The 'tool-kit' of short mindfulness based, "pre-verbal' body-mind awareness and somatic movement exercises is based on most recent neuroscience knowledge, rooted in ancient warrior training traditions, joined by our current, professional day to day experience on duty.
The term ‘Mental-Psychological’ indicates that when it comes to performance under stress, resilience, and stress impact or injury, our older, pre-verbal brain regions, which relate to emotional processing and the autonomic nervous system, play a crucial role, as opposed to our cognitive rational thinking brain. These brain regions do not respond to language or rational thinking.
Even on the level of the cognitive thinking brain, dealing with stress and trauma is not so much about what we think, our story-lines, but primarily about how we relate to our thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
Some MBWARE exercises provide a practical approach to de-conflict and synchronize the connection between the survival brain, emotional memory, ‘direct experience’ and the rational thinking brain. Acute stressors or trauma activation compromise these connections. The ‘pre-verbal’ practices help conscious thought, and complex, responsive decision-making processes come ‘online’ faster, when hijacked by survival reaction or autonomic nervous system dysregulation.
The US Nave Research Center, together with the US Marine Corps, the US Army, the Mindfitness Institute and a number of Universities have conducted valuable research studies on the positive effects of these exercises.
Exercises are applicable and beneficial in four different ways:
Prior to encountering challenging situations, in order to strengthen our capacity to remain calm, present and responsive under pressure.
During acute situations while on duty, to mediate effects of stressors
Immediately following exposure to high level stressors or traumatic encounters, in order to settle and de-conflict a dysregulated nervous system and return quickly to a healthy baseline and zone of optimal performance and prevent stress injury
Anytime to release and discharge somatic residue or nervous system memory related to previous trauma and PTSD, supporting PTSD recovery.
Stress and Performance
High-level stressors and prolonged exposure to stress naturally affect our state of mind and being. Our state of mind and being in turn influence how we see and experience ourselves, others and our world, and how we make decisions, how we relate to others and how we engage in our activities. Exposure to stressors affects our motor functions, our cognitive and emotional processing, capacities and interactions.
Being affected by stress is perfectly normal, healthy and even wisely protective. Recognizing that, we can also take responsibility to help our systems reset and de-stress. Failing to do that effectively and timely, most often results in long term stress injury.
Stress affects happen primarily on a ‘pre-verbal’ level. They involve the autonomic nervous system and compromise pathways between the memory, ‘direct experience’, rational thinking brain and survival brain. These same functions are also affected by mindfulness training exercises.
Resilience is our ability to recover more quickly to a healthy baseline after exposure to stress. Over time this expands our comfort-zone, from which we can be more present and effective, even after our cognitive, emotional and physical systems have been compromised by stressors. Our capacity for mental, emotional and nervous system resilience, directly affects our ability for sound decision making and effective, responsive action, as well as our general health, wellbeing and relations.
Many of our mindfulness-in-action exercises work with our body's role to anchor us in the present moment and go beyond fear, anxiety, emotional reactivity, automatic-pilot and stress response. How do mindfulness exercises affect our state of mind and being?
Mindfulness is generally defined as “intentionally directing and sustaining attention to whatever arises in the present moment, non-judgementally”.
While this is fundamentally an inherent human capacity, most of us had little chance to cultivate and train those mindfulness-awareness muscles. Just as our physical muscles require exercise in order to be strong, flexible and useful, our capacity for mindfulness and ability to apply it, requires exercise. The related brain neuron channels require repetitive training and use, in order to function well.
Applied mindfulness means we are able to see things more clearly as they are. We can learn to remain non-reactive to outer or inner sensory input. The ability for non-reactive awareness, gives us the discriminating choice, to either: Just act and suspend ‘second guessing’ (when that is required), or not react and suspend thoughts, feelings, bodily signals (e.g.: sensations that signal the need for rest or sleep while on a march or at night patrol, anxiety sensations, addictive sensations, emotional reactivity, ruminating thoughts) – and rather than to re-act habitually, be victimized or follow them, we can hold them, respond intentionally, expand situational awareness, and direct our focus to where we are at present and engage more fully in the situation and task at hand.
Many research studies point out how mindfulness exercises effect performance and decision making in high stress environments, build resilience and support stress recovery, regulate negative self-talk, and strengthen goal setting, task visualization, mental agility and attention focus.
Mindfulness exercises are known to:
Strengthen our ability to remain present and focused, and to intentionally direct and sustain non-judgmental attention from moment to moment with whatever arises.
Increase our capacity to see things as they are, and expand situational awareness.
Enhance our awareness of subtle mental processes and pre-verbal emotional story-lines, noticing repetitive self talk more quickly.
Enable us to chose to suspend self-talk and redirect attention to the moment and task at hand.
Strengthen our ability to notice and discriminate narratives and perceptions and chose what is realistic and what matters for the situation or task at hand, and what does not.
Create choice to intentionally direct our focus to present sensations and input, or to memory, or strategic thinking.
Provide choice to respond intentionally, rather than react automatically, to outer stimuli and to inner stimuli (mental, emotional, physical and nervous-system sensations).
Assist in settling the nervous system, grounding, and releasing energy, support breathing exercises, as well as expanding comfort zone and building resilience.
Provide a practical, pre-verbal approach to de-conflict the connection between the survival brain, memory, ‘direct experience’ and the rational thinking brain.
Help conscious thought and complex decision-making processes ‘come online’ sooner, when compromised by survival reaction, autonomic nervous system dysregulation or trauma re-activation.
Support changing habits, according to neuroscience, by opening now neuron-pathways through the combination of relaxation and focus.
Synchronize body and mind.