Mindfulness for the military.

To combat stress experienced in the military, the US Marine Corps tested the value of mindfulness training in its “Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training,” or “M-Fit,” an eight-week course that includes meditation practices, yoga-type stretching and mindfulness exercises in 2011. According to its website:

This article proposes a new training program for both improving operational effectiveness and building resilience to the stressors of deployment: Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT, pronounced M-Fit). This program includes techniques and exercises that previous research in civilians has demonstrated to be effective at enhancing the capacities central to mind fitness, such as mental agility, emotion regulation, attention, and situational awareness.

Interestingly, the piece goes on to correlate physical fitness to mental fitness:

Thus, there is a profound parallel between physical fitness and mind fitness. Athletes know that with repetition, physical fitness exercises can produce training-specific muscular, respiratory, and cardiovascular changes in the body. They know that specific training will correspond to specific benefits and promote better recovery from specific injuries. For example, sprints can build fast-twitch muscles, while longer runs can teach the body to burn fat instead of glucose.

One of the conclusions in their test group was:

…statistical analysis shows that the Marines who spent more time engaging in mind fitness exercises (on average, 10 hours outside of class) saw an improvement in their cognitive performance compared to Marines who spent less time engaging in the exercises (on average, 2 hours outside of class). Specifically, despite the real increase in stressors during the predeployment period, the Marines who engaged in more mind fitness training maintained the same perceived stress level and preserved or even improved their working memory capacity over their initial baseline.

A review of the programme, entitled, “Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training: Introduction and Empirical Support A Review” by Stanley & Schaldach on Ronnie S. Stangler MD’s website states:

It is well understood that physical fitness supports recovery from physical exertion. Similarly, mind fitness supports stress resilience, or the ability to bounce back quickly after a stressful experience. Where physical fitness can help protect the body from physical injury, mind fitness can help create a “mental armor” to protect the mind.

Basically, the conclusion is that we can train ourselves to make better and more skilful decisions. In addition, mind fitness training helped the test group deal with stress, and also builds resilience and leads to faster recovery from cognitive degradation and psychological injury.

What are your thoughts on this? Should we focus also on mental fitness as well as physical fitness? Can we train both mental and physical fitness at the same time? Tell me in the comments below!