Mindfulness in the Marine Corps

Back in September of this year, there was a Wisdom 2.0 event that took place is Silicon Valley. A Mr. Gordhamer started this event back in 2009 in order to consider how we can live in a world that is inundated with technologically and not let it “swallow us whole.” Thus this conference is about disconnecting with cellphones, computers, etc. and living in the here and now. In recent time, Mindfulness has become somewhat “trendy” so to speak. It has popped up everywhere. Actresses such as Lena Dunham have spoken about how meditation and mindfulness play a role in her life and powerhouse Ariana Huffington started an entire section of the Huffington Post dedicated to the topic. Huffington also started a conference series and has spoken at many events about the importance of turning inward. The importance of mindfulness has seeped into every facet of life.

And more importantly, mindfulness has become extremely prevalent in the field of psychology. Mindfulness and meditation therapies are being studied all over the country. Particularly, The Marine Corp has been testing Mind Fitness Training to help soldiers relax and boost “emotional intelligence.” Many people believe that mindfulness training may be able to decrease PTSD in soldiers. Mindfulness has been proven to lower stress levels and a professor at Georgetown University thinks, “it can work for soldiers dealing with the extreme stress of combat.” Stanley and others in this area of research believe that meditation should be part of basic military training because it may be as vital to soldiers as knowing how to fire a weapon.

A pilot study conducted by Stanley and her colleagues was done to test the effects of mindfulness training. It included 60 Marines who were in a two month long intense training program before being sent to Iraq. There was a control group that received no meditation training and another group that experienced mindfulness meditation instruction and were told to meditate for 15 minutes every day. Subsequent to the two months of training, the group that did meditate reported significantly less stress and and anxiety. Additionally, the study discovered that the mindfulness training made the soldiers smarter. Their working memories were considerably strengthened and they were found to have better ability to retain novel information.

One of the Marines reported that at first, all of the soldiers were skeptical about the mindfulness training and believed it to be a “waste of time.” Subsequent to tours in Iraq, however, several of the soldiers reported that they continued to meditate as a way to mitigate the stress of combat. They were later retested and the soldiers who continued meditating showed improved working memory and less stress and anxiety than those who did not keep up with the meditation.

This study is amazing to me. PTSD is a serious problem facing soldiers upon homecoming and it is amazing that there is something preventative that they can do to reduce the effects of combat. It seems as though these results and others have proven that it is vital to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into Marine Corps training. Millions of peoples lives could be saved as a result.

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