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.
Using tobacco hurts your wallet and your health. Cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, and chewing tobacco are expensive. Tobacco products can give you bad breath and stained teeth. Some tobacco users even lose their teeth. In addition, smoking tobacco damages your lungs, heart, and skin, causing you to look and feel older than you really are.
Despite all this, tobacco use among service members remains significantly higher compared to civilians. In an effort to reduce the number of tobacco users, the Defense Health Agency has teamed up with the Food and Drug Administration to promote “The Real Cost” campaign on military installations (at home and abroad).
The Department of Defense also sponsors an educational campaign that offers personalized plans for quitting tobacco and live 24-hour help. For more information, visit Quit Tobacco – UCanQuit2.org.
Forgiveness can help you adapt, embrace flexibility, be happier, and move through resentment in your relationships. Balancing children, career, and your marriage is difficult enough; adding deployments to the mix can lead to eruptions with family members. Meditation has been has been shown to help people lower stress their levels and become more forgiving. To reduce friction with your partner or children, consider following these steps associated with forgiveness meditations:
- Take a time-out, and find a quite space to calm down.
- Relax and focus on slowing your breathing.
- Recall times of closeness and connection with your spouse and children.
- Develop awareness of your reactions, and patiently find your way to forgiveness.
Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and basil add a flavorful punch to meals, but they also may provide health benefits. Many herbs contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components. As plants, herbs contain beneficial phytochemicals, which are being researched for their role in cancer prevention. Here are some tips on using culinary herbs to make your meals both tastier and healthier.
- Pre-seasoned, pre-flavored foods (such as rice) often cost more than the basics. Buy unseasoned, plain staples for your pantry, and then add your own variety by using different herbs.
- If you’re trying to follow a low-sodium eating plan, substitute herbs in place of or in addition to a small amount of salt to season your meal.
- Can’t use up fresh herbs fast enough? Purchase dried or frozen herbs, which have a longer shelf life. Just check your recipe, as you probably need to use less of dried herbs than fresh.
Ready to test your green thumb? Place potted herbs on your patio, deck, or windowsill for fresh herbs whenever you need them. Adding herbs to your meat, fish, vegetable, and grains not only adds color and flavor, but it also may be good for your health. Learn more about herb and food combinations.
Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has two new products to help you stay safe when it comes to dietary supplements.
Now you can have the OPSS High-Risk Supplement List at your fingertips as a free app. With the app, you can either search the list for a specific product or use the barcode scanner to see if a product contains any high-risk ingredients such as stimulants, steroids, hormone-like ingredients, controlled substances, or unapproved drugs that could put your health or career at risk. For more information about how to download the app, please visit the Apps tab in Tools for Warfighters.
Want to learn more about supplements and how to choose them wisely? Check out the interactive presentation, “Get the Scoop on Supplements,” where you can watch videos, check your knowledge of dietary supplements, and find other helpful resources to help you reduce your risk of a positive urinalysis drug test and potential health issues. To view the presentation, please go to the Get the Scoop tab in Tools for Warfighters.
Meditation can actually change how your brain functions, building resilience and improving your performance. Much the same way you strengthen your muscles, when you exercise different parts of your brain, you make subtle changes to its structure. These physical changes lead to changes in your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Specifically, it can change those parts of the brain associated with anxiety, mind wandering, mood, fear, stress, empathy, emotion, and pain.
Meditation uses thinking strategies to better manage stress, using your mind to tune into sensations in your body, accept feelings, and observe thoughts without judgment. However, meditation is about much more than just relaxation. It actually creates a state of calm alertness. With the regular practice of meditation, you can bring about structural changes in your brain that make this condition last longer.
If you repeat the same thought or action many, many times, your brain forms new pathways—a process known as “neuroplasticity.” Whether you’re finding your way around a new base, or your children are learning their multiplication tables, skills become ingrained as the brain changes. Meditation helps by affecting the parts of your brain responsible for attention, the ability to think and act with flexibility, and managing emotions. In fact, the emotion regulation center of your brain can grow with meditation, the self-control center becomes more active, and as you become less stressed and fearful, the fear center in your brain can actually shrink in size.
You might not be aware of changes overnight, but persistence will yield rewards. And some meditation is better than none. Just as you get stronger with more time at the gym, the more you meditate, the better your brain becomes equipped to reach that state of calm alertness. To learn more about how to meditate, visit HPRC’s Mind-Body Techniques section.
Blue light is a type of light emitted from all electronic devices and energy-efficient light bulbs. It can give you an energy boost equal to or better than 2 cups of coffee. Blue light may even enhance athletic performance. Sounds great, right? But what if the missing piece of your performance puzzle is sleep? An energy boost during the day may be welcome, but using electronic gadgets at night can be detrimental to your sleep health. The blue light they emit can suppress the secretion of melatonin, a powerful sleep hormone, and disrupt your natural circadian rhythm. Try to manage your exposure to blue light with these tips:
- During the day, take advantage of the bonus your electronic devices give you to boost your attention, reaction times, and mood.
- Shut off all electronic devices at least 2 hours before you need to go to sleep.
- Consider wearing blue-blocking glasses when you need to sleep but can’t avoid blue light.
- If you like having a nightlight, use dim, red bulbs. Red light has less impact on your melatonin levels. (Parents take note for the nightlight in your child’s bedroom.)
One last tip: During the day, get plenty of bright daylight. It makes you feel better during the day, and it will help you sleep better at night.
Thanksgiving is a day of full hearts and full bellies, but consider starting your day off right with a little burn. Calorie burn that is. Pretty much wherever you are, you can find a road race (also popularly known as a “turkey trot”), and most are family friendly. A morning race can be a great way to burn some extra calories before you gobble down your afternoon feast. If you’re not up for the race crowds, find a quiet road for yourself, go for bike ride, or enjoy some fall foliage on a hike. Whatever floats your gravy boat. Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you to all of our service men and women and their families.
Dietary supplements aren’t approved or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration before they are sold on the market. That means there is no way to know whether a product contains the exact ingredients listed on the label or any undisclosed ingredients unless it’s tested in a laboratory. In fact, some supplements have been found to contain dangerous ingredients and even ingredients not allowable in dietary supplements. So how do you know which supplements are safe to take? Watch this new video from Operation Supplement Safety about Decoding the Dietary Supplement Industry.
Fast food is often overloaded with calories, fat, and sodium, so it’s best to choose it less often and eat nutritious meals made at home or in the dining facilities. But juggling the demands of active-duty service, family, friends, and life in general can leave little time to shop, cook, and clean. Sometimes fast food might be your only option, so follow these tips to avoid the pitfalls:
- Make substitutions. Choose grilled chicken for your sandwich instead of fried chicken, and ask for a wheat bun. For your sides, trade in fries or onion rings for a side salad, fruit cup, or plain baked potato.
- Watch your toppings. Toppings such as bacon, cheese, and even sauces provide more fat and calories than you might realize. Skip these toppings and ask for extra veggies on your burger or sandwich. If you want a sauce, stick with ketchup or mustard.
- Go for greens. More and more restaurants offer salads as entrees, which is a great way to increase your veggie intake. But just beware of high-calorie additions such as bacon bits, croutons, fried tortilla strips, and creamy dressings. Instead, look for nutrient-rich toppings such as nuts, seeds, beans, fruit, and lean protein, and ask for a light dressing such as vinaigrette on the side.
- Keep your portion sizes small. Bigger portions mean more calories. Opt for the smallest size when it comes to burgers, fries, sodas, and desserts, and avoid value-sized meals. Doing so can save you a couple hundred calories or more! Check out this infographic on portion sizes to help you.
Fueling with fast food every day isn’t ideal, especially if you want to perform well. Just keep in mind that when you do eat it, making small changes such as these can have a big impact on your health.
Art therapy is one more tool in the arsenal against PTSD and similar disorders. It uses various forms of artwork and creativity to explore feelings, confront emotional conflicts, improve self-awareness, manage behaviors and addictions, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. Under the supervision of an experienced therapist, art therapy can improve general functioning, health, and well-being and can help in recovery from trauma.
Responses to traumatic experiences can include flashbacks and nightmares as your mind unconsciously tries to make sense of what happened. Art can be effective in helping your mind process, express, and even master traumatic experiences, because visual imagery can express what words can’t. Engaging in creative arts has been used specifically to help service members work through trauma. This kind of therapy involves working through your difficulties with a licensed therapist, but the same creative outlets can be great outside of therapy too. Find a craft or art that you find calming, enjoyable, and expressive. Engaging in the arts can be fun and therapeutic.