High amounts of stress can negatively impact performance, but current research suggests that incorporating mindfulness training to the time leading up to a high-stress event can improve performance.

Amishi Jha, neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami, visited the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families on March 20 to discuss her work on how mindfulness training can improve performance among high-stress cohorts. Jha has been studying the effects of mindfulness training on cognition, emotion and resilience. Recently, she’s focused on populations that regularly experience high levels of stress leading up to the time when they need to be at their peak performance–college students before finals, student athletes in pre-season training, and military personnel during their pre-deployment phase.

Jha noted that high stress can lead to a decline in attention and increased mind-wandering, known to cause performance errors, distraction and poor moods. “All are bad, now think of what that would mean for a soldier,” she said.

“We are requiring them – not asking, but requiring them – to perform at the highest levels with regards to the decisions that they make, the way they’re able to work with each other, and the successful reentry to civilian life after this,” she said.

Jha conducted a mindfulness training course to pre-deployment military personnel to discover the ways it can improve their selective attention and thus their performance records. Jha’s research has shown varying levels of success when it comes to measuring attention among the sample populations who received some type of mindfulness training. Also worth noting was that having an instructor who can relate to military culture was more beneficial than one that was solely a mindfulness expert. She added that more research is needed in this field, and urged researcher to publish their ‘non-results’ to help it grow.

Listen to Amishi Jha’s presentation below:

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