Mental Games to Improve Your Survivability

by Erich

The following post has been contributed by Jake Roberts


You have prepared your food, water, shelter, and security, but have you prepared your mind?

There are many people who may have taken the time and effort to prepare all the “stuff” but when the SHTF they will freeze or fall apart because they haven’t taken the time to prepare the most important thing. Their mind.

Resilience is basically a persons ability to bounce back or to handle the stressful situations in their life. The clinical reason that has been discovered for why some people have great resilience and others don’t has to do with brain connections. People who do not have good resilience are those who have weak or few connections between the prefrontal cortex, that part of the brain responsible for higher functions and the Amygdala or the part responsible for the visceral emotions of fear and aggression.

The Importance of the Mind in Improving Survivability

The main factors that determine a persons ability to bounce back are several. One factor is that of your environment, the family you were born into, where and when you grew up. How many resources were available to your family? These environmental factors do seem to play a part in a persons ability to bounce back. These are what I believe the more important factors of Psychological and emotional factors.

I tell my kids all the time, you don’t get to choose often what happens to you, or what people may do or say, you do have control over how you respond and the attitude you have. People with a positive attitude and optimistic outlook tend to have better resilience than those with a cynical attitude or those plagued by depression.

Other things researchers have identified as negatively affecting a persons ability to cope or bounce back are things like experiencing consistent loss and failure, an unwillingness to ask for help, and a lack of problem solving skills.

So I am doomed you say.

No the great thing about this is there are things you can do to increase your resilience. This is where we answer the question of mentally preparing for SHTF. Doing mental exercises can help you to prepare for TEOTWAWKI, or smaller things like the loss of a job, loved one, or being in an airport when bad people do bad things.

How to Improve Mental Strength

Spiritual Meditation

The first thing I do to develop mental strength is I spend some time everyday in meditation. For me this is thinking about the Word of God as given in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. I spend time reading and thinking about these things for about 30-60 minutes in the morning and evening. The majority of humans spend very little time thinking. When you engage in thinking you begin to flex and work the greatest resource you have, your brain.

Mental Games to Improve Survivability

The next thing that I do to help develop the mental ability and thinking skills of my family is to play games. Yes we play games. But not just any games, we play games that force the players to grapple with the “What if”. This is the same thing that military and intelligence community do all the time. And there is a reason they do it. By playing “war games” it fosters the critical and creative thinking needed by our military people to win a complex campaign or our IC to give us advance warning of imminent attack.

Scenario-Based Games

You can purchase some games like Persian Incursion which is a game used for these purposes. Playing these games is like receiving an intelligence briefing and will help you to gain the skills you need and are better in my opinion than the wildly unrealistic zombie games out there.

Most in the prepper community are aware of the card game Conflicted. This is a game that helps you to begin to think ahead of time what you will do in a given situation. While you may never face the given scenarios what I feel the real benefit of this game is in the building of descion making muscles, using your brain to come up with real answers to questions quickly, and also reveals to you your real values and beliefs.


To combine mental and physical preparing my boys and I play paintball. Paintball is a great way to teach team tactics, quick decision making skills, It allows us to practice what we might do in a given scenario. When we play we have different objectives for each team, designed to present real possibilities on our property. It also helps us learn where weakness in our security may be, and it the real world application of the board games we play putting to use the critical and creative thinking we have been fostering.

Situational Awareness (Kim’s) Games

The final area that will help you in SHTF or everyday is situational awareness. We hear a lot lately about situational awareness in the preparedness community. But how do you develop it? Are there things we can do to? I will never forget the time a guy that spends time around my kids school comes up to me and says what are you teaching your kids? I’m like, huh? He then proceeds to tell me that my 12 year old son had said to him earlier that day, “I can see your gun” This guy did not believe my son, who then told him where he had his concealed weapon.

“So what are you teaching your kids?” he asks. I tell you I was proud of my boy. He had learned how to see the print of a concealed weapon. We did have a conversation later about this, fortunately this guy is someone who I trust and know. He Later came to me and seriously asked how I was training my kids.

I told him about another game we play called “the Play of the Jewels” or Kims game. Taken from the 1901 book KIM by Kipling it is a great game that can be played anywhere. See the following 3 minute clip from the movie “Kim”:

The basic way to play the game is to take a group of items, observe the items for a set time, then after covering the items or removing them from the players sight, try to list more observations about those items than your opponent can.

The great thing is you determine what counts as an observation and how the points are determined. As you increase in your ability you can do things like increase the amount of items, reduce the time to observe the items.

You can play this game anywhere because we spend a lot of time in our car, a hazard of living 30-45 minutes from anything, we play this game while driving. We might say okay look out the drivers side of the car for the next minute, then describe anything you have observed. 1 point for each observation made.

Or sitting in the car waiting for my wife at the store, we will say okay look out the window observe the next ten people who walk out of the store. Then state back the observations. You can pass a lot of otherwise lost time playing this game and at the same time teach your children how to be aware of their surroundings.

My kids now play this game without my prompting. A similar twist on this is the old, find the letters of the alphabet game, where you have to find the letter of the alphabet in order on various signs, license plates etc.

Sometimes I will test the kids when they don’t know they are playing. I will say give me your observations of the last five people you saw walk past us. Or while walking in our neighborhood I will have them to tell me the things they observed about the house we just walked past.

Body Language

As the kids have grown I have begun to teach them about body language, we will watch videos of crimes just to see how people act before they commit crime. I remember about a year ago flying out of Africa from a trip, I said to my wife, “that couple is up to something” She said how do you know? I began to point out behaviors all the way from Africa through Europe and into the US. Obviously someone else had noticed because as we arrived in the US waiting at the bottom of the stairs were a couple of guys with a list of names, you’ll never guess who I saw pulled aside.

Given the recent events in Europe and the amount of travel I do, I am increasingly aware of how important this skill set is for me and my family.

I hope you might take sometime and play some games with your family. It might just save your life!

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1 Comment»

Comment by Connie G.
2016-06-03 08:59:57

Great article! Just reading it and has me set to start playing….anywhere, anytime, everyday! I have never come across any articles of this subject and I have been prepping for several years. As a wife and mother, it’s always been about “Beans, Bullets and The Bible”. Thank you for sharing some highly, critical info. Note: New here and on your Tweet and FB.

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