How to Shift from a Scarcity Mindset to an Abundance Mindset

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What Is a Scarcity Mindset?

A pervasive feeling of not having enough—whether that be time, money, connection—is also known as a scarcity mindset. Having a scarcity mindset can be a self-fulfilling prophecy because these beliefs make it difficult to move forward and may keep you stuck in scarcity.

It is necessary to acknowledge that scarcity is not just a mindset but a reality for many. If you struggle to meet your basic needs of affording food, housing, and paying your bills—it is not your fault and not as simple as a shift in mindset. 

Growing up in poverty—in true scarcity—is linked with behavioral and mental health issues, as being raised in scarcity literally changes your brain.

Adopting an abundance mindset won’t magically solve all of your problems, but it may help you see them in a different way that makes it easier to problem-solve or cope.

Signs of a Scarcity Mindset

It is important to note that some of the effects and feelings of a scarcity mindset may be similar to depression or other mental health issues—and scarcity can also lead to mental health issues.

Here are some signs you may have a scarcity mindset:

  • Always feeling behind
  • Bills and other responsibilities piling up
  • Overscheduling yourself
  • Saying yes to opportunities that aren’t right for you because you’re afraid another one won’t come

If living in a scarcity mindset is affecting your life functioning, you may want to talk to a mental health professional.

How a Scarcity Mindset May Affect You

If you’ve ever made a hasty decision because you didn’t have time to think through its consequences, you have an idea of what it feels like to make decisions from a scarcity mindset, as time was scarce for you. 

This is because our minds only have so much bandwidth at any given time. Constantly needing to think ahead of how to outsmart that drains bandwidth, leading to reduced cognitive ability—which can then lead to self-defeating actions

Operating at this level of reduced brainpower can lead to actions that are ultimately self-defeating but feel (or may actually be!) out of your control. Some include:

  • Engaging less frequently with preventative healthcare
  • Not adhering to medications prescribed
  • Being less likely to follow through on appointments in general
  • Being less productive at work or at home
  • Incapacity to be an attentive parent
  • Making maladaptive financial decisions 

In this drained state, your brain activity slows down in the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain associated with decision making) much like a computer trying to run too many processes at once. The response time in decision-making is longer, and more stress and less confidence are experienced. Long-term planning becomes too taxing.

And scarcity on a larger scale can affect the mindset and decision-making, too. It is believed that after events like the 2008 financial crisis (and likely after the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying economic uncertainty), the ability to make decisions quickly has collectively suffered.

Cultivating an Abundance Mindset

This means that embracing the opposite, an abundance or growth mindset, leads to benefits such as increased performance and more malleability in the brain. Our brains get a hit of dopamine as we take risks and successfully complete them, thus priming us to search for more dopamine by increasing those growth behaviors that prompted the dopamine release in the first place.

Acceptance

You can want to change where you are in life—and that is part of the growth mindset!—but in order to move forward, it helps to accept it. By doing so, you stop using your precious limited resources to fight against accepting where you are now. In order to know where you are going, you must know where you started.

Self-Compassion 

Whatever you have done up to this point in life has gotten you to where you are today—and you should be proud of yourself for making it through to today. Any habit or mindset you have now that you want to change had its reason or purpose at one time—survival. Give yourself self-compassion.

Find That One Thing

Perhaps your finances are not abundant, but your time is—you have lots of free time. View that as an area of abundance in your life to be treasured. Or you do have financial abundance but your time is scarce because you work so much to earn that money. You can recognize that you wish you were able to spend more time with your family, but that your abundance is helping them. 

Don’t have an abundance of time or money? Maybe you have an abundance of love—from a human or from a pet. No matter how small, there is likely at least one thing in your life you can see as abundant—even if it’s just that you took another breath today. 

Define Abundance for Yourself

Abundance and an abundant mindset look different to everyone. What looks like abundance to you might look like scarcity to someone else, or vice versa. It’s hard to get yourself in the mindset of being abundant if you don’t know what you’re striving towards. How would it feel to be abundant? What would your life look like?

Start Small

Changing all your habits or ways of thinking at once—in any domain—can be a recipe in setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations. In what area do you feel like your scarcity mindset is holding you back in the most?

Begin with making small tweaks to your mindset there. Are you feeling like your time is scarce these days? Think of what you do enjoy that’s filling up your time–or what you might be able to add.

Mindfulness

Our brains understandably get wrapped up in the scarcity mindset. They are constantly processing what they need to do next to survive. This takes us out of the present. Taking some time to be mindful—whether that is through meditation or just paying attention to the current moment can slow our brains down so we can think more clearly.

Journaling

If you are struggling with defining abundance for yourself, journaling might help by both helping you identify areas where you already are abundant as well as areas where you’d like to focus on being more abundant.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Theodora Blanchfield, AMFT
Theodora Blanchfield is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and mental health writer.