What’s the deal with happiness and success?
Why is it that we live in such an amazing world, filled with blessings and opportunities, yet so few are happy?
You owe it to yourself and those who love you to be happy. You want to be successful for yourself and those who support and adore you. How do you do this? Where do you start? What comes first—happiness or success?
Studies show that it’s not an either/or situation. Happiness and success are connected in interesting and often counterintuitive ways. Talking about how success leads to happiness ignores half of the story. There is increasing scientific evidence that increasing happiness leads to success.
Let’s take this to trading and look for ways that success and happiness can be achieved and integrated. What can you do to get and keep both?
1. Talk to other traders. As a trader, you often feel isolated and alone. You think that no one really understands you or what you do. Get a trading buddy that you trust and can share with during the trading day. It really does help with the loneliness, and you might even teach each other something that can lead to profits. This leads to a bond of sharing that causes you to feel happy.
2. Have at least one person in your private life that supports you, no matter what happens during the trading day. This helps you get to the point where you feel loved and accepted whether you are winning or losing. When you get this kind of nurturing from another person, you feel happy and safe.
3. Make sure that you have other activities outside of trading. Exercising to a sweat is a fabulous way to stay happy and centered---and you can detox your body in the process. The happier you are, the more you will want to be happy. Exercise and activities that bring joy to you are self-reinforcing.
4. Resolve any and all conflicts in your life as quickly as possible. You will feel like a weight has been lifted from you. Talk it out, get it over with and let it go. If you do not resolve conflicts, they can turn into soap opera dramas and you will act them out on the stage of the financial markets. You will not be happy with the results. Why? Because the markets don’t know you. They don’t care about your conflicts and dramas. They see these as weaknesses and will exploit them. They see you as weak and attack you by taking your money. This is a self-sabotaging cycle that leads to more and more losses. Now, you are playing in the big bad markets and acting out your emotions of anger, abandonment, resentment or sadness. The markets will give you more of what you already have—misery. If you resolve your personal dramas, you approach the markets in a happier state of mind. You telegraph happiness into the markets and they leave you alone to do trade your plan and make money. Markets see happiness and positivity as something they really don’t want to mess with. Sadness and desperation---yes—they can and do mess with that.
5. Help others. When you are in a good mood, you are more likely to display what psychologists call "prosocial behavior." Help other traders if they ask for help. Help other people who genuinely need help. Be generous with your time and money. What you give comes back to you, often in ways that you least expect.
6. Eat food that elevates your mood. Food changes the chemical transmitters in your brain. Fish, chicken, beans and tofu contain tyrosine that leads to increased mental alertness. The folic acid in a glass of orange juice or a cup or spinach has antidepressant effects. Selenium in brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and tuna fish boosts happiness. Avoid fried food, junk food and most fast foods. They may feel “comforting” at the time, but are nothing but a quick fix that makes you fat and clogs your arteries. Blood must flow freely to the brain for peak performance, and clogged arteries block this flow of blood and oxygen.
7. Be more playful and creative. The brain thrives on novelty. Getting away from your daily routine causes new pathways to form in the brain. Even simple things like drying yourself differently after a shower or bath (first notice how you dry yourself the same way every time, then do it differently. It may surprise you and wake up your brain). Trading is an extension of the games we played as children. The best traders I know excel at some sport or game- chess, racquetball, dancing or poker. Playing games or sports causes the brain to make new connections. When the brain makes new connections it is better able to perform complex tasks like trading. Playfulness and competition enable you to develop your own edge in the markets.
The way you think about happiness and success profoundly affects your life. If you think that success mainly leads to happiness then you focus more on success to the exclusion of happiness. You assume that, once you are successful, you will be happy.
Research shows that the instruction is to pursue both—not one to the exclusion of the other. Feeling better in the moment is not only more pleasant but it will open your brain to opportunities in your trading, your play and your relationships. Recognizing and taking these opportunities will lead you to success and happiness—not necessarily in that order—but you will eventually get both!
Thanks and Good Trading!
Janice Dorn,M.D., Ph.D.