Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus

The ability to focus is an important driver of excellence. Focused techniques such as to-do lists, timetables, and calendar reminders all help people to stay on task. Few would argue with that, and even if they did, there is evidence to support the idea that resisting distraction and staying present have benefits: practicing mindfulness for 10 minutes a day, for example, can enhance leadership effectiveness by helping you become more able to regulate your emotions and make sense of past experiences. Yet as helpful as focus can be, there’s also a downside to focus as it is commonly viewed.

The problem is that excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits in your brain. It can drain your energy and make you lose self-control. This energy drain can also make you more impulsive and less helpful. As a result, decisions are poorly thought-out, and you become less collaborative.

So what do we do then? Focus or unfocus?

In keeping with recent research, both focus and unfocus are vital. The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience, enhance creativity, and make better decisions too.

When you unfocus, you engage a brain circuit called the “default mode network.” Abbreviated as the DMN, we used to think of this circuit as the Do Mostly Nothing circuit because it only came on when you stopped focusing effortfully. Yet, when “at rest”, this circuit uses 20% of the body’s energy (compared to the comparatively small 5% that any effort will require).

The DMN needs this energy because it is doing anything but resting. Under the brain’s conscious radar, it activates old memories, goes back and forth between the past, present, and future, and recombines different ideas. Using this new and previously inaccessible data, you develop enhanced self-awareness and a sense of personal relevance. And you can imagine creative solutions or predict the future, thereby leading to better decision-making too. The DMN also helps you tune into other people’s thinking, thereby improving team understanding and cohesion.

There are many simple and effective ways to activate this circuit in the course of a day.

Using positive constructive daydreaming (PCD): PCD is a type of mind-wandering different from slipping into a daydream or guiltily rehashing worries. When you build it into your day deliberately, it can boost your creativity, strengthen your leadership ability, and also-re-energize the brain. To start PCD, you choose a low-key activity such as knitting, gardening or casual reading, then wander into the recesses of your mind.

But unlike slipping into a daydream or guilty-dysphoric daydreaming, you might first imagine something playful and wishful—like running through the woods, or lying on a yacht. Then you swivel your attention from the external world to the internal space of your mind with this image in mind while still doing the low-key activity.

Studied for decades by Jerome Singer, PCD activates the DMN and metaphorically changes the silverware that your brain uses to find information. While focused attention is like a fork—picking up obvious conscious thoughts that you have, PCD commissions a different set of silverware—a spoon for scooping up the delicious mélange of flavors of your identity (the scent of your grandmother, the feeling of satisfaction with the first bite of apple-pie on a crisp fall day), chopsticks for connecting ideas across your brain (to enhance innovation), and a marrow spoon for getting into the nooks and crannies of your brain to pick up long-lost memories that are a vital part of your identity.

In this state, your sense of “self” is enhanced—which, according to Warren Bennis, is the essence of leadership. I call this the psychological center of gravity, a grounding mechanism (part of your mental “six-pack”) that helps you enhance your agility and manage change more effectively too.

Taking a nap: In addition to building in time for PCD, leaders can also consider authorized napping. Not all naps are the same. When your brain is in a slump, your clarity and creativity are compromised. After a 10-minute nap, studies show that you become much clearer and more alert. But if it’s a creative task you have in front of you, you will likely need a full 90 minutes for more complete brain refreshing. Your brain requires this longer time to make more associations, and dredge up ideas that are in the nooks and crannies of your memory network.

Pretending to be someone else: When you’re stuck in a creative process, unfocus may also come to the rescue when you embody and live out an entirely different personality. In 2016, educational psychologists, Denis Dumas and Kevin Dunbar found that people who try to solve creative problems are more successful if they behave like an eccentric poet than a rigid librarian. Given a test in which they have to come up with as many uses as possible for any object (e.g. a brick) those who behave like eccentric poets have superior creative performance. This finding holds even if the same person takes on a different identity.

When in a creative deadlock, try this exercise of embodying a different identity. It will likely get you out of your own head, and allow you to think from another person’s perspective. I call this psychological halloweenism.

For years, focus has been the venerated ability amongst all abilities. Since we spend 46.9% of our days with our minds wandering away from a task at hand, we crave the ability to keep it fixed and on task. Yet, if we built PCD, 10- and 90- minute naps, and psychological halloweenism into our days, we would likely preserve focus for when we need it, and use it much more efficiently too. More importantly, unfocus will allow us to update information in the brain, giving us access to deeper parts of ourselves and enhancing our agility, creativity and decision-making too.

By: Srini Pillay

Srini Pillay, M.D. is an executive coach and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group. He is also a technology innovator and entrepreneur in the health and leadership development sectors, and an award-winning author. His latest book is Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind. He is also a part-time Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the Executive Education Programs at Harvard Business School and Duke Corporate Education, and is on internationally recognized think tanks.

Source: Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus

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Srini Pillay, M.D. is an executive coach and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group. He is also a technology innovator and entrepreneur in the health and leadership development sectors, and an award-winning author. His latest book is Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind. He is also a part-time Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the Executive Education Programs at Harvard Business School and Duke Corporate Education, and is on internationally recognized think tanks.

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More Contents:

Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World: Unlocking the Potential of Your ADD Child

Behavioral and Physiological Bases of Attentional Biases: Paradigms

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, and Other Disorders

Updated European Consensus Statement on diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD

Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Differential Diagnoses

Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications

Stimulus-Driven Reorienting Impairs Executive Control of Attention: Evidence for a Common Bottleneck in Anterior Insula

Functions of the human frontoparietal attention network: Evidence from neuroimaging

Bottom-up saliency and top-down learning in the primary visual cortex of monkeys

The extent of processing of noise elements during selective encoding from visual displays

Testing the behavioral interaction and integration of attentional networks

Perceptual Load Affects Eyewitness Accuracy and Susceptibility to Leading Questions

wo Polarities of Attention in Social Contexts: From Attending-to-Others to Attending-to-Self

Selective attention and serial processing in briefly presented visual displays

How Connected Life Sciences Devices Lead To Continuous Care

With connected medical devices, apps and data, life sciences organizations can bridge long-standing gaps in healthcare and deliver a more continuous care experience, says Brian Williams, Cognizant’s Chief Digital Officer for Life Sciences.

Global health systems have traditionally delivered services episodically, by focusing on acute, critical care rather than individual health and well-being. It should come as no surprise, then, that life sciences companies often deliver their solutions following that same model of care.

Sadly, this leads to gaps in data and service alignment, not to mention significant disconnects with the broader healthcare ecosystem. Consumer devices and wellness apps, for example, often exist within their own individual siloes — causing organizations to miss out on valuable data that could inform patient diagnosis, management and treatment.

This lack of orchestration produces sub-optimal outcomes at significant expense to providers, payers and patients alike. It is also at direct odds with patients’ increasing digital expectations when using medical devices and when taking drugs and therapies. Whether they are participating in a clinical trial, living with a chronic condition or recovering from a procedure, patients expect to be informed and cared for with seamless digital experiences on par with what they receive when shopping or banking online.

However, the emergence of integrated, connected devices, apps and data has opened new possibilities for treatments and clinical trials. This new level of connectivity helps bridge a longstanding gap in wellness: the disconnect between an individual’s everyday health behavior and their episodic healthcare. These experiences generate valuable data insights, creating new commercial opportunities and the promise of better patient outcomes.

The impact of life sciences connectivity

Drawing from our recent series on healthcare IoT, here are three stakeholder groups within the healthcare and life sciences ecosystem that stand to benefit greatly from this new level of connectivity and the more continuous, predictive and preventive care it enables.

  • Patients with chronic conditions. Chronic diseases are often accompanied by additional conditions, such as depression, that can impede effective treatment. Consequently, information about an individual’s behavioral health status has become increasingly important in treatment decisions, as has information about the individual’s relationships with the people around them.
  • Wearable IoT devices that monitor fitness and health conditions can pair with an ever-growing set of apps for health, wellness and nutrition monitoring. Over time, a baseline of physiological indicators such as an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure, as well as activity, diet and sleep patterns, will develop. When additional data from clinical encounters, including diagnostic imaging, lab tests, genomics, stress tests and physician notes, is integrated with that baseline, it increases the ability to predict how an individual may respond to any particular treatment.
  • Elderly patients. Quite often, the most effective tools for early detection of a developing condition in elderly patients are not implants or biometric monitors, but devices that monitor changes in activities of daily living (ADL).
  • For example, the onset of congestive heart failure can be detected through reduced use of the bed, as patients with trouble breathing when lying down switch to sleeping semi-upright in a recliner. Changes in toilet flushes, meanwhile, can detect a urinary tract infection or incipient dehydration. Moreover, while one in four Americans over 65 falls each year, only half tell their doctor.
  • Passive infrared motion detectors, pressure sensors in beds and chairs, sensors for CO2 concentration, sound (vibration) and video — anonymized as necessary for privacy — can all be used to first establish a baseline of normal variability, and then be applied to detect significant deviations from that baseline. This continuous and nearly invisible sensing can be surprisingly effective in assisting in care.
  • Hospital clinicians and support staff. Healthcare is increasingly a team enterprise — including not only physicians, nurses, allied health staff and technicians but also AI-enabled equipment. The point of care is also expanding, with shortened hospital stays and more care delivered in outpatient facilities and in-home settings.
  • Connected sensors enable every member of the team to access to real-time data relevant to their task. Smart hospitals with a real-time health system (RTHS) can leverage sensors to collect data widely, distill and analyze it — and then quickly distribute curated findings to users. When captured remotely, this eases the transition in care from the hospital to other settings, allowing a more continuous and participatory level of care that extends long past a patient’s physical stay in a healthcare facility.
  • An RTHS can improve operations, clinical tasks and patient experience. For example, providers that boost operational effectiveness typically rely on a wide range of IoT-enabled asset management solutions that locate mobile assets, monitor equipment operating conditions and track inventories of consumables, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. This optimizes equipment utilization, reduces waste, increases equipment uptime and ensures optimal inventories.
  • Once clinicians and support staff can view how long various steps take in their workflows, where delays occur and what patients experience as a result, they can then evolve solutions based on a combination of their intimate day-to-day knowledge and data on how that workflow interacts with or is used by other functions.

From episodic to continuous care

Too often, the life sciences industry has delivered a one-size-fits-all approach to clinical trials and patient care that may not represent real-life, individual situations — situations that require tailored engagement that wrap therapies and interventions in end-to-end, digital solutions.

This can and should change. Device connectivity and access to data are impacting every aspect of healthcare and life sciences, moving the industry away from acute, episodic care, to a system that is more participatory and predictive.

For example, a patient may be walking a mere 24 hours after a typical hip surgery and could be discharged from the hospital a day or two after the procedure. However, that episodic care experience belies a much longer recovery and rehabilitation period spanning weeks or months.While that care experience today takes place largely outside the purview of the orthopedic surgeon, better device connectivity can enable patient monitoring — and even patient services — to be extended well beyond the length of the initial hospital visit.

Rather than relying on spotty reporting from physical therapists or the patients themselves, an orthopedist can continuously and seamlessly track a patient’s progress, and then decide when and how to intervene if things aren’t going as expected. Zimmer’s mymobility application, which supports patient engagement and monitoring outside the hospital following surgery, is a good example of what this looks like in practice.

A fully orchestrated ecosystem

Sensors and instrumentation — and the hundreds of APIs that connect them — can provide accurate and timely data about many parameters of the human condition. When this is all properly orchestrated, we can better understand how diseases progress and how bodies respond to various interventions.

That’s the intent behind our alliance with Philips and its HealthSuite Digital Platform, which is built on AWS and designed to simplify and standardize device connectivity, data access, identity management, and structured and unstructured data management within a high-trust, HIPAA and GDPR-compliant environment.

We believe that life sciences companies can derive true value from this influx of new data. Not only can the resulting insights inform new services, drugs and therapies and inspire new models of continuous engagement; they can also improve adherence to treatment and patient health.

To learn more, visit the Life Sciences section of our website.

Brian is Cognizant’s Chief Digital Officer for Life Sciences and is responsible for designing digitally enabled solutions to facilitate care access and delivery. He is also the Global Life Sciences Consulting

Source: How Connected Life Sciences Devices Lead To Continuous Care

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Related Contents:

M. Birkholz; A. Mai; C. Wenger; C. Meliani; R. Scholz (2016). “Technology modules from micro- and nano-electronics for the life sciences”. WIREs Nanomed. Nanobiotech. 8 (3): 355–377. doi:10.1002/wnan.1367. PMID 26391194

“What is Biomonitoring?” (PDF). American Chemistry Council. Archived from the origin(2005-04-08). Natural Fibers, Biopolymers, and Biocomposites. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-203-50820-6.

National Human Genome Research Institute (2010-11-08). “FAQ About Genetic and Genomic Science”

Using Digital To Address The Mental Health ‘Silent Epidemic’

Digital tools and platforms are a natural fit for overcoming the top barriers to getting mental healthcare: accessibility, cost and social stigma, says Emily Thayer, a Senior Consultant within Cognizant Consulting’s Healthcare Practice.

Untreated mental health conditions have long been a top healthcare concern. In 2019, fewer than half of Americans with a diagnosed mental illness received treatment for that condition, according to the US National Institute of Mental Health.

Not only is untreated mental illness detrimental to patients’ health — it’s also a strain on national healthcare costs. In fact, mental health disorders cost the US economy an estimated $4.6 billion per year in unnecessary ER visits and $300 billion in lost workplace productivity, making mental health disorders among the most costly untreated conditions in the US.

The pandemic has only accelerated the need for care — according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, over 40% of US adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in January 2021, compared with 11% in the first six months of 2019. Given the well-documented therapist shortages that have resulted, the concern of connecting patients with care has only grown more acute.

It’s no wonder, then, that interest and investment are growing in digitally oriented mental healthcare, from platforms that match therapists with patients, to chatbots, to online cognitive behavioral therapy tools. Although emerging digital solutions are nascent and will inevitably encounter friction, virtual remedies show great promise in lowering the barriers that both practitioners and patients face.

Consider how digital tools can address the top three factors that have historically kept patients from seeking mental health care: accessibility, cost and social stigma.

Improving accessibility to mental health treatment

As of May 2021, over 125 million Americans live in a behavioral or mental health professional shortage area. This gap will continue to widen as the pandemic exacerbates the therapist shortage.

To expand accessibility to behavioral health services, companies like Quartet and Talkspace are using telehealth platforms to connect patients and therapists. By leveraging clinical algorithms, these platforms identify available therapists based on the patient’s symptoms, state of residence (due to cross-state licensing restrictions), insurance carrier, preferred mode of communication (synchronous video or audio and asynchronous text messaging) and desired appointment cadence.

In other words, if you have a connected device, you can receive on-demand care for your behavioral health condition. Digital accessibility also addresses physician shortages and burnout on a national scale.

As these entities are still relatively new to the market, challenges and questions remain, such as the fundamental disconnect between virtual treatment and physician intervention in a clinical setting. As patient adoption grows, enough accurate data will be generated to prompt when physician intervention is necessary.

Additionally, these telehealth platforms are more geared toward mild cases, as these services do not replace the necessary stages of the care continuum that may be needed for more serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Lowering behavioral healthcare costs

An estimated 47% of US adults with an untreated behavioral or mental health illness do not seek treatment due to high costs.

Many entities in the private and public sectors are turning to virtual services to help patients better afford behavioral and mental health services. For instance, traditional in-person therapy ranges from $64 to $250 per hour, depending on patient insurance, whereas digital solutions can cost under $32 per hour.

Accordingly, many workplaces are incorporating digital solutions into their employee-sponsored health plans through health platforms like Ginger, which offers 24×7 access to behavioral health coaches via asynchronous texting for low-acuity conditions like anxiety and depression.

Recent moves by the federal government further bolster the effort to make behavioral healthcare affordable. In addition to the US Department of Health and Human Services announcing an additional $3 billion in funding to address pandemic-related behavioral and mental health issues, the Biden administration has signaled commitment to expanding access to telehealth services for underserved communities. Such efforts will need to be combined with further work in the private sector to ensure mental healthcare affordability through virtual means.

Overcoming negative social stigma

Perceived social stigma is an additional barrier for many people seeking mental health treatment. In a study of patients with schizophrenia, 86% of respondents reported concealing their illness due to fears of prejudice or discrimination.

To circumvent these challenges, some mental health providers have embraced artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots and online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tools. Although chatting with a bot may seem counterintuitive to the “high-touch” nature of the healthcare industry, the anonymity of this approach can ease patient anxiety about opening up to another potentially judgmental human.

In a randomized control trial with a conversational agent that delivers CBT treatment, patients reported a 22% reduction in depression and anxiety within the first two weeks. This study shows promise for the effectiveness of chatbot-based therapy, particularly for younger generations, many of whom already share many intimate details of their lives on digital forums and hence have a higher level of acceptance of these tools. Older generations may view the adoption of this new behavioral care model with more incredulity and hesitancy.

A virtual future for behavioral healthcare

It is clear that the virtual care industry is poised for future growth, as there is a clear correlation between our understanding of behavioral healthcare challenges and the evolution of treatment modalities to bridge those gaps.

While digital services may not be a cure-all remedy for behavioral health, they certainly offer a promising long-term solution to one of the country’s most prominent and costly diseases.

To learn more, visit our Healthcare solutions section or contact us.

Emily Thayer is a Senior Consultant within Cognizant Consulting’s Healthcare Practice, who specializes in driving digital transformation. Emily has a proven track record in both the private and public sectors, most notably in health plan strategy and operations, business development and project management. Emily earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Oxford, and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. She can be reached at Emily.Thayer@cognizant.com

Source: Using Digital To Address The Mental Health ‘Silent Epidemic’

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Related Contents:

Historic Bitcoin Futures ETF Debuts On New York Stock Exchange

The first bitcoin-linked exchange-traded fund in the United States today debuted on the New York Stock Exchange, presenting new investment opportunities for holders of brokerage accounts.

Though the offering, called the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (trading as BITO), falls short of what the cryptocurrency industry has long advocated for—funds that invest directly in bitcoin—its launch marks another watershed moment for the nascent market.

The anticipation propelled the world’s largest cryptocurrency to break above $62,000 for the first time since April on Friday, just below its all-time high of $64,957, set in the spring. At press time, it is trading at $62,903.

“BITO will open up exposure to bitcoin to a large segment of investors who have a brokerage account and are comfortable buying stocks and ETFs, but do not desire to go through the hassle and learning curve of establishing another account with a cryptocurrency provider,” says ProShares CEO Michael L. Sapir. He adds that the vehicle will help those who are hesitant about “creating a bitcoin wallet or are concerned that these providers may be unregulated and subject to security risks.”

Bethesda, Md. firm, an ETF provider with more than $64 billion in assets, filed an updated prospectus with the offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Friday after Thursday reports signaled that the SEC wasn’t likely to block a bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund.

ProShares will not invest directly in or hold the cryptocurrency but instead will be purchasing cash-settled, front-month CME bitcoin futures—monthly contracts with the nearest expiration date that trade on the Chicago-based CME exchange—and will charge a management fee of 0.95%, to be paid each year as a percentage of investment’s value, ProShares’ global investment strategist Simeon Hyman confirmed to Forbes. ProShares estimates annual expenses for those investing in the fund at $97 per $10,000 invested—less than half of the 2% world’s biggest bitcoin fund, Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, charges.

Many hope that the futures-based ETF will pave the way to ultimately launching a full-fledged bitcoin ETF. Industry participants have sought to launch one since 2013, when Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, billionaire founders of cryptocurrency exchange Gemini, filed the first bitcoin ETF application. The SEC has rejected every previous filing to date.

Forbes’ director of data and analytics, Javier Paz, thinks this “SEC experiment” will help “absorb much of the popular demand for bitcoin without causing the cryptocurrency to skyrocket overnight.” Nearly 40 bitcoin ETF applications, including those from Cathie Wood’s ARK Investment Management, Galaxy Digital, VanEck, and Valkyrie, are pending the Commission’s review.

ProShares, which had previously filed with the Commission for two bitcoin ETFs in 2017, keeps its finger on the pulse. “As other ways to access bitcoin mature, we’ll keep an eye on it,” said  Hyman. “We’re always ready to consider additional solutions for investment.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I report on cryptocurrencies and other applications of blockchain. A Russia native, I am a graduate of NYU Abu Dhabi and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism

Source: Historic Bitcoin Futures ETF Debuts On New York Stock Exchange

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Related Contents:

What Is Financial Infidelity?

Being transparent about money matters is critical in partnerships and marriage. Here’s how to spot financial infidelity — and rectify it. When Melissa Houston and her husband first got married, they had a financial plan and laid out some joint money goals. “We knew what we were saving for and how we should spend money,” she says.

But as the years went by, Houston found herself emotionally spending, dropping $1K to $2K on weekend trips with her friends, as well as shelling out thousands on home renovations and random impulse buys. “I was using credit to cover my expenses and hid that from him,” she recalls. “As the boxes came in the mail, he asked me what was going on, and I assured him we had the money.”

Eventually, Houston told her husband the truth. She had been hiding her spending from him and had gotten the family into a financial hole. It put a giant strain on her marriage, and she is still working to gain back her husband’s trust. The duo has since gone back to their previous ways of openly discussing money. Houston is honest about her spending and runs big purchases by her partner instead of buying them behind his back.

What Houston and her husband experienced was financial infidelity. “Simply put, financial infidelity is when your spouse lies to you or keeps details about financial transactions and financial assets hidden from you,” says Sandra Radna, an attorney and the author of You’re Getting Divorced … Now What? You could be on the receiving end of financial infidelity, or you could be the one committing it, like Houston was. Either way, financial infidelity can be incredibly toxic to a marriage and is something that you should work to avoid at all costs.

What does financial infidelity look like?

Financial infidelity could be everything from declining to reveal some of your credit card purchases or other debts to your partner to stashing a portion of your paycheck into an account that your partner doesn’t know about, and making large purchases without consulting your significant other.

“We see financial infidelity occur in some really common ways, like not mentioning how much you spent on your credit card, or when one person makes a large purchase without telling their partner,” says Lauren Silbert, the vice president of personal finance with the Balance. This type of infidelity, she explains, can also occur when one person is keeping a secret account or hoarding cash or other valuables without the other person knowing.

“Another instance is the higher-earning spouse actually hiding how much money they make, keeping the majority of it for themselves, without their partner ever knowing it existed,” Silbert adds. It’s important to build a foundation of open communication and trust when it comes to dealing with financial infidelity.

The dangers of financial infidelity

Financial infidelity can break the trust in your marriage. “Arguably, the most important part of any relationship is trust,” explains Radna. She stresses that if one of the people in the relationship is not honest about what is happening in your joint financial lives, it’s a huge breach and is difficult to overcome.

“It begs the question ‘If you are lying about that, what else are you lying about?’” Radna says. And in her experience, for some couples the emotional aftermath of financial infidelity is insurmountable and can be a definite cause of divorce.

There can be significant financial repercussions as well, since, when you’re married, your partner’s debt becomes your debt. “It could also impact your credit score,” explains Ben Reynolds, the CEO and founder of Sure Dividend.

In order to avoid the repercussions of financial infidelity from occurring, it’s important to be open about your financial goals, purchases, and spending habits with your spouse. Here are some tips to keep financial infidelity at bay.

Be up front from the start

The way that you start your marriage can really set the tone for how you both talk about money. “I recommend that both parties leave everything on the table from the beginning,” says Jayden Doye, a certified public accountant and the owner of Prestige Accounting Solutions in Sandy Springs, Georgia. “They should lay out all of their assets and debts and discuss financial goals.

” Doye has seen too many couples enter into relationships with financial secrets, hiding student loans, debt, and spending habits from each other. Getting on the same page from the beginning and discussing your debt, making a plan for your spending, and working together on this can keep financial infidelity from ever occurring.

Victoria Lowell, founder of Empowered Worth and a certified divorce financial analyst and college finance counselor, agrees. “Couples need to start discussing money and finances very early on, and definitely before moving in together or marrying,” she says, noting that she often coaches clients with premarital financial counseling, which her clients find extremely beneficial.

Make money discussions routine

“Communication is the key,” says Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst with Creditcards.com. “Most people have a hard time talking about money, but we need to get over that hurdle,” he adds. Rossman suggests scheduling regular money check-ins with your partner. “They don’t have to be long or formal. Perhaps once a month, go through upcoming bills and recent expenses and make sure you’re on track,” he says.

In addition to expenses, talk about your goals as well. This, says Rossman, can be really freeing and can reframe the discussion in a very positive way. “Do you want to buy a home in a couple years? Retire early? Send your kids to college? Identifying your money goals and values and working towards them together is so important and strengthens a relationship,” Rossman explains.

If you have been hiding things surrounding money from your partner, it’ll be easier to handle the sooner you tell the truth.

Start small

Money conversations may seem daunting at first, but it all starts with building trust and safety around money, says Silbert. She says to start with some “gentler money talks. For example, don’t try to make tough decisions right away. Instead, share about how your parents handled money. Talk about your experiences with financial institutions. Tell each other what item or experience has always represented true luxury in your mind.

And so on.” As the safety grows, then move on to harder conversations. These, explains Silbert, are usually the ones that have more opportunities for disagreement or discomfort. And when having these conversations, it’s important to approach them with an open mind and to create a judgment-free zone.

Come clean if you’ve been hiding things from your partner

The longer you conceal money and spending habits from your partner, the more damage you are likely to cause to your relationship and your finances. To heal from financial infidelity, the offending partner needs to come forward. Carrie Krawiec, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy, Michigan, shares her three steps for admitting to financial infidelity:

  1. Sincerely apologize.
  2. Take responsibility without excuses.
  3. Take all steps and measures to make sure the behavior doesn’t repeat itself.

“When the first three are done, there should be acknowledgment by the wounded party that one to three have been sufficiently met,” she explains.

Bring in a third party

It can be beneficial to schedule meetings with a financial adviser who can help you draw up money goals as a couple and get you thinking about a long-term financial strategy. A couple’s counselor can also assist partners with working through any conflicts that they may be having about everyday spending.

And it’s especially important to get help when you’re working through a bout of financial infidelity in your marriage, as this can be hard to navigate alone. “I strongly suggest that couples who are facing this seek counseling,” suggests Lowell, who notes that a marriage therapist or financial coach can help partners open up the dialogue to discuss their philosophy about money, debt, and so forth.

Source: What Is Financial Infidelity?

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Related Contents:

Financial Infidelity: The Things we Buy, the Lies we Tell

Financial Infidelity is Rampant

Financial Infidelity’ is Pretty Common

Your Cheatin’ Wallet

How Infidelity Causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

How Infidelity Causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder | Psychology Today

Healing From Infidelity

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