Meditation exercises could boost mental toughness in soldiers and help them better cope with the trauma of war, according to findings recently published in Emotion.
The study involved 48 U.S. Marines preparing for deployment in Iraq. In the months prior to the soldiers' deployment, roughly two-thirds of the group was enrolled in an eight-week mindfulness training program. The rest of the troops did not participate in meditation exercises and served as a control group.
The more time participants spent engaging in daily mindfulness exercises the better their mood and working memory, the cognitive term for complex thought, problem solving and cognitive control of emotions. The study also suggests that sufficient [mindfulness training] practice may protect against functional impairments associated with high-stress challenges that require a tremendous amount of cognitive control, self-awareness, situational awareness and emotional regulation.
The number of soldiers diagnosed with mental-health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder is rising. A 2009 study by researchers at Stanford and the Naval Postgraduate School estimates that the rate of PTSD among Iraq veterans alone will be as high as 35 percent by 2023.