Mindfulness involves paying attention to present moment experience without discursive commentary or emotional reactivity. Mindfulness training (MT) programs aim to promote this mental mode via introduction to specific mindfulness exercises, related in-class discussion, and ongoing engagement in mindfulness exercises. MT is being increasingly offered to high-demand, high-stress military/uniformed and civilian cohorts with a wide array of reported benefits. Herein, we begin by discussing recent theoretical models regarding MT’s mechanisms of action from a cognitive training/cognitive neuroscience perspective, which propose that MT engages and strengthens three key processes [e.g., 1]. These are: 1) attentional orienting, which is the ability to select and sustain attention on a subset of information while remaining undistracted; 2) meta-awareness, which is the ability to monitor one’s ongoing experience with an awareness of doing so; and 3) decentering, which is the ability to view one’s experience at a psychological distance so that biases, mind-sets, and interpretations are viewed as mental processes rather than accurate depictions of reality. Next, we review evidence of MT’s beneficial effects on cognitive, social, and emotional dimensions of human behavior, which are aligned with military frameworks describing the human dimension [e.g., 2]. We then discuss attitudinal impediments to broad adoption of MT in military settings, and propose counterarguments so as to facilitate its implementation. We end by arguing that MT should be considered a key cognitive training tool by which to achieve cognitive advantage in the service of improved operational readiness and effectiveness, as well as greater resilience and well-being in military/uniformed cohorts.
Scott L. Rogers, Amishi P. Jha, Eric Schoomaker, and Edward Cardon, Deploying Mindfulness to Gain Cognitive Advantage: Considerations for Military Effectiveness and Well-being NATO Science and Technology Conference Proceedings 14 (2019).