Of all the mental skills a trader can learn, mindfulness is sometimes the most important trading psychology skill.
Mindfulness comes from ancient, eastern traditions associated with Buddhism and Yoga. Although people associate mindfulness with spiritual practices, it is a practical mental skill from which everyone can benefit. It is changing the landscape of western psychology. For traders, mindfulness has numerous, important benefits.
Exciting Research on Practicing Mindfulness
New scientific research shows mindfulness practice can actually alter brain structure. Researchers studied the brain's gray matter to see whether or not it changed after practicing mindfulness. Those who practiced mindfulness for just 30 minutes a day over 8 weeks had significant changes in the hippocampus and amygdala regions of the brain. These are the brain areas involved in learning and memory, emotional regulation, and perspective taking.
This is the first time research has shown physical brain changes due to mindfulness practice.
What Mindfulness Means For Traders
There are many advantages mindfulness can bring to traders:
We can read the market better when mindful. Mindfulness promotes improved concentration and attention. As the brain research shows, it also improves memory and helps in learning. Traders can help themselves in better reading and understanding the complex patterns and movements of the market by practicing mindfulness.
Reduces emotional trading. Mindfulness helps us regulate emotions. The current research tells us that the brain's emotional center is positively influenced by mindfulness practice. Through mindfulness, we can become inoculated against emotional trading and emotional hijackings — the bane of consistent trading. This is a big plus for traders.
Develop a consistent, accurate perspective. We stay present when mindful. We see reality clearly. Past events (recency bias) or projections about the future are less likely to affect trading. Distracting thoughts that cause poor trading behaviors such as hesitating to take a trade and cutting winners short can become less influential — eg, "My last three trades were losers; I better sit this one out" (past event) or "This trade looks like it could go against me, I better get out "(projection of the future). Mindfulness can help us develop the perspective that what the mind is saying is unrelated to a trade's expectation and often unrelated to what ultimately happens in the market.
Developing Your Mindfulness Practice
Start by setting aside 5 to 10 minutes a day; increase the time with practice.
- Sit quietly and simply watch your breath. Pay attention to your belly rising and falling or the air flow across the tips of your nostrils
- Notice how the mind wanders repeatedly. It will slip into the past or the future. Gently return the mind to the breath and the present.
- Notice how you feel afterword.
Gary Dayton, Psy.