my cell phone.

2. Bake your favorite treat

Baking is one of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day. The precision of measuring out the ingredients and the excitement of trying new recipes always makes this activity enjoyable.This past winter, I would cook or bake something during every snow day (which ended up being quite often, thanks New England!). This practice gave me the opportunity to incorporate some self-care into days that are never truly a day off when you're still expected to work as a graduate student. However, working on a snow day is made a bit more tolerable when you're enjoying a delicious baked good, such as some mini Oreo cheesecakes.

1. Do a face mask

An important aspect of self-care is to remove oneself from usual work tasks and completely immerse yourself in a soothing activity. For me, a face mask is the epitome of self-care. Since I wear glasses (and cannot see without them), doing a face mask quite literally forces me to not do anything except close my eyes and relax. For a $3 purchase at CVS, a face mask is an excellent investment for your mental health and well being.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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