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Mindfulness Training in Marines Preparing for Deployment

It’s long been understood that deployment of any kind can have serious repercussions for the individual’s physical and mental health, but not many studies have been done to look at how early interventions, even before deployment, can change the overall outcome. A new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, however, sought to do just that, working with the idea of mindfulness training on some active-duty marines who were preparing for a deployment.

Understanding Mindfulness Training

Mindfulness training, originally derived from Buddhist practices, is the idea that being in a state of present-moment awareness can actually help when it comes to stress recovery. In fact, previous studies have shown that it can even affect brain behavior before an event occurs, making it ideal in a situation like deployment.

The Study

The study authors randomly selected eight Marine infantry platoons. Four of them received mindfulness training over the course of eight weeks based around the Mindfulness-Based Fitness Training program, which includes 20 hours of instruction in a classroom and homework each day. The other four platoons were simply assigned to traditional training. Individual assessments to measure heart and breathing rates, plasma neuropeptide Y concentrations, brain activation, and the score on the Response to Stressful Experiences Scale took place at the outset, after eight weeks, and then again after nine weeks when a particularly stressful combat training session had taken place.

The Findings

The findings were quite positive. Marines who received the mindfulness training generally showed better test results than those who did not receive the training, which suggests that if a stressful experience is expected to occur, it’s possible to modify recovery with prior preparation and training.

The implications here aren’t just applicable to active duty military personnel. Instead, it may be possible to look at mindfulness training with real potential in a number of other situations as well.

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