Senior Mindset Coach at Samuel and Co Trading. While studying and practising many energy healing systems spanning 40 years (EFT, TAT, TCM, Yuen Method, NLP, Applied Kinesiology, Qigong etc). He gained qualifications in Massage, Reflexology, Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy. His goal is to continue to help his clients experience freedom from life’s emotional trauma, stress, negativity, limiting beliefs and to holistically balance the Mind, Body and Spirit.
Hi everyone, welcome back to my weekly article. In this article, I want to cover the subject of Mirror Neurons and why they’re important to you for many reasons.
Mirror neurons are a set of special brain cells. What makes them distinct from other brain cells is that they fire (triggered) both when performing a certain action and when observing another person performing the same action. They play a critical function in learning and explain why we experience empathy.
Mirror neurons were originally discovered during experiments on macaque monkeys in the 1980s by Italian neuroscientist Dr. Rizzolatti, an Italian Neurophysiologist and professor at the University of Parma in Italy. The researchers found that certain individual neurons would only respond to very specific actions. A neuron that fired when the monkey grasped a peanut would also fire ‘mirror’ only when the experimenter grasped a peanut. When we watch somebody do something, our mirror neurons start firing as if we’re experiencing the actions ourselves and we start to have the same brain processes as they do. Mirror neurons allow us to experience and engage with other people. This enables us to “read” other people’s thoughts, feelings and intentions and engage with other peoples mental states. The activity of mirror neurons probably explains why we can so easily empathise emotionally while watching peoples behaviour in movies, listening to the radio or double-up and cringe when we watch YouTube stunts going wrong.
These mirror neurons are theorised to be responsible for explaining how humans have evolved so quickly, our social dynamics and interacting with one another, the passing on of skills such as fire-lighting, creating tools, language and has shaped the foundation of civilisation itself and how we perceive the world today.
Mirror neurons are activated when we learn something new by watching how somebody else does it. Thus we learn by imitation, “mirroring” another person’s actions. This is evident when watching babies and infants imitating those around them. Mirror neuron activity is said to begin as young as three weeks of age. This process starts the neural connections in order to perform the task. However, the constant watching or visualising of someone performing a task does not increase our ability to perform that task any better, we must practice, practice and practice in order to strengthen the neural connection in order to develop the skill.
While the ability to empathise through the firing of mirror neurons can help lower stress and beneficial in learning new skills or encouraging you to practice more by watching somebody enjoying themselves playing an instrument, it can also be detrimental. Watching a violent film excites certain people while others look away in disgust and the same is true for romantic films. Empathy through the firing of mirror neurons while listening to calming music can help reduce stress levels, whilst the opposite is true when watching violence and horror films. Be aware of what you’re watching or listening to as it can alter how you think and feel about anything by affecting your neural network.
The old saying of ‘choose your friends wisely’ has more meaning when you understand the firing of mirror neurons. Copying and imitating the feelings and actions of those you spend the most time with will be a big influencer and may give understanding why knife crime is on the increase and gang culture is so prevalent. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people that make you feel happy releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Whilst the opposite is true for upsetting situations that can release stress hormones or inflammation in the body resulting in a decline in cognition, mood and health effects in the long run.
You also rely on the mirror neuron process when searching through reviews left on hotel and holiday destination websites. If the reviews are good then, by default, you feel that you will enjoy the location as well. If any reviews are bad, then, you are quick to take on board their comments and move on to another site. Effective communicators and influencers, whether story-telling, marketing, training, advertising, selling or simply telling jokes have to be engaging, meaningful and interactive, thus influencing the audience’s thoughts, feelings and emotions through the mirror neuron process, building rapport and drawing them deeper and deeper into the experience to the point where they believe anything they say.
So now you understand the function of mirror neurons; they create new neural networks and reinforce existing networks through repetition or by observing someone else performing the same task. But what good is it and how can I utilise this phenomenon for beneficial purposes and, will it make a difference if I do? The word that I’ve purposely left out of this article so far is ‘visualisation’, the ability to create pictures and images in your ‘mind’s eye’ with your eyes open or closed. The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what is real or imagined, and when the pictures and images are combined with sight, sound and feeling the mirror neurons will fire and create or strengthen the neural network. But you’re still wondering if this is all fantasy and can really help you? So let me share with you an experiment to illustrate just how effective this process is.
A study conducted by Dr. Biasiotto at the University of Chicago was done where he split a basketball team into three groups and tested each group on how many free throws they could make.
After this, he had the first group practice free throws every day for an hour.
The second group just visualised themselves making free throws.
The third group did nothing.
After 30 days, he tested them again.
The first group improved by 24%.
The second group improved by 23% without touching a basketball!!!!
The third group did not improve which was expected.
So as you can see from this experiment that although the neural network was already established through the practice of throwing the ball into the net, the process of visualisation fired the mirror neurons, thus reinforcing and strengthening the neural network and improving the player’s skill. What’s important is that you need to practice both the mental rehearsal technique of visualisation and the physical practice. So let’s apply this principle to your daily trading.
So let’s set the scene. I want you to see yourself in the 3rd person and just imagine standing behind yourself as an observer watching yourself trading at the terminal. See yourself calm and relaxed, focused and in the ‘zone’ paying attention to the support and resistance lines, following the trend, waiting for the correct candlestick to appear before entering the trade, following all your rules. Then, while feeling calm, confident and relaxed while following the trade, letting the trade run to take maximum profit and closing the trade when the right candlestick appears. Now, once you’ve created this picture, this image in your mind, move forward and melt into and become yourself. See yourself trading, hear all the noises around you of people talking but paying attention to your trades, while feeling calm, confident and relaxed. Mentally rehearse and visualise this process every day without fail. Make it part of your daily ritual before you start trading and see how your trading changes. You can, of course, apply this process to any sport or activity that you would like to improve.
The action of mindfulness, meditation, keeping a positive mindset, exercising and surrounding yourself with like-minded friends, will, by default, release your feel-good neurotransmitters and have long-term beneficial effects on your health.
Hopefully, you found this article different and insightful and gives you yet another area of thought to focus and change your life. As always, I hope you have enjoyed the input. I look forward to seeing any discussions and interaction from the community.