Of real relevance for traders is this statement from Chaskalson in ‘The Mindful Workplace’. ‘Mindfulness practice promotes mindful responding as opposed to mindless reacting to events’. In trading terms, traders who are more mindful will be more able to respond to the market rather than simply react to their thoughts and emotions experienced as an outcome of the market. Most impulsive, self-defeating or self-destructive behaviours are attempts to escape, avoid or get rid of unwanted thoughts and feelings and mindfulness based approaches can be very helpful with improving this.

“When I am trading it is like I am watching from outside myself, a 3rd person perspective.”Commodities Trader Post-Mindfulness Coaching

Mindfulness Training

“Mindfulness is a habit, it’s something the more one does, the more likely one is to be in that mode with less and less effort...It’s a skill that can be learned. It’s accessing something we already have. Mindfulness isn’t difficult. What is difficult is remembering to be mindful.” John Teasdale, Leading Mindfulness Researcher.

Mindfulness is a skill and as Teasdale states a habit, it is an action, and to get better at it you need to practice it. There are many ways in which you can practise your mindfulness, too many to go into in this article. If you were to go on a mindfulness course then central to your learning would be a formal sitting meditation where you would learn to still your mind and experience some calm, although there are many different kinds of mindfulness practice including lying, and even walking ones. Mindfulness can also be introduced into your everyday life by taking time to eat, drink and even exercise more mindfully, paying attention to your experience.

Exercise: Mindfulness of Breathing

In this practice you are going to use your breath as a focus of your attention. The aim is to sit comfortably and then simply allow your attention to settle on the sensations of your breathing, following the rhythm and speed of your breath, the movements of your chest and abdomen, feeling the flow of air in and out, just noticing. When your mind wanders – as my own mindfulness teacher Michael Chaskalson author of ‘The Mindful Workplace ‘likes to remind me ‘as minds do’ – just notice where it went and then ‘gently and kindly’ bring your attention back to the breath. This process is exactly the same one as I utilised with athletes to develop their attentional skills – it has great benefits for both sustaining attention, recognising when you are distracted, and learning to refocus quickly. It also of course as you now know has many other benefits as listed previously in terms of awareness, behavioural control and enhanced emotional regulation to name a few.

Using your breath as a point of focus has two distinct advantages. Firstly that it is always with you and so you can perform the practice anywhere. Secondly that your physical and emotional state will be reflected in your breathing, giving you a subtle awareness of your state, and allowing you develop greater emotional awareness. This process is the repeated for a period of time which could be as short as 60 seconds if you are performing a ‘Mindful Minute’ - which is a great way to centre, refocus and rebalance prior or after a specific event, or to build you number of mindfulness minutes over the day – or could extend up to 10 -20 minutes or more. In sports psychology we typically used time frames of 10-20 minutes with athletes for attention training and if you are a trader with a busy life and demands on your time then committing to a daily practice of something within this region might be a great starting point. Studies have shown that even as little as 20 minutes of practice over 5 days can produce positive benefits. I generally encourage my own clients to aim for 10 minutes per day.

Mindful Mowing – How One Trader Developed His Own Mindfulness Practice

I was discussing the concept of mindfulness with a trader client of mine who then recounted how he has one task each week that he likes to see completed from start to finish without interruption – mowing the grass. He told me of how he ensures that his family knows that he is not to be interrupted and then how he goes about slowly cutting the grass, pushing the mower up and down the lawn, taking in the smell of the fresh cut grass, hearing the sound of the engine. A direct and mindful experience.

Becoming A Mindful Trader

There are many possibilities for including mindfulness into your trading. I have given a couple of ideas below.

• Use quick mindfulness interventions before trading to center/prepare e.g. ‘a mindful minute.

• If you find your mind or emotions racing away with you during your trading take a moment or two to focus on your breathing and bring yourself back to the present.

• Use mindfulness of the breath longer sessions to train and develop mindfulness more formally; start with 2-3 minutes per day, building to 5 and eventually 10 minutes, or more.

I’d like to finish this article with a quote from leading mindfulness researcher John Teasdale in reference to developing your mindfulness abilities…

“Mindfulness is a habit, it’s something the more one does, the more likely one is to be in that mode with less and less effort...It’s a skill that can be learned. It’s accessing something we already have. Mindfulness isn’t difficult. What is difficult is remembering to be mindful.”

From simply paying more attention to your experience, to mindful minutes and 10 minute plus mindfulness practices there are many opportunities to develop mindfulness, to rewire your brain and achieve the benefits of improved awareness, attention, emotional regulation, behavioural control and enhanced trading decisions. The benefits are there, you just need to do the practice, just like getting physically fitter requires exercise, so does developing mind fitness.

Steve Ward
High Performance Global