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Mindful : August 2019
Nassif has just conducted a study at Hawaii’s Schofield Barracks to see whether mindfulness training can improve performance in skills like marksmanship, along with health outcomes like sleep quality. He’s cur- rently analyzing the data. More developed is the body of research that shows meditation, yoga, and related practices to be valuable for veterans with PTSD. Anthony King, an assistant professor of psy- chiatry at the University of Michigan, says that mindfulness-based therapies can help those who avoid situations like crowded supermarkets, which might trigger their symptoms. Avoidance, many experts believe, helps perpetuate PTSD symptoms. “ People don’t get normal environ- mental extinction of these fear memories because they never go out, because they protect themselves from coming into contact with things that remind them of their trauma,” King says. Exposure therapy, in which veterans intentionally visit safe places that trigger anxiety, is by definition unpleasant. But mindful- “THE LEVEL OF SERIOUSNESS TAKEN FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING SHOWS UP IN HOW MUCH TIME IS GIVEN DAILY FOR IT. WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE IS THAT THAT SAME LEVEL OF SERIOUSNESS IS OFFERED TO MENTAL TRAINING.” Amishi Jha, Director of Contemplative Neuroscience and associate professor, University of Miami ness, he says, can serve as a gentler form of exposure therapy. “Rather than putting yourself in a crowded situation that might cause panic,” King says, “you’re actually just exposing yourself to the extempora- neous contents of your mind—what’s happening that moment. And rather than reacting in horror, or trying to distract, or turn on the TV, or turn on the radio, or exercise, or whatever, in the mindfulness meditation you’re invited to just sit with that: to watch that thought arise, watch it develop, watch it pass.” With mounting evidence that mindfulness practices can produce warriors who are more attentive, less distracted, and more emotionally resilient, some researchers arg ue that such training should become routine for all troops. 58 mindful August 2019 neuroscience