Stay healthy and sane as a trader | by Dimitrios Gourtzilidis | The Capital

I personally like to separate my overall health into five categories. Mind, body, emotions, ‘spirit,’ and social are those categories.

The brain is the most important organ in the human body. The average brain uses the biggest percentage of our body’s resources like oxygen, and, as Morpheus from the popular film, “the Matrix” said, “The body cannot live without the mind.” It is very important then to sustain our brain’s health in the long run. My personal opinion is that we need to classify the needs of our brain into three categories. These are…

  1. Input / Learning
  2. Processing / Fantasy & Arts
  3. Output / Expressing

Our brain works as a machine, or as a function inside a software program. It requires input, and through our five senses, the brain receives everything it requires. Our job is then to filter the inputs that we take. We need to do an “information diet.”

We currently live in the “information age,” and pieces of information are widely, and most of the time freely, available all around us. Television channels wrap up news facts with overamplified emotional triggers. These will get our attention and will hook us into the broadcast so that they will sell their advertisements, and as a popular saying goes, “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

You can start diving into the “art of clear thinking” by reading “The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan” and the “Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt.” These books will teach you how to think scientifically, filter the nonsenses, and understand the “cause and result” in every situation.

Processing, arts, and fantasy are the second category. The brain has been made to process information and NOT to store them. The human memory is utterly flawed. A reason why we should not store information into our brains is that memories are entirely constructed by our brains. If a negative event happens in our 20s, one week later, we will remember it clearly. After 10 years, memories will start to fade out, and our brain will start connecting the dots by itself in order to rescue the remains of the memory. In our 80s, it will also take a positive feeling. Memories are also reinforced by emotions, and that by itself tells us that our memories should not be trusted.

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We should “think on paper” instead. Store all of our pieces of information, thoughts, and memories into other means. A big plus here is that we need to train our brains constantly. These exercises help also in Alzheimer’s disease. Flashcards, memory games, puzzles, and others should be also included here.

As far as the last category goes, humans are social creatures and need to output information. I believe that every human should learn how to output information correctly. A big prerequisite here is that both input and processing from above will help us hugely in the correct way of expressing ourselves. A simple form that everybody can learn how to do is content creation. Writing texts, recording videos and audio, but also arts, in general, help us to bring our inners selfs into the world. Remember “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” So the next time that you are going to judge yourself about your creations, think that talent does not matter!

In early 1900, Lewis Terman created the first form of an IQ test. Now we know that IQ is just one of the many factors that define intelligence. Another one is EQ or Emotional Intelligence.

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Our brain consists of three parts, the reptilian brain, the limbic brain, and the neocortex. The reptilian brain is the oldest part and it is responsible for our compulsiveness. The limbic part has evolved on top of the older reptilian part and this is where emotions are created. The neocortex is the part of the brain that makes us humans. Logic is derived from this part.

Humans have the natural need for self-sustainability or, simply put it, the “try not to die” instinct. We have a natural tendency, from many, to seek food in order to sustain ourselves. After the industrialization age, we created a plethora of food, in fact, we have more than what we need. Carbohydrates and fats were a scarce resource back when we were cavemen, but today it is a commodity. Our brain hasn’t caught up with all this technological evolution, so our natural tendency to look for foods that combine fats and carbohydrates is still there. Today, our reptilian brain produces a signal of hunger, the limbic brain creates the emotion of hunger and suggests that chocolate (for example) would be the perfect choice since it includes all the fundamental nutrients (mostly carbohydrates in form of sugar, fats from dairy products, and a little bit of protein). So, the emotion and the urge is being created. Neocortex receives this urge and argues that fruit would be more ideal because it is healthier, although it contains only carbohydrates. The fight has begun. We start to think that the fruit is healthier but also duller in taste. Chocolate, on the other hand, has a far better taste.

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This is through an everyday example of how emotions are roughly being created. Logic has less power than emotions, and in most cases, we are driven by emotions. Learning how to manage our emotions is a lifelong process and the solution cannot be expressed in a single article. A tip, in my humble opinion, would be to try and be aware of the impulses that your body creates on a daily basis and try to not overthink the solution to satisfy these impulses. The more time a negative emotion has in our brain, the more powerful it becomes. Know the outcome you want to achieve, plan your way there, close your eyes, and act on your plan. Overthinking is more often than not the problem.

Our body is created to move. Back when we were cavemen, we used to run every day. To hunt, or to work on our crops, the movement was a big part of our lives. Today most major economies combine an automated system of production to cover their needs and a strong service economy for their exports. This creates more and more jobs that require us to be in a sitting position. This has a tremendous effect on our bodies. Below you can find all kinds of workouts in order to reverse the effect that our modern lifestyle has on us.

In this category are included all the workout movements that use our bodyweight as resistance. Pushups are maybe the most popular exercise in this category. A modern form of a bodyweight workout is calisthenics, and Frank Medrano is one of the best in this section. Put your headphones on, check the volume, and enjoy a calisthenics demonstration from Frank Medrano below.

In this category, we would include jogging, marathon running, and all these exercises that do not necessarily include a form of resistance, and they mainly focus to train the hearth and our respiratory system. A modern form of aerobic training that, in my opinion, train our bodies better than plain jogging is called HIIT — High-Intensity Interval Training. An example of a HIIT workout will include five minutes of jogging, and three minutes of our 80% maximum capacity of running, and both intervals repeated five or more times. The programs that we (in Europe) often see on American television or in most cases HIIT workouts. Below is my favorite program.

Mobility is the category of exercises that help one, for example, to achieve a full split, also know as Spagat. It took me too long to understand this, but these fundamental movements are a must for everybody, and they must be included in our daily routines. Below is a demonstration of those exercises.

Either in a gym or with a set of dumbbells, weight training is movements under the resistance of weight.

This might be the most popular form of workout, and it needs no further explanation. Let us instead build a basic workout plan to follow as an outtake of this article. We start by combining many single muscles under a bigger category. The muscles in this category are cooperating under the same movement. These categories will include the legs, the abdominal muscles, the back muscles, the chest muscles, the shoulders, the biceps, the triceps, and the forearms. Under these categories, we will now put some basic exercises.

Leg Press, Leg Extensions, Seated Leg Curls, Seated Calf Raise, Thigh Adductor, and Thigh Abductor

Ab Crunch Machine, Russian Twist, Exercise Ball Crunch, and Exercise Ball Pull-In,

Seated Back Extension, Dumbbell Incline Row, Dumbbell Shrug, One-Arm Dumbbell Row, and Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown,

Cable Crossover, Butterfly, Incline Dumbbell Press, and Pushups,

Standing Palms-In Dumbbell Press, Power Partials, and Reverse Flyes,

Hammer Curls, Concentration Curls, One Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl, and Dumbbell Prone Incline Curl,

Standing Dumbbell Triceps Extension, Tricep Dumbbell Kickback, Decline Dumbbell Triceps Extension, and Machine Triceps Extension,

Seated One-Arm Dumbbell Palms-Up Wrist Curl,


Mobility (morning), Legs — Quads, Shoulders (afternoon)


Mobility (morning), Push Muscle Groups — Chest, Triceps, Abdominals (afternoon)


Mobility (morning), Pull Muscle Groups — Back, Biceps, Abdominals (afternoon)


Mobility (morning), Legs — Quads, Shoulders (afternoon)


Mobility (morning), Push Muscle Groups — Chest, Triceps, Abdominals (afternoon)


Mobility (morning), Pull Muscle Groups — Back, Biceps, Abdominals (afternoon)


Rest or Mobility or Stretching

There are four basic nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, fat, and alcohol. Protein, carbohydrates, and alcohol all have four calories per gram, and fats have nine calories per gram. In the protein category, one can find chicken, fish, beef, etc. Carbohydrates are rice, bread, etc. Avocado, olive oil, chicken skin, and meat fat can all be categorized as fats. A safe bet is for us to take our calories for 40% carbohydrates (also known as simply carbs) 30% from protein, and 30% from fats.

The Food in Action, in collaboration with the Institut Paul Lambin in Belgium, have created the revised food pyramid that includes:

In the above image, we can see that exercise should be the biggest part of our lifestyle, then water, coffee, tea, etc. After that, fruit and vegetable should take the biggest portion of our plate. Carbohydrates are the following. Then protein and dairy products, then fats, and at the top are sweets and snacks.

Another general rule of thumb is to eat foods that are low in the Glycemic index. The lower in the list, the better.

Measuring our weight does not mean as much as most people think. First of all, the ideal time to measure our weight is first thing in the morning, after 6–8 hours of sleep, and ideally without any clothes. Only then our measurement is more accurate, with an empty stomach and no other weight on us. Secondly, the bigger the muscle mass of a person, the more weight he or she has. A professional strongman can be 120 Kg and be as lean as it gets. He will weigh so much just because of his muscle mass. Measuring our BMI — Body Mass Index is the right index that we should measure. The problem is that BMI is accurate only under the following circumstances.

The image has been taken from —

Everything besides hydrostatic weighting would be a rough estimate. There are countless tutorials on how to measure it on the web. Here is one from the website

Since about 75% of the brain is made up of water, water plays a vital role in our health. Water helps all chemicals to mix and merge together, forming reactions, and producing more chemical combinations. It is very important then to drink two to three liters daily. A rule of thumb is that whenever you feel hungry, you might be in need of water and not of food.

The spirit part of the equation will include things like religion and/or faith, meditation, philosophy, etc. Those things will help us put ourselves inside the cosmic pool. Are we as important to the universe as we think? How is the meaning of each one’s life? The answers to the above question, as well as countless other questions, will guide us to create a path in our lives and to choose the choices that we will make in our lives, both long-term and short term.

There are countless types of meditation. Ray Dalio, the famous hedge fund manager, has repeatedly said that meditating daily had the biggest impact on his career and life. A rough definition of meditation would be, the emptying of our mind from thoughts, and focusing on a simple and automated process of our body, such as the breath. This will help our mind to organize itself and to learn how to focus on things that matter to us.

This controversial topic also helps us to put a perspective on our lives. Like all things in nature, faith, and/or religion have produced good and bad things. This article is not here to say what you should believe, but instead to take the good stuff from everything and to create your own belief system. I personally do not judge if the story of Jesus in the second testament is historically accurate and/or correct, neither I attach any other meaning to it. If we analyze this story as simply as a story then, in my opinion, we take a value system that if humanity followed, we would have had a better world right now.

The bottom line is that religion is based on belief and as the word itself means, we choose to believe or not, or to believe something else. There is no right or wrong. There is only personal opinion.

I don’t think that I need to explain many things on the topic of philosophy. Philosophy is the start of everything we do. If we philosophize and ‘conclude’ that we live in a cruel world that is about to end, we will act very differently than if we thought that the world around us is blooming with innovation and possibilities. Under philosophy is the molar code of each other created. What does it mean wrong and what is right? A great philosophical movement to research is the stoic movement and the teachings of Marcus Aurelius, the embodiment of a philosopher king, as Plato imagined the ideal type of a leader.

Science today has discovered how we humans have evolved from apes. Back then as like today, we humans were social creatures. Even today our cousin-species the chimpanzees live in groups. We have the need to share our inner world with our fellow “Homo-Sapiens Sapiens.” It is healthy then, to create a circle of people that like to hang out with, help each other, and more. Family, friends, and coworkers are among our default social groups since the day we were born. The problem is that in many cases, we do not share common interests with the above-mentioned groups.

Today, technology has solved this problem with virtual online communities. Social media, forums, and other websites solve out social needs. It is healthy to share ideas, personal projects, and opinions and expect feedback from the members of those sites.

The mistake that we often do is that we compare us with what we see in those communities. Studies have shown that social media usage can cause depression and other psychological diseases.

One cause of such diseases is comparison. My argument is that an individual has an infinite amount of variables that defined him or her. For example, someone might have born in Europe, raised in the US, like mechanical engineering, have parents 20 years older than him or her who also likes mechanical engineering, speaking french, like pistachio, taste ice cream, and more. Some of these variables are defined by us and some are defined by our genes. This individual is not comparable to any other individual.

Also if we’ve just started, for example, to learn how to cook, it is not healthy to compare ourselves with someone who cooks for 10 years.

If we put these negatives aside, sharing knowledge and enthusiasm have helped humans to evolve. From teaching each other how to fight diseases to how to use a certain tool, humans survived and thrived by being social.

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