Mindful warriors study: the combined effect of mindfulness and Yoga on Soldier Mental Health in Basic Combat Training.

My personal experiences with mindfulness and body-mind practices have been nothing short of transformative. In my work, in law enforcement, in martial arts and especially personally. First as a great training for developing attention and focus, developing meta awareness (paying attention to my attention). Second for developing calmness and reducing to much reacitvity. Third, as a spiritual practice of being at ease with the present and not getting lost in stories/thought identification. So I am biased about the positive value of formal and informal mindfulness/meditation/yoga practice.

For me personally – we go to the study soon – the difference between being mindful and being mindfull is simple. One is grounded in the present whereas the other pulls us into thoughts of the past and/or future. To be mindful is to be aware of what is present, here and now. It is to be awake to our immediate experience. It is to ‘take in’ the moment with curiosity and non-judgment. To be mindfull is to be filled with thoughts – and typically, to be ‘lost’ in these thoughts. Within a matter of seconds, we could be thinking about dinner, last night’s date, and tomorrow’s meeting.

The study (1)

Back to the study which examined the combined effect of mindfulness and Yoga on Soldier Mental Health in Basic Combat Training (1). Note two of the authors: Amishi P. Jha is the author of the great book Peak Mind and Amy Adler developed the ICover protocol for the Army!

Before we discuss the background and results, there was something that struck me and was very appealing: embedded practices! As the authors themselves point out:

While formal practice is beneficial, it may be important to supplement training programs with embedded practices that are incorporated into work activities. Although little is known about the effects of embedding practice, this research gap is essential to address given the potential advantage of bringing mindfulness into work-related activities”. This was also a theme (embedded practice) that Ytterbol mentioned in his work with mental skill training for the Norwegian Army (2).


Depression, anxiety, and sleep problems are prevalent in high-stress occupations including military service. While effective therapies are available, scalable preventive mental health care interventions are needed. This study examined the impact of a combined mindfulness and yoga intervention on the mental health of soldiers in Basic Combat Training (BCT).


Soldiers (N = 1,896) assigned to a combined mindfulness and yoga training during BCT were less likely to have positive screens for depression or sleep problems over time compared to those receiving training-as-usual. To our knowledge, the present study represents the largest systematic effort to explore the impact of mindfulness and yoga on mental health among personnel in a high-risk occupation. Our findings provide evidence for the positive impact of a combined mindfulness and yoga intervention on depression and sleep problems among soldiers during high-stress training and highlight the added benefits of embedding mindfulness practice into everyday life.

The training

Mindfulness-Based Attention Training (MBAT) is an 8-hour manualized mindfulness intervention developed and contextualized for delivery to military personnel. MBAT was delivered in a classroom setting or comparable low-distraction environment.

Themes of the intervention

(1) breath awareness and focused attention skills,

(2) body awareness without judgment,

(3) open monitoring to observe sensory and mental experiences,

(4) interpersonal connection.

Structure of the sessions

Each session introduced a 15-minute mindfulness practice:

(1) focused attention,

(2) mindful body scan,

(3) open monitoring,

and (4) connection.

Group mindfulness practice 6 days per week consisted of listening to a 15-minute audio recording. Each session also presented an exercise for embedding mindfulness practice during the day.


1. Nassif, T. H., Gutierrez, I. A., Smith, C. D., Jha, A. P., & Adler, A. B. (2023). The Effect of a Combined Mindfulness and Yoga Intervention on Soldier Mental Health in Basic Combat Training: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. Depression and Anxiety2023. https://doi.org/10.1155/2023/6869543

2. Ytterbøl C, & Erik Hein Podcast about integrating mental skills training in an advanced sniper course. Train the trainer blog.