Friday, February 19, 2010

Happiness, Health, and Quality of Life

An interesting prospective study found that people who reported high levels of positive emotional experience were significantly less likely to develop heart disease than those with lower levels of well-being. This fits with findings that happiness is associated with lower levels of illness and longer lifespans. It also fits with research that finds depression as a significant predictor of heart disease.

Michael Frisch, Ph.D., a graduate school colleague of mine when I was at the University of Kansas, has written a book on Quality of Life Therapy: techniques for expanding happiness and life satisfaction. Three "pillars" of this work, he explains are:

1) Inner Abundance - This relates to self-care and maximizing one's energy and internal resources;

2) Quality Time - Time spent by oneself, for oneself;

3) Finding Meaning - Having goals that give purpose and significance to life.

The key idea here is that happiness is not just something that happens to people. It is the result of one's relationship to oneself.

I encounter many traders who lack a sense of abundance--they are forever fearing that they will miss market moves and opportunity. I find many traders that lack quality time: they are slaves to the screen and experience more frustration than joy in their efforts. I also see many traders who derive little sense of meaning and purpose in their work. If they're not making money, they are not happy.

Conversely, I encounter very successful traders who find no lack of opportunities in markets, who achieve a high quality of life with activities inside and outside of markets, and who derive great meaning and significance from the self-mastery, growth, and insight required by their work.

Happiness is a lifestyle, not just a set of moods. It is also life-enhancing, and it is a crucial element in performance. We cannot master a field if we do not love and embrace it.