Focusing on your Breath

May 31, 2021 | Elaine Law


Keeping a clear and focused mind in life & investing

The role of an investment advisor and portfolio manager is a demanding one. We take care of our clients’ wealth and ensure it is invested appropriately according to their risk profiles, long-term objectives, and market conditions. At times, these factors don’t agree with each other and we have to educate our clients while managing their expectations.

For example, an investor that relies on their portfolio in retirement may be emotionally sensitive to short-term market fluctuations. With bonds paying historically low-interest rates, investors are increasingly drawn to dividend-paying equities. However, greater equity exposure begets greater portfolio fluctuations. Hence, these investors are caught in a dilemma where their preference is for capital preservation, however, their retirement objectives require more risk.  Here, an investment advisor’s task is to craft a ‘resilient’ portfolio with income and volatility expectations deemed acceptable to the investor. Often, more time is spent to educate clients on market trends and portfolio strategies that will equip them with the ability to stay calm and focus on long-term objectives. After all, frequently overriding one’s strategy is a reactionary approach that could prove detrimental over time. In the past, I wrote about discretionary accounts, which could be appropriate for certain investors who may lack the time or willingness to manage their own portfolio. (read: "What if Your Advisor Can't Find You?")

An investment advisor needs a calm and focused mind. For some, achieving this state of mind takes effort and practice. In my last blog, I wrote "7 Timeless Habits for Me and You". In that article, I focus on key habits that assist an advisor in performing their responsibilities.  Since then, our firm has provided complimentary subscriptions to a meditation app for all employees. I soon became encouraged to learn more about why this practice can be so effective in achieving a calm and focused mind. I came across two books, “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art”, by James Nestor, and “The Oxygen Advantage: Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques to Help You Become Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter”, by Patrick McKeown.

Below are a few things that I have learned and have changed the way I breathe:

  • Nitric Oxide (NO) helps boost our immune system and is produced by our arteries in all organs to regulate cardiovascular function. (read Nobel Prize Press Release for Nitric Oxide Discoveries)
  • The nose is designed for breathing. Nasal breathing filters out particles of dirt, moistens the air stream, and produces nitric oxide.
  • Most people do ‘mouth-breathing’, especially when they sleep and talk. However, the mouth is not designed for breathing as it does not filter out dirt or produce nitric oxide.
  • Humming increases the levels of nitric oxide in the nose (I used to wonder why some people hummed while meditating or doing yoga)
  • Over-breathing causes carbon dioxide levels to drop, and breathlessness. Ideally, breathing should be “light, rhythmic, easy and effortless”

These two books were eye-opening for me as they enabled me to make the connection between breathing and one’s health. To ensure that I breathe through my nose during sleep, I have also started doing something called ‘mouth taping’, as recommended by the above two authors. Don’t worry, unlike the thick tape as seen in Hollywood hostage scenes, it is only a tiny, 1 cm x 1.5 cm Kinesio-tape that I put on my lips. It has worked wonderfully for me, providing me a more restful and deeper sleep. Better sleep can surely help me to achieve a calm, focused, and agile mind!


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