Army Studies Mindfulness, Holistic Health

Army Studies Mindfulness, Holistic Health

Soldier meditating
Photo by: U.S. Army

In its continuing effort to instill a holistic approach to wellness in the force, the Army has launched “a few pilots” to study how it can incorporate the practice of mindfulness among soldiers at every level.

Working with the Army Training and Doctrine Command, “we’re doing a few pilots at entry-level training all the way to our senior executive level training with general officers and nominative sergeants major and throughout, and it’s not prevalent enough,” Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, director of the Army staff, said July 21 during a Thought Leaders webinar hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army.

A regular practitioner of mindfulness who believes the practice can improve soldiers’ readiness, Piatt is part of a contingent of Army leaders who have strongly advocated for and pursued the inclusion of mindfulness as part of the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness Program.

In a feature he co-wrote earlier this year for ARMY magazine, Piatt described mindfulness as being present in the moment and fully focused on the now, a skill that can improve soldiers’ decision-making and lead to improved performance, similar to an athlete who is performing “in the zone.” 

It’s something soldiers can practice in just a few minutes a day, and studies have shown it helps the brain strengthen attention and working memory, he wrote.

“You can put it into your daily routine, we are doing some really good studies, and I think the research will show with the completion of these studies that this is something we need to do, and we’re very excited,” he said, acknowledging that while there is interest, there is also skepticism.

“Everywhere we go, people want to hear about it. We’re going to get there. It’s not there yet, but a lot of good work is being done across our military education system,” Piatt said.

Mental resilience and readiness will be key to overall soldier readiness as the Army prepares for a future battlefield and multidomain operations, where soldiers will be in remote locations and complex decisions will be made in stressful situations, said retired Gen. Bob Brown, AUSA executive vice president.

Brown said it is “absolutely key and great to see that we’re looking holistically at the soldier,” because people are the Army’s greatest asset and the top priority of Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville.

The most important part of the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness Program, he added, “is that it really gets at prevention before [injury] happens. Across the board, that holistic effort is key. Optimizing human performance is what we need to succeed.”