Traders drive for results every day, even at the expense of their own sanity. Ironically, meditation and mindfulness not only improve your mood but could improve your trading as well.
Everyone wants an edge in business, from Jack Dorsey’s intermittent fasting to Gordon Ramsey’s obsession with triathlons. The drive to be better than ourselves and competitors pushes us to explore every avenue available.
So, it surprises many on-the-go traders and executives to find out that mindfulness – the act of returning to the present – actually improves performance. A lot of us dismiss it as a waste of time. We either see it as a sign of weakness or believe we can do better through sheer willpower.
The fact is that the majority of us aren’t born with the ability to compartmentalize our emotions and selves for hours at a time. Chances are you’ve experienced it recently yourself, whether it was questioning a trade you made or indecision in the heat of the moment.
I want to explain why you should meditate and how to incorporate it into your busy schedule while dispelling common myths along the way.
Focus Is A Skill
Professional athletes spend hours every day honing their skills. They perform the same moves over and over until they become automatic. This practice embeds their movements into their muscle memory. Focusing is no different.
Humans focus both by interpreting the incoming information and filtering out the irrelevant pieces. Mapping of the brain has shown that focusing works like muscles in the body. As you practice focusing, the neurochemistry and pathways align to make this process faster and more effective.
And guess what the one technique is that works best? Meditation. In fact, studies show that meditation increases the grey matter in the brain.
Mindfulness Improves Decision Making
Hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio is a huge proponent of meditation. His experiences started back in 1968 with the Beatles (of all places). He credits it with being happy for his success, making controlled decisions, and leading a radically transparent company.
As traders, it’s pretty easy to start into a trade and then look up at the clock several hours later – wondering where the time went. You get sucked into the price action and pretty soon lose all sense of self and time.
Hugh Kimura of Trading Heroes has an entire blog post dedicated to transcendental mediation. As a 15-year practitioner and Forex trader, Hugh talks about ‘Holistic Trading’ which encompasses your trading and your lifestyle. All of these pieces work in concert in trading and outside of it.
In fact, if you took time out of your day for even a few minutes of meditation, it provides worlds of benefits. You’ll find your stress levels declining and your decision making more thoughtful just within a few months. Hugh notes that you can see results with as little as 2-minutes a day of practice.
Applying Mindfulness Meditation To Trading
I want to offer some easy ways to incorporate meditation into your day without creating an unnecessary burden.
First, find times that work for meditation, even if it’s before or after the trading day. If you can find five minutes during the day, that’s even better.
Start by sitting in a comfortable position with as few distractions as possible. Close your eyes and focus on breathing in, pausing, and then breathing out. Pay attention to the pauses between the inhale and the exhale.
From there, you have a few options. First is known as body scanning. You think about the various parts of your body from head to toe. Don’t try to force them to relax, just simply think about them. They’ll tend to relax on their own.
The second technique is visualization. Picture a scene that seems peaceful or tranquil. Then imagine yourself within that scene. Think about what it feels like, sounds like, smells like.
With any of these meditations, your mind will start to wander. All you have to do is notice your mind wandered and gently guide yourself back to focusing on the breathing. That very action is the practice!
You can download guided meditations online or through apps if that helps. There’s no right way to meditate, or any specific length of time required. Try it out and see if it doesn’t help you improve your decision making within a couple of months. You’ll probably be surprised.