Mindful Awareness and Attention Training For Traders

Developing Mind Fitness For Managing Your Mind and Emotions


What Is Mindfulness?

Mindful awareness is defined by one of the leading Mindfulness researchers and practitioners John Kabat-Zinn  of the University of Massachusetts Medical School as “A way of paying attention: on purpose, in the present moment and non - judgmentally to whatever arises in the field of your experience.” In trading this can translate as trading in the moment, paying attention to what the market is doing right now. You’d be fully present in the absence of any preconceived ideas or biases to influence you, and without anxiety or fear. If you were able to do that it would probably have a significant impact on your trading performance wouldn’t it?

Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness which is defined as living on autopilot (referred to by neuroscientists as your default network – mindful experiences are part of your direct experience) governed by your conditioning of thoughts, beliefs, emotional responses and behaviour. Importantly mindfulness is a skill – it can be learnt and developed.

I first came across the term mindfulness when researching and reading about how to apply neuroscience into trading where mindfulness was presented as a key skill to developing the level of self-awareness and self-control required to maximise potential. When I began to learn and practice mindfulness for myself I was pleasantly surprised that on the first course that I did that the very first exercise, mindful awareness, was exactly the same as the attention training exercise that I used with athletes in my sports psychology consulting. It is interesting when you look at the evolution of mindfulness that it has moved quite quickly over recent years from its ‘spiritual’ meditation based roots, through academic research, into medicine (the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program is recognised as a mainstream intervention for people suffering with anxiety, stress and depression), the performance arena, leadership and most recently the military. Its popularity can also be measured by the drastically increasing number of academic papers that have been published over recent years, and from my own experience by the number of traders I talk with who have taken up yoga or meditation.

What Are The Benefits Of Becoming More Mindful?

Research in medicine, psychology and neuroscience has demonstrated that there are many key benefits to becoming more mindful.

The following benefits of becoming more mindful are taken from a list in Michael Chaskalsons book ‘The Mindful Workplace’.

• Less likely to experience psychological distress, less neurotic, more extraverted, greater well-being and satisfaction

• Greater awareness, understanding and acceptance of their emotions and recover from bad moods more quickly

• Less frequent negative thoughts and more able to let go of them when they arise

• Higher and more stable self-esteem less dependent on external factors

• Less likely to react defensively or aggressively when they feel threatened

• Good social skills

• Increases self-awareness

• Higher success in achieving academic and personal goals

• Improves attention, job performance, productivity and satisfaction

• Feel more in control of their behaviour and are more able to manage internal thoughts and feelings and resist acting on impulse

• Increase blood flow, reduce blood pressure

• Fewer hospital admissions for heart disease, cancer and infectious diseases

• Can reduce addictive behaviours – drugs, alcohol, caffeine