Sunday, January 22, 2023

Changing Your Trading Psychology By Changing Your Body

A fascinating finding from research in psychology is that lasting changes in thought, feeling, and behavior require processing of our experience in states of heightened emotional arousal.  When we are in novel modes of consciousness, we become more open to new ways of viewing ourselves and the world.  One of the most powerful gateways to shifts in our states of awareness is the body.  We see this in meditation, yoga, and hypnosis.  We also see this principle at work in psychotherapy, when the enhanced emotional experience of a relationship with a therapist helps us get in touch with feelings and opens the door to new perspectives on ourselves.  Think about visualization exercises in behavioral work or self-talk exercises in cognitive therapy.  We change our viewing by shifting our doing.

Of course, we don't need to be in therapy to enhance our states of awareness and our physical states.  Indeed, there is much to be said for using our physical states during the day to keep ourselves from falling into the ruts of routine.  Research in psychology tells us that high levels of positive emotional experience (well-being) are essential to optimal productivity and creativity.  An important dimension of well-being is our energy level.  We cannot expect to be dynamic people or performers living in static bodies.

Many of our most successful change efforts begin with the body.  We can use our bodies to program our minds, as in biofeedback and self-hypnosis, enabling us greater access to our "gut" intuitions.  In a prior post, I noted that what we internalize is much more a function of what we do than what we say and think.  How we move the body greatly impacts our psychology.  Think about how different kinds of dance impact our experience; think about how we use anchoring to cement new behaviors.  Across the great religious and spiritual traditions of the world, we see how the body is a gateway to change, as in the case of fasting and shifting the body during prayer.

In her insightful and practical book Body Aware, Erica Hornthal, a licensed therapist and dance therapist, explains how utilizing the body to promote change is not just about physical exercise.  How we move--from hour to hour and day to day--greatly impacts our experience of ourselves.  "It is through the body that permanent change occurs, ultimately bringing new patterns of thought and speech...We must address how the body is wired, or in some cases 'miswired,' to fundamentally rewire the mind.  A body that is stretched by new experiences changes the mind's dimensions forever" (p. 74).    

Could it be the case that, just as we read others through their "body language", we process our experiences of ourselves through our bodily states?  What if we are continuously reading our own body language and internalizing what we're reading as our self-image, self-concept, and self-esteem?  As traders, we could be religiously keeping journals, studying markets, and collaborating with others, but if we are physically inert, not eating well, and not getting optimal sleep, can we expect to be truly open to fresh learning from our reviews and teamwork?  We can set goals and push for greater performance, but if we're experiencing ourselves as static and constrained, will we ever truly internalize the right mindsets?  As Erica Hornthal notes, a resilient mindset begins with a resilient body.

Further Reading:

Radical Renewal - The Spirituality of Trading