Mindfulness for Traders

The research of Amishi Jha, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami, suggests that meditation is effective because it enhances our attention and increases working memory, giving us greater control of the information, we select and deselect.  This can be seen in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which adds mindful awareness to traditional cognitive work,… helping subjects to change not only what they think about, but also how they filter incoming information.

But can meditation boost the performance of traders and investors in financial markets?

An item on Forbes.com says: “In mastering meditation we can calm the nervous system by cutting out noise, increasing our reflection, and instilling gratitude. … yet the brain is not naturally wired for decisions in financial markets, distracting us from the meta-knowledge—the awareness of what we know and don’t know—essential to operating under conditions of risk and uncertainty. Could it be the case that meditation does not benefit traders simply by calming them down, but by improving their processing of the present moment? Just as powerful as fear and greed are regret and worry. Regret keeps us anchored in the past; worry projects our concerns about the future. By improving reflection and increasing access to meta-knowledge, meditation may ground us in the present, improving our perception of what is actually happening in the here-and-now of markets.” Here.  

So I looked for research to back this up: this paper from Thailand (2018) “The Role of Mindfulness Meditation on Stock Trading Performance” investigated the relationship between mediation and performance in 226 traders to answer this question. Here

The research showed that enhanced trading performance is dependent up on:

  • increased “trading discipline”,
  • reduced “panic selling”
  • and reduced “overreaction to news”.

The research showed that increased “trading discipline” and reduced “overreaction to news” were correlated with the level of mediation practice.  Reduction panic selling was correlated with the level of mediation practice yet was not statistically significant in this study.  Overall there was a positive correlation between trading performance and the level of meditation practice.

This makes sense – we can see that trading discipline is important – to avoid biases such as “sunk cost bias” (clinging on to a position rather than redeploying investment elsewhere). The research states:

Overall, the analysis shows that mindfulness meditation practice correlates with the ability of individuals to enhance focus, to promote mental clarity, and to effectively regulate and stabilize emotions; all of these factors are important for investors to maintain strong discipline in trading.

In particular, the positive association between mindfulness meditation and trading discipline provides support to prior research which reported the benefits of mindfulness meditation in helping individuals effectively regulate their own behaviours. Moreover, the results regarding the negative relationship between mindfulness meditation and overreaction to news and panic selling during stock trading are consistent with research which has shown that practicing mindfulness meditation can improve the cognitive process and promote rational decision making.  Specifically, these findings are consistent with research which shows that practicing mindfulness meditation helped lower the chance of individuals to commit sunk cost bias. They are in line with the research which has shown that mindfulness meditation practice tended to lower emotional interference on a cognitive task.

Many years ago, a remember meeting with a manager of a currency trading team who was seeking was to use automated trading. He commented that once his human traders had encountered a significant loss event then they were “never the same”.  He presumed that computers would be less impacted by such negative events.  The research above did not look at such situation but I wonder if meditation practice might better prepare traders for such adverse events so that they are less likely to allow the recollections and emotions to be carried forward and effect their subsequent performance.

So, if you want to enhance the performance of traders then introduce them to meditation – think about it.

Research shows Mindfulness will help those diagnosed with Cancer and those close to them.

At Carina Sciences we are currently working on RezlCare, a version of our Rezl app, aimed at cancer patients and those close to them.  RezlCare provides information, advice and psychological support.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a traumatic experience –  and the treatment plan may bring many unknows as patients undertake ongoing tests and scans.  The cancer treatments themselves may cause side effects, anxieties and fatigue; and even at the end of treatment, patients may often feel a little “lost” as the regular routine of clinic appointments falls away.  RezlCare includes a toolbox containing sessions to address many of the challenges and emotions that are encountered throughout a treatment journey.

And the emotional rollercoaster is not confined to the patients – family members, or these close to patients, may also experience many of the same emotions.  In RezlCare we have included advice and support for those close to someone diagnosed with cancer.


What does the science say?

In preparation for the launch of RezlCare, I have been gathering research on the impact of mindfulness upon cancer patients.

The research shows that mindfulness significantly reduces anxiety and depression with cancer patients as well as providing a longer-term increase in metal wellbeing and an enhanced quality of life.  Mindfulness is shown to reduce the impact of fatigue (during and after treatment) and to improve immune system response.  Mindfulness is effective in reducing sleep problems including insomnia. In the longer term, Mindfulness shows reduced “fear or reoccurrence” and an increased “tolerance of uncertainly”.

These findings are summarised from  a 2019 Meta Analysis – looking research into the effectiveness of mindfulness for cancer patients – Mehta et al (New York). Here.

[Note that as one might expect, a reduction in stress improves immune response – and trials have biomarkers to demonstrate this effect – however we are not planning to use this research in our messaging as we wish to present RezlCare as a support rather than as therapy.]

A 2018 Dutch study published in  The Journal of Clinical Oncology – Compton et al  –  “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Psychological Distress in Patients With Cancer” show results for a trial. Here.

The trial involving 245 breast patients exhibiting, with “psychological distress” defined by a score ≥ 11 on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). It contrasted eMBCT, “face to face MBCT with “treatment as usual”. The “eMBCT group” achieved a HADS reduction from 17.24 to 11.87 – almost eliminating “psychological distress” in comparison with a “treatment as usual” group which produced a small change in HADS score from 17.04 at baseline to 16.37 .  The eMBCT proved slightly more effective than face to face MBCT.  The researcher commented that “Compared with treatment as usual, MBCT and eMBCT were similarly effective in reducing psychological distress in a sample of distressed heterogeneous patients with cancer.”


So, mindfulness will offer many benefits to those being treated for cancer – but does it help to reduce the possibility of a re-occurrence of cancer? Turns out …it does

I was interested to read this 2018 paper (Modica and Hoenig) that looks at the effectiveness of mindfulness (MBSR a precursor to the MBCT used within RezlCare) in helping to reduce the reoccurrence of breast cancer.  It appears that mindfulness it shown to increase compliance with lifestyle changes and ongoing monitoring to reduce the likelihood of a reoccurrence. This makes sense as we know that mindfulness both increases executive function (willpower to stick to some change) and to reduced negative thoughts that might cause patients to put off monitoring appointments.  So in these ways Mindfulness helps patients to reduce the possibility of re-occurrence of cancer. Here.

The researchers concluded that “It is clear that several behavioural factors related to one’s lifestyle such as physical activity, diet, BMI, smoking, and alcohol consumption have an impact on the risk of breast cancer recurrence. A change in lifestyle after breast cancer diagnosis can thus have a powerful impact on prognosis.  However, many patients do not implement healthier habits after diagnosis.  …Mindfulness offers a great number of health benefits for patients ranging from enhanced coping skills and various quality of life improvements to reductions in psychopathological symptomatology including anxiety and depression. Given that psychopathologies like depression or anxiety disorders have been indirectly associated with increased overall morbidity and mortality, it might be reasonable to speculate that mindfulness practice may also be beneficial in the course of breast cancer.”


If you or someone you know is dealing with cancer and would like to try RezlCare then please email me  at simon@carinascineces.com.