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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

Help your military kids make new friends

During Military Children’s Health Month, HPRC takes a look at how military parents can help their kids make new friends.

Making and sustaining friendships is an important part of children’s growth and development. But military kids, who move often, might have to make new friends several times throughout childhood and adolescence. The ability to engage in conversations and openness towards others helps kids develop friendships.

What can you do to help your military kids make new friends?

  • Model friendly behaviors such as greeting new people, asking questions to encourage conversation, and treating others with respect. Be open to making new friends yourself when you move to a new location.
  • Emphasize the qualities that make someone a good friend. Encourage your kids to share and take turns. Children who are cooperative, helpful, and considerate tend to be more liked by their peers.
  • Talk openly about what it means to be someone’s friend. Friends are honest, supportive, and fun to be with. They share common interests and don’t bully or make you feel left out.
  • When your kids are younger, organize play dates with kids you think will complement your child’s personality. Before the play date, brainstorm with your child how to spend the time doing fun games and activities your child enjoys that will help build friendship.
  • Allow your school-age kids to choose their own friends while passively supervising the interactions.
  • Practice conversations your kids could have with new friends. Sharing thoughts and ideas is basic to any relationship, but especially friendships. Get your kids comfortable with telling others what’s on their mind and asking what their peers are thinking.
  • Discuss with your kids how to effectively manage through conflicts to sustain their friendships. Encourage them to be assertive and considerate.

Helping your kids make friends can impact them in the short and long term. Acceptance by peers can affect children’s self-esteem. As kids get older, friendships provide a sense of security and an outlet to relieve stress. Having good-quality friendships in childhood has long-term consequences, too. Having few or no friends in childhood has been linked to worse health in adulthood. As a parent, you can guide your kids toward making healthy friendships today.

Posted 03 April 2017

10 effective sleep habits

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn about 10 effective strategies to optimize sleep.

Sleep is vital for health, performance, and well-being—and the better the sleep, the greater its benefits. That’s why proper sleep hygiene practices that promote optimal sleep duration and quality are important for everyone.

If you’re struggling to get quality sleep, try these 10 effective tips from the U.S. Army Performance Triad to help build healthier sleep habits. Read more...

Why revenge against your ex doesn’t work

Filed under: Divorce, Relationships
The saying goes, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Read on to find out why you’re not likely to benefit from taking revenge against your ex.

The end of a relationship is hard. It can be complicated further if you feel wronged. But getting revenge on your ex often has more costs than benefits. The desire for revenge might come about if you feel your ex violated the rules of your relationship. Maybe she or he was unfaithful or unresponsive to things you deemed important. People who report feeling the urge for revenge say their partner compromised their own reputation or sense of self, so they felt devalued.

Such thoughts and feelings are complex to manage. Still, revenge isn’t always a productive response. You might think vengeance will make you feel better, but the relief is probably temporary. And engaging in vengeance can create more feelings of discomfort and guilt. It isn’t likely to solve your problems, and it can end up causing more harm—to you and others—in the long run. The consequences of “taking revenge” might not be clear at first, but vengeful acts also can be unethical and immoral, leading to a range of negative outcomes, including career setbacks and family or other relationship strain.

People who think revenge is acceptable tend to be less honest, less humble, and less agreeable. They might feel they’re in a position to gain from exploiting others. Such personal characteristics aren’t desirable in long-term relationships. Successful relationships are built upon mutual respect, understanding, and trust.

Instead of getting revenge on your ex, consider the following:

  • If you feel hurt and wronged, practice good coping skills and mental resilience.
  • If you worry your reputation is damaged, surround yourself with family and good friends who will continue to support you.
  • If you’re not sure you’ll ever date again, remember that breakups are hard but also can be good for you, especially if you use this opportunity learn more about yourself.

So, set aside the urge for revenge. Handling yourself with respect and honor—even if you were wronged—reflects your strength and the characteristics new partners are likely to find attractive.

Posted 27 March 2017

Musical healing for TBI and PTSD

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Music therapy has gained acceptance as an evidence-based treatment for TBI and PTSD. Learn more and watch a video of music therapy in action.

Music therapy is an evidence-based therapeutic application for the treatment of brain and psychological injuries such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). TBI and PTSD can be life-changing events that cause physical, cognitive, sensory, and/or emotional impairments. However, a trained music therapist can use music to activate injured areas of the brain involved in the control of movement, cognition, speech and emotions.

Substantial scientific evidence supports how and why music therapy works, but it also can be understood intuitively. Music evokes emotions and influences mood, whether happy or sad, relaxed or pumped. Music also inspires movement: Think how a good beat can induce foot tapping or dancing.

Injured nerve pathways actually can be stimulated by music. Music also can be used to stimulate speech and facilitate cognitive function. In those with PTSD, music can arouse memories that need to be accessed and processed during the healing process. Music can help to promote movement affected by TBI. Watch this video from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and DoD to see music (and other arts) therapy helping injured service members.

Music therapy is part of the rehabilitation process at places such as NICOE, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and VA centers around the U.S. The VA also sponsors the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, where veterans showcase their work. This TBICreative Forces fact sheet describes the NEA Military Healing Arts Network and lists several creative arts therapy locations.

Exercise intensity: Less isn’t always more

How important are high-intensity workouts?

The saying goes that “less is more,” but when it comes to exercise intensity, that might not be the case. We know that some exercise is better than no exercise, but is more-intense exercise better than moderate-intensity exercise? How hard should you push? And what are the benefits? What are the risks? With the growing popularity of high-intensity workouts, it’s important to consider both the risks and the benefits.

The role of intensity during exercise has been demonstrated. For example, the risk of death in older adults is lower for those who walk at a faster pace than for those who walk at a more leisurely pace. Short-duration high-intensity interval exercise has similar, if not better, benefits compared to long-duration low-intensity exercise. These benefits include reduced risk for chronic disease, increased oxygen uptake, and overall improved exercise performance. Since the number one barrier to exercise individuals report is not having enough time to exercise, this is important: With increased intensity, workouts can be shorter in duration, and you can still reap the benefits. You also can feel “afterburn” following high-intensity exercise, which means your body is burning calories even after you’ve completed your workout.

The good news is that exercise intensity is relative, so you can benefit from exercise at a level that is you consider high intensity, whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned athlete. Shoot for your target heart rate as a good start to gauge intensity. Not every workout needs to top out the intensity scale. In fact, doing too much too often can lead to overtraining and injury. Remember to listen to your body and incorporate rest or light days into your workout regimen.

Preparing for a deployment

A new HPRC video offers insights from Giants (and former Red Sox) baseball team’s performance psychology coach Bob Tewksbury on how military families can prepare for deployments.

In a new HPRC video, Bob Tewksbury, EdM and a mental skills coach for several major league baseball teams, discusses with Tim Herzog, EdD, how military families can effectively prepare for deployments using aspects of performance psychology. These can help service members and their families prepare mentally for challenges that can arise during deployments. The video highlights how families can benefit from getting in touch with their thoughts and feelings during this time period. According to Mr. Tewksbury, managing through a deployment requires mental toughness and the ability to focus on what you can control.

In a previous HPRC video, Mr. Tewksbury and LTC Craig Jenkins, PhD (a former SOF operational psychologist, now with the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence [USAICoE]), explore how military families can stay connected through deployments and TDYs. This new video (below) continues the conversation to help you learn more about preparing for deployments.

How you can help prevent TBI

Learn how to prevent traumatic brain injury (TBI) by implementing safety precautions.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a condition that can result from experiencing a blow or a jolt to the head, but education and proper safety precautions can prevent many of these injuries. TBI can range from mild concussion to a more serious and debilitating condition. Every year, thousands of Warfighters and veterans are diagnosed with TBI. You might expect that TBI happens mostly during deployments because of combat exposure, but almost 80% of TBIs occur in non-deployed settings, where most could be prevented.

Here are 3 tips that can help prevent TBI:

  • Put on a helmet. Whether you’re headed outside on your motorcycle, taking a springtime bicycle ride with your children, or looking to climb your next big rock, make sure everyone straps on a helmet. The helmet should be a well-maintained, approved safety device suitable for the activity and should fit properly. Helmet fact sheets are available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
  • Drive safely. Motor vehicle and motorcycle collisions account for most Warfighter TBIs. Always wear a seatbelt, and secure children in appropriate safety or booster seats. Don’t drive when you’re under the influence of drugs, alcohol, medication, or lack of sleep. Talk with your teens (and anyone else who will listen) about the dangers of distracted driving.
  • Prevent falls. Examine your environment at home and work, and identify possible safety risks that could contribute to falls and injuries. Clutter, wet or slippery surfaces, and the absence of safety features such as handrails along stairs can increase your chances of injury.

Education and an ounce of prevention are valuable to prevent injuries and TBI. To learn more about preventing, recognizing, and treating TBI, visit “A Head for the Future,” a Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center Initiative, or HPRC’s TBI resource section.

How to equip your kitchen for cooking

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn what you need to equip your kitchen for everyday cooking.

By cooking and eating at home, you’ll save money and prepare healthier meals, but it means you need the right tools. You can pick up kitchen basics from yard sales or thrift stores, family donations, or even when friends or neighbors downsize.

You can purchase all the kitchen basics for roughly $200–300, but compare that to the amount you might spend each year on eating out. Your pieces don’t need to be lavish or color-coordinated, only functional. Remember: Each cook and kitchen are different, so make your choices based on your habits, needs, and space. Read more...

The impact of sleep loss on performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Sleep is a basic building block of health. Learn how not getting enough sleep is likely to compromise performance optimization and impede your total fitness.

Sleep lays the foundation for the health and well-being of service members and their families, but for many, it’s hard to get enough sleep to maintain optimal performance. Sleep loss impacts many domains of optimal functioning—whether you’re at home, at work, or on a mission. For example, trying to drive a vehicle on an empty tank of fuel isn’t a good idea, but many people routinely “operate” themselves on little or no sleep. In general, sleep deprivation can compromise your cognitive function, ability to manage emotions and handle stress, relationships with others, and physical and nutritional conditioning. Read more...

How to gauge food portion sizes

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Keeping portion sizes in check is key to managing your weight. Learn how to use your hand as a guide.

One of the most important things you can do to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is to become aware of “portion sizes.” That refers to the actual amount of food you eat at a single time. It isn’t necessarily the same as the “serving size” that you see on a food label, but especially if you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to compare. In any case, it isn’t always practical to use a measuring cup when you’re dishing up a plate of food or spreading peanut butter on your toast.

A more realistic way to gauge your portion sizes is to “eyeball” them—that is, to visually compare your food portions to a familiar frame of reference. The graphic below uses your hand as your guide to keep portion sizes in check. Of course, your hand might be larger or smaller than someone else’s, but your hand size generally equates to your body size and, as a result, your portion needs. What’s more, it’s one measuring device you’ll always have on hand.

Your handy guide to portion sizes: Your fist about equals a one-cup serving of milk or raw vegetables. Your thumb about equals one 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter or salad dressing. Your cupped palm about equals one half-cup serving of cooked fruit, vegetables, beans, or starch. Your thumbnail about equals a one-teaspoon serving of butter or margarine. And your open palm about equals one 3-ounce serving of cooked meat, fish, or poultry.

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