It seems like an unlikely match. Marines and meditation aren’t two words that you’d ordinarily find together in the same sentence. The US marines have embraced mindfulness with impressive results. Whilst it might seem incongruous, here’s what you can learn about mindfulness from the marines.
Over the past ten years mindfulness has been one of the most talked about practices in the battle to manage stress and build resilience. No surprise then that the US Marines have embraced meditation in attempt to increase resilience and manage increasing levels of stress, post traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and anxiety.
Using a combination of mindfulness practices and exercises to bring awareness to the body, the marines embarked upon an 8 week mindfulness course. University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Naval Health Research Centre researchers discovered that mindfulness meditation might help marines to reduce stress related conditions arising from combat.
The 8 week Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training (M-FIT) course was designed for the marines at Camp Pendleton, California operating within stressful environments. The study replicated stressful battle conditions of a mock Afghan village within the classroom.
In an attempt to replicate the benefits seen in other populations using mindfulness, the study aimed to find out if mindful meditation would offer a solution to the widely recognised epidemic of stress experienced by service personnel.
The marines were taught simple mindfulness techniques in the classroom along with homework practices to use in-between sessions. The classes also included taught interoception, using practices such as the ‘body scan’ to help the marines regulate the body’s homeostasis, or physical equilibrium. Developing their interoceptive senses enabled the marines to identify what was going on inside their bodies bringing together their physical sensations, cognitive processes and emotions.
Using blood and saliva samples alongside FMRI scans, researchers found that in only 15 minutes a day, mindfulness could help the marines to recover from stress faster. Regular practice also helped the marines to return to a regular heartbeat and normal breathing rates sooner than those who had not undertaken the 8 week course. Their immune system also improved. Mindfulness it seems, is an effective drill for the brain.
Mindfulness Marine Style
- Take time each day to slow down and notice your thoughts and feelings.
- See if it’s possible (it always is) to shift from ‘doing’ mode to ‘being mode.
- Take 60 seconds to focus on your breath. See if it’s possible to trace your breath all the way from the tip of your nostrils, into the naval cavities, down your throat, into your lungs and all the way out again.
- Take a minute and lay down, sit or stand and observe any physical sensations in your body. What do you notice? What can you feel? see if you are able to name it.
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