By Noa Glow
We’ve been listening to the Bulletproof Executive Podcasts, which feature experts and information on health and wellness. Here’s a summary of what Mark Divine, former Navy SEALs officer and founder of SEALFIT, had to say about developing mental toughness in order to get through challenging life situations – like 90 minutes in the hot room! (Listen to the entire podcast here.)
In developing a program to train Navy SEALs, Divine found the physical part was least important to turning out “higher-quality candidates.”
“Eighty per cent of SEAL trainees quit, even when they come in with extremely high levels of physical conditioning,” he says. “Something’s going on here.”
What he found was “the mental aspects of the training really define, on a day-to-day basis, whether you’ll succeed or fail.” He calls this a holistic, mind-body or integral approach to training.
“We are capable of so much more than we’re led to believe in our limited concept of what the mind and human potential is,” he says. “How do we unlock that potential?”
According to Divine, our rational/thinking mind only accounts for 10-12% of our total thinking capacity; we have to find a way to unlock the door to other 88%.
One of the keys is physical training – simply moving our bodies. Through that, he says, “We can get to the mind and spirit … and, in certain practices, vice versa. That circular connection is really important.”
Divine decided to explore training that’s spiritual in nature and aims to expand our inner awareness – like Zen meditation and yoga, which incorporate breath control, concentration, meditation and visualization practices.
“It’s literally training someone from the inside-out, using the mind, emotional control, intuition and awareness development to enhance physical performance,” he explains. “Getting the conscious mind out of the way is difficult, but doing so will unlock your true potential.”
Another key is getting enough good-quality rest. When we train, we break down; when we rest, we build (no wonder Bikram says Savasana is when most of the benefits happen). According to Divine, half your training time should be spent on recovery (i.e., “total rest”).
“Breathing can intervene to counteract and rebalance the stress response,” he says. “Even in the middle of an intense workout, if you have the proper intention and attention on your breathing you can control the arousal response dramatically. This will lead to recovery very quickly between sets and at the end of the workout. All you have to do is change your breathing pattern.”
Outside of training, Divine recommends implementing a breathing practice you can do whenever you’re feeling anxious (say, right before an important meeting). “Just sit comfortably and breathe – it’s a game changer that has a profound impact on your psychology and physiology.”
Nutrition also affects sleep dramatically, as does proper hydration. Using tools like meditation, concentration or journaling so you can rest with a clear head, too, can help.
“In my opinion, disease as it exists in society today really started when we started putting food in a box and putting a barcode on it,” says Divine. “Better to stay close to the earth when you’re eating, as our caveman ancestors did.”
His recommended diet includes:
- Lots of fruits and vegetables
- Lean meats that come from high-quality sources
- Fats from nuts, avocados, etc.
Foods to avoid/eliminate:
- White sugar (if not all, at least in the evening to prevent elevating your heart rate)
- Most grain-based products: pastas, breads, cereals (“anything that’s going to lead to food breaking down and turning into sugar very quickly”)
OK in limited quantities:
- Dairy (unless you’re lactose intolerant)
The key is to eat when you’re hungry, and not too late in the day. “When you train hard you have to refuel, usually within 30 minutes of a training session,” Divine says. “Eating smaller meals throughout the day is important; intermittent fasting can also have a positive effect on our physiology.”
The 80/20 Rule
In yoga we do 80/20 breathing. In diet, Divine recommends following the 80/20 rule: eating good food with a focus on quality over quantity 80% of the time, and cheating the other 20%.
“Eighty per cent is enough to get your metabolism to a fat-burning rather than a fat-storing state, to put fuel in your tank and give you access to a great energy source,” he says. “Plus, you’re going to enjoy life rather than be in a miserable state of constantly dieting.”
Divine provides mental training through meditation, yoga and intuition training in his Unbeatable Mind program.
“Learn to not think about your obstacles and make sure you’re the subject of your own story,” he says. “Uncover the hidden belief systems and societal rules and norms that are driving your subconscious behaviour. By planting new, powerful language and new, powerful belief systems, you can drive effectively forward.”
“Don’t take anything for granted,” he adds. “Every relationship is important, every action you take is important, the way you train your mind and body, the food you put into your system – each of these things becomes a subject of study and importance. Taking all those small decisions you make every day up a notch or two has a tremendous impact on the quality of your life.”
Mark Divine’s Top 3 Ways to Kick the Most Ass
- When you wake up every day, the first thing you should do to establish that essential ingredient of a positive mind and a positive vibration is to drink a big glass of water and, while doing that, close your eyes and review everything you have to be grateful for. This will ground your day and charge your body with health and your mind with gratitude and positive thinking.
- Before you take off for the day, start moving your body with yoga, a walk or some tai chi. Breathe deeply while you’re doing it and concentrate on a narrow range of things: your breath, your movement or something you’re working on. It only needs to be a few minutes, if that’s all the time you’ve got.
- End your day by looking back and reviewing all the positive things that have happened. Find the silver lining on everything that occurred during the day. Then, get a good night’s sleep.