Psychology | Lifestyle

How I improve my mental health as a (day)trader

March 21 2022

Tricks for mental health improvement that proved successful for me.



This article is a blog-style article and is void of investment advice.

Introduction

Me as I am writing this article: so you know who is actually talking to you here.

   While analysis is foundational to trading, I dare to suggest that my most important skills are physiological ones: they are about how much energy I have, how well I can regulate my emotions and how clear I can keep my mind.

  I think it is fair to say that, in trading advice, the importance of these physiological skills are neglected. That’s why I hope to help rebalance this theoretical ‘arbitrage’ (a financial term suggesting discrepancy) in this article. The tricks are categorized in chapters and I’ve made an attempt to make this piece a stellar ‘natural read’ that just tells a story about myself and my challenges.

  When I feel good, my trading is good. I think clearer, my thoughts are less erratic and I am more likely to feel the ‘I know this is right’ confidence in my trading decisions.

 &ensp So, here are the ways in which I improve my mental health. Perhaps you can use it as inspiration for yóur trading potential and your personal lifestyle. Do remember that every person is different and that my success-factors may not have an effect on you.

Breakfast

    Did you know that habits are more neurological and automatic than conscious? Even if you have the will to change your lifestyle, actually doing so takes dedicated steps over a long stretch of time.

  However, the thing that helped me most strongly - out of all the advice in this article - is to have a solid daily structure. Renowned psychologist Jordan peterson said in a video that his best remedy for anxiety is a simple good breakfast.

  God, I thank Jordan for many things. But, this advice has had the most profound effect on me. It sounds stupid, but, indeed from the first week of heeding to this advice, I saw a miraculous decrease in my anxiety levels. To this day, it puzzles me how profound it is to start every morning with a slow-brew, 'me-time' breakfast.

a cup of coffee

The consistency of a nice breakfast worked wonders for me

Morning rituals

  Driven by my fondness of Jordan Peterson's advice and its results, I added some more morning rituals, that I now utterly enjoy doing. They are - if this doesn't sound too dumb - some of the highlights of my day:

  • Brush my teeth and breathe
  • Smile at myself in the mirror
  • Make sure my bed is somewhat clean
  • Ensuring good desk infrastructure: pen basket and other things instantly accessible

  I know that some traders assemble a watchlist before markets open. Some go so far as to stick to the stocks on that list alone. A ritual like that has not worked for me, but I just wanted to drop it here, so you can draw some inspiration from it.

Slow movement

  Because of my ADHD inclinations and high metabolism I recurringly fall into the trap of wanting to do everything fast. This haste is a great asset in day-trading and makes me enthusiastic to learn, but it also makes me prone to anxiety, loss of oversight and other similar effects. So, I constantly focus on doing the following things, especially when I feel that my anxiety kicks up:

  • I need to slow down and focus on the present. The philosophy of the Japanese Tea Ceremony tought me to have my full attention to the one thing that I am doing at the moment. Even when I am busy, I can steal 2 minutes out of my day to just closely focus on my pen and breathe while I am writing something.
  • Compartmentalise the things I do: working in structures helps me retain mental clarity. When I am all over the place, that's when I fall into the trap of doing everything fast: my loss of direction and lack of trust in myself for seeing things through subconsciously makes me compensate by rushing
  • I have to take a break from trading once in a while, even if it makes me miss out on opportunities. When I am incredibly anxious or feel bad, an hour-long walk outside really does wonders. Sometimes a full day of no trading proved profitable to me, funny as that may sound. After a day of just sitting in the sun and maybe talking to some person, I have such immmense mental clarity and confidence... I find it quite incredible.

Consistency

  I noticed that improving my physiological health and mentality is a week-to-week endeavour. I can't cheat my way into feeling confident and healthy.

  It's nice that the profitability of health also helps my own personal happiness: just a couple of key steps have drastically improved my overall happiness. This profit driven self-help makes me think of this quote here:

"Trading doesn't just reveal your character, it also builds it if you stay in the game long enough" (from How to cultivate equanimity in the face of market uncertainty by Yvan Byeajee)

  It's a quote that really makes you think, but I ultimately disagree with it: my journey is about proactivity. I should not let the market lead mé, but I should only engage when I am ready for the market. I trade from a position of happiness, physical health and mental fortitude.

Pscychological struggles

  Things in your real life undoubtedly affect your trading capacity. It may be a divorce or another life event. But it may also be some disorder like PTSD.

   I am very fortunate that I don't deal with severe psychological stressors. But, something that occassionally inhibits me, is that I have spurs of excessive guilt. They are vivid flashbacks of me making a fool out of myself or being an annoying prick to others.

  I realized that the only way to tackle these spurs of guilt is to move slower (as explained above) and to live more honest and respectful.

  • I diagnosed myself as having an order like ADHD. That is why I devised the following rule: when I feel overwhelmed by all the options and can't achieve mental clarity, I ensure that I make things very simple. It is at these points that I only trade well-known stocks, I conduct few trades, I restrain myself to easy trades (no trades where I am uncertain of the outcome) and I invest with a conscious amount of (less) capital.

Trauma release

  I deal with some trauma. I find it energising to victoriously address these dark memories inside me. That is, I am able to sit in the pain, breathe and notice that this pain does not affect me anymore. I am just in the present.

  • If you find something truly unjust, it is best to address it. When I don't immediately address things, they can amalgamate exponentially. Yes, head-on conversation is difficult. But, practice makes perfect. A great piece of advice I got is that it's good to use terms like 'that makes me feel x' or 'i feel that'.
  • If something does not sit well inside of me, I like to write my feeligs down.
  • Besides talking-and-writing therapy I have had tremendous success with more abstract forms of therapy. I have had the tremendous luck of coming across a therapist practicing somatic experiencing. I was sceptical of therapy through body movements, but wow did it help me like no other therapy ever did.
  • There are alternative healing methods to bodily healing too. I like to act as if I were my token animal while/or literally shake the stress out of my body in impulsive movements; those are things I learned from Native American cultures.

Own tempo

  It is important to know that yóu are the one working for money. A kitchen only has room for one chef. While others cán be an asset I have assembled the following rules of thumb that I try to live by:

  • I try not to be envious or compare myself to others. I really seek out truth and rigor. I also just focus on developing mý own trading style.
  • I can hear others talk, but the actual analysis, research and contemplation is purely done on my side. To me, I find it quite nice to live my life as somewhat of an 'Einzelgänger' (he who walks alone). As Einstein said: "I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity" and "Be a Loner, That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living"
  • Adding onto that rule of thumb: I don't engage in investment discussions. I notice that talking ruins my clarity of mind. So, while my conversation partner jitters non-stop, I make sure to purely think and re-affirm my own beliefs inside my head. I dont like to be affected in any way by what other people say, because I have a really good ability to lay out counter-arguments to my standpoint in an impartial way. All in all, when talking to people, I may sometimes listen to some pointers that they have, but I am the one who's doing my own considerations. They have nothing to do with it.

Additional tips

Natural light and natural elements may positively affect your functioning

  For the last segment of this categorized list of mental health tricks, I have assembled some miscelaneous lifehacks to mental health.

  • Having plants or even naturally-looking elements around you can improve your mental health. In academic research this is known as biophilia. In traditional Asian design, this has a lot to do with Feng Shui.
  • I enjoy wearing my headphones everywhere. There will always be loud talkers and other annoyances.
  • Act the part of mental fortitude. I notice that when I stand up-right and communicate 'as if' I had mental fotitude, I actually improve my mental state with, I'd say, 30-40%. What's more, I notice that people around me behave so differently when I move slow and act confident: I get smiles, people actually may approach me for conversation and I strengthen my 'I-can-do-it-without-you' mentality
  • Take care of your body. Do the cliché things like exercising, eating well and drinking enough. Even if you make marginal gains, that's fine. But, if you make increméntal marginal gains, that's awesome! The goal here is achieving the threshold of a decently healthy life. That's it.
  • Abstaining from sugar always increases my energy levels in the long run. The point is to sit through your body's withdrawal symptoms for a week or two.
  • I believe that some specific quality products are a must. You don't have to be the next Marques Brownlee, but just buy a speedy phone (mine was 300 Euros), non-sneaker shoes (I only wear Saentis Lows by mammut) and a capable computer. I believe that things like these really improve a person's analytical skills, risk mitigation and convenience levels .
  • An old trading advice is to keep a high libido. Abstaining for some time has always had good results on my energy levels.
  • When travelling, I often ensure I have back-up water and food. If I take bad care of myself for one day, it bleeds into the whole week to come. Sometimes it is good to take a 10 minute break from driving so that you can walk or eat a sandwich. When in public transport, just have optimal access to the things you want and know exactly what you are doing. That way I mitigate the risk of being annoyed out of my mind.
  • Have fun. Have fun in life. Have fun in trading. Even if it is hard, just try and enjoy tiny little moments. That's all.

Closing remark

  Those were the all the mental tricks I use to be my best self. I sincerely hope you found this insight into my method inspiring, and that it can help you in some shape, way or form.