Saturday, November 29, 2014

Minding Your Body to Sharpen Your Mind

Think of our experience as existing along two intersecting dimensions:  positive vs. negative and high vs. low energy.  That gives us four classes of experience:

1)  Positive, High Energy - That's when we experience the greatest motivation, enthusiasm, and happiness;

2)  Positive, Low Energy - Here we're calm and at peace, with a high degree of life satisfaction;

3)  Negative, High Energy - This is when we are frustrated, angry, and stressed out;

4)  Negative, Low Energy - In this state, we're discouraged, depressed, and burned out.

Now consider how much time you spend in each of these states, particularly when you are trading.  Indeed, a great exercise is to simply draw Positive - Negative and High Energy - Low Energy as intersecting dimensions and place a point on the graph where you stand each morning, afternoon, and evening.

When you chart your state over time, you'll begin to see patterns:  how your mood and energy level tends to vary over the course of the day; how your positivity and energy are affected by how you eat; how different activities add to or subtract from your mind states; how you respond to winning vs. losing trading days; and how your states impact your subsequent trading.

One of my consistent findings is that our level of emotions and energy are closely tied to our physical states.  Lately I've been experimenting with what I call speed workouts.  The workout routine consists of five minutes of vigorous stretching; ten minutes of challenging weight lifting; and fifteen minutes of aerobic time on the treadmill.  The key to the routine is speed:  taking very little break between the activities, so that you're continuously energizing yourself over a half hour's time.  This is a great way to start the day and also makes an effective mid-day activity, when you're feeling fatigued from effort.

Research finds that exercise is effective both in increasing our emotional well-being and in lowering negative emotional states, with effects as strong in many cases as standard therapeutic treatments.  Exercise also appears to be effective in improving our concentration, alertness, and memory.  We commonly feel that we don't have enough time in the day to devote to exercise, but the enhanced productivity associated with a positive physical state typically more than makes up for the inefficiency of our work efforts when we're operating at low ebb.  Charting your state as a function of your exercise regimen is a great way to see this for yourself.

Can we extend our exercise routines to make them workouts of the mind as well?  In my next post, I will draw upon an idea from my upcoming book and outline a workout routine for mind and body.

Further Reading:  Exercise and Goal Achievement