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Train Your Brain Using the Navy SEAL Mental Toughness Program

06/25/2014 12:22 pm ET | Updated Aug 25, 2014

If our environment is extreme in nature, complete with chaos, stress and panic, how do we live with or manage the fear and stress? The answer may exist in the groundbreaking neuroscience research that helped the Navy SEALs control their extreme environment through a mental toughness program. Although it may be difficult to suppress our instinctual response of fear -- this documentary, The Human Brain, shows us that we can train our brain. Which means that experiencing panic, chaos and a host of other negative emotions may soon become less of an option for us.

The Navy SEAL Mental Toughness Program is specialized training designed by neuroscientists out of the need to control the brain's overwhelming instinct to panic. They wanted a way to change the way Navy SEAL's brains react to fear in extreme situations. Historically, mistakes were associated with fear and panic and the capacity to control these impulses were important -- they had to find a way to adapt the brain to the demands of the job. The mental toughness program goal is to retrain the brain's instinctual response to panic -- thereby enabling the Navy SEALs to handle stress differently, adapt quickly and maintain control in the midst of chaos -- to do what is necessary.

Neuroscience research shows us that when the part of the brain that functions as the central command center for our emotional reactions, the amygdala, senses fear, it presses the body's panic system and triggers the chemical stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline and releases them into the blood stream. The release of stress hormones increases our breathing, heart rate, and gives us a heightened state of alertness, but makes our thoughts difficult to control. Regularly using the following four techniques -- designed by neuroscientists -- will help the body and brain to work in sync and bring clarity of thought in our critical decision making moments.

The Navy SEAL Mental Toughness Program to Control Fear in Extreme Situations:

1. Goal Setting to bring structure to chaos. The ability to reason and plan keeps the fear response in check.

2. Mental Rehearsal or Visualization is practice for your mind and body so the reality matches your vision. Running the scenario through in your mind allows it to come more naturally and it allows the body to have a less stressful reaction.

3. Self-Talk especially positive self-talk, can override the brain's fear response. According to The Human Brain documentary, we talk to ourselves between 300 and 1,000 words a minute, and when we use positive instead of negative words and thoughts, it will help override the fear signal that originates in the brain.

4. Arousal Control through slow, deep breathing can enhance brain activity. Long exhales gets more oxygen to the brain and allows us to make better decisions.

The mounting research from neuroscientists are showing us that when it comes to the brain, what we thought possible before, may only be the beginning as to what we may be able to accomplish, heal or understand and this should bring hope and solutions to many of us. What's not to like about that?