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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.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body

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.

Service members and social media conduct

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn how inappropriate social media behavior can result in serious consequences for Warfighters.

A Warfighter’s online behavior can affect his or her military career, so it’s important to maintain a respectful online presence. According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), inappropriate use of social media can lead to punishable consequences. While UCMJ doesn’t include specific language about social media, keep in mind that general punitive codes might be applied to harmful conduct online.

Examples of online conduct unbecoming of service members are often made public through news and media. There’s no reasonable expectation of privacy on social media forums, where actions and behaviors can be witnessed by others—and subsequently reported for disciplinary action. Remember: Service members are never off-duty when representing the country and those who honorably served before them. Social media use comes with both benefits and dangers to consider as well. Young service members have grown up with social media as a constant presence in their lives, while older generations still might feel like they’re navigating unchartered territory. It can be difficult to recognize what constitutes a punishable offense. Posting derogatory comments about superior officers, disparaging the president and other government officials, and commenting inappropriately with offensive, discriminatory, or racist language are all punishable offenses.

Current events have inspired many to share their views and engage in discussions about what matters to them. The guiding principle for appropriate behavior should be rooted in the honor and respect deserved by the uniform. Warfighters represent the best our country has to offer, and their online conduct and etiquette always should reflect high standards.

Visit the DoD Social Media Hub for updated policies and links to social media portals for each service branch. And learn more about behavior that’s punishable by UCMJ:

 

Posted 13 March 2017

6 ways to “spring performance forward”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn 6 ways you can spring your performance forward as you adjust your clocks 1 hour ahead.

“Spring forward” isn’t just for your clocks! It’s the perfect time to ramp up and renew your health and wellness habits and practices, so you can perform your very best. Make sure to turn your clocks one hour ahead on Sunday, March 12, to mark the start of Daylight Saving Time for much of the continental U.S. Although you lose an hour of sleep, here are 6 ways to leverage the longer periods of daylight and spring your “performance” forward.

  • Reset your sleep habits. Adjust your bedtime gradually in 15-minute increments each day leading up to the time change. For example, if your bedtime is 10 p.m., try going to sleep earlier the week before so that you can handle the time change when it arrives. And take naps to help make up for any sleep debt. If you’re not fully adjusted when Sunday arrives, remember that it’s okay to use naps to adapt to your new schedule.
  • Make the most of mornings. The impact of the hour of sleep you lose will be temporary, but you can plan carefully to minimize its effects. The good news is you’ll be waking up to brighter skies, which can help you feel more alert and awake. Try to start your day with a few minutes of mindfulness meditation or yoga. Or simply set intentions for how you’ll approach your day.
  • Change up your exercise routine. You adapted your exercise routine for the winter, and now is a good time to switch things up. Take a look at your current routine. Are there different activities you can try to test the boundaries of your physical fitness and improve your strength, endurance, and skill?
  • Head outside. The warmer temperatures and longer days mean more opportunities to connect with nature. Exercising outdoors can calm your nervous system, help you recover from stressful events, and improve your overall well-being.
  • Reevaluate goals. Your mind loves clear markers in time, such as adjusting the clock forward, to signal new starts. Review the goals and resolutions you set for yourself at the start of the year and use the after action review (AAR) process to conduct a quarterly assessment. Adjust or set new goals accordingly.
  • Spring clean. Mess causes stress. Refresh and renew your home, but don’t stop at the ceiling fans and baseboards. Clean out your pantry and refrigerator and make space for new spring vegetables and fruits to boost your diet. Toss or donate unused items and clothing to unclutter your physical environment too.

Maintain optimal performance and make the transition smoother with these tips. For more information on sleep and performance, visit HPRC’s Sleep Optimization page.

Exercise boosts mental health

Learn how regular bouts of exercise can improve your physical health, mental health, and well-being.

Engaging in regular exercise is critical to maintaining optimal physical health and performance. Did you know that it also boosts your mental health and well-being? Some research suggests a strong connection between exercise and the prevention and treatment of psychological illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. Exercise also might help increase positive mental states and support cognitive function throughout your life. In addition, Warfighters and their families can use daily physical activity to remain strong and mission-ready, increase resilience, and boost overall well-being. Read more...

Financial incentives and fitness goals

Filed under: Finances, Fitness, Goals
Money is a strong motivator, but can it help you exercise more?

It’s tax season, and finances are on your mind. Financial planning is important and it might help you stay on track with your fitness goals. What motivates you to exercise? Maybe it’s your New Year’s resolution, or you’re training for an upcoming event. The key is finding what works for you, so that you maintain a regular exercise routine.

For many, money can be a strong motivator for maintaining their exercise behaviors. You pay for gym memberships, fitness classes, and fancy exercise equipment—but is spending money a good way to stay motivated?

In general, people often are motivated by immediate gratification (versus being rewarded later) and by losses, rather than gains. Some research suggests that the idea of losing money is a strong motivator for maintaining an exercise program. So, if you pay for a gym membership and never use it, that sense of monetary loss can motivate you to actually go to the gym. Still, the value you place on that membership is important too. You might not feel a significant sense of loss over a $10 monthly gym membership, whereas the threat of losing $200 a month for a different membership might matter more. In one study, money was deducted from some participants’ prepaid accounts each time a fitness goal (walking 7000 steps/day) wasn’t met. Those who “lost” money experienced a greater increase in activity compared to those who were paid each day they met the same goal. For some people, losses feel worse than gains feel good.

You also might consider pre-paid or unlimited-visit gym memberships, where you pay a certain amount up front. And the more often you go, you get more bang for your buck as each class becomes cheaper.

Sometimes you need to “trick yourself” into good behaviors. Are you motivated by losses or gains? Find a trick that works for your wallet and you might find yourself in better shape for it!

Create healthy team environments

Learn how creating healthy team environments can foster performance, well-being, and morale.

Healthy environments create high-performing teams, which makes a big difference in how productive and fulfilled Warfighters feel on a daily basis. Winning teams don’t happen by chance. As leaders, parents, and partners, there are a few ways you can work toward building strong, cohesive, and effective teams at home or in uniform.

One of the most basic building blocks of good teams is a sense of trust and dependability among its members. High-quality connections with others at work and home can be cultivated by creating forums for open, honest, and assertive communication (about both the positive and negative). Encourage transparency and frequent communication about issues that impact daily operations. And remember that communication styles vary from person to person.

Although teams and families operate in units, find ways to identify and support individual strengths and attributes. Individual traits can help build or break down a team. Be proactive about getting to know what each person brings to the table and provide opportunities for them to utilize their strengths.

Create uniform standards of respect among teammates and family members to help boost healthy team environments too. When you identify negative dynamics within your group, openly address them and hold everyone accountable to the same expectations. Be on the lookout for group aggression and hazing. Although some people believe that these behaviors can lead to increased group identification, they actually can tear down morale and cohesion.

The teams that work within our Armed Forces are constantly in a state of flux. Crafting healthy team environments can create stability and security amid an ever-changing military landscape.

The psychology of heart health

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn about the strong connection between mental health and heart health.

There’s a strong relationship between your mental health and cardiovascular health, and new research suggests that both are closely tied together in ways not previously understood.

By some estimates, those with cardiovascular disease are 3 times more likely to struggle with depression. They’re also likely to go undiagnosed because of the stigma associated with mental illness and the lack of mental health evaluations conducted in medical settings. The prognosis is worse for adults with depression: 80% are at increased risk of developing new cardiovascular illness, experiencing complications or hospitalizations, and dying from heart disease.

Depression can worsen cardiovascular health through other health behaviors too. For example, those with depression might be less willing to follow medical treatment plans, more likely to eat unhealthy “comfort” foods—especially ones high in sugar and sodium—and live more sedentary lifestyles. Depression impacts certain stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which also can “spike” your blood sugar, blood pressure, and resting heart rate.

On the flip side, psychological well-being might be associated with higher levels of cardiovascular health. Optimism, for example, might reduce your risk of heart disease. How? Optimism is characterized by expecting good things to happen or having a sense of control, and both perspectives can influence you to engage in restorative health behaviors, reduce risky or harmful behaviors, and make better choices. If you believe that what you do affects your health, you’re more likely to take purposeful action to deal with your illness and take preventive measures to ward off disease in the first place. 

Psychological health and illness impact cardiovascular health, and vice versa. The relationship is a complicated, two-way street. Love your heart by taking care of yourself and seeking help for depression when needed. Your heart will thank you for it.

“Screen time” impacts dream time

Your “screen time” might be impacting your sleep. Learn how to reduce the harmful effects of blue light and technology.

Time spent with smartphones, tablets, and computers can impact your ability to get healthy sleep. The primary culprit is exposure to blue light that’s emitted from all electronic devices. Using them at night can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm and suppress the secretion of melatonin, a powerful sleep hormone. When your eyes are exposed to artificial light, you might feel more awake when you should be getting ready to wind down. Try these tips to minimize the impact of blue light:

  • Set a “2-hour” rule. Turn off handheld devices and televisions at least 2 hours before bedtime. And dim the lights at home. Try to avoid lying in bed and scrolling social media and email before bedtime too. If you happen to read something stress-inducing or upsetting, your day might end on a negative note. Try reading a book, journaling, or reflecting on something you feel grateful for instead.
  • Block the blue. If you can’t avoid electronic devices before bed, some tools can help offset blue-light exposure. Many mobile devices come equipped with blue-light reducing functions already installed. You also can purchase blue-light blocking glasses with amber lenses. Or download software that adjusts the light on your screen, depending on the time of day and your location.
  • Use light wisely. Not all light exposure is bad. Head outside into real sunlight, especially when it’s early, so you can sleep better at night. Leverage blue-light exposure appropriately during the day, if possible. It can boost your energy and readiness, increase alertness, and enhance cognitive function and mood.

Screens and devices are unavoidable. Still, they’re often an important part of daily life. Understanding their effects on sleep can help you choose how and when to make best use of technology. To learn more about blue-light exposure, visit the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) web page.

Social media smarts

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Have you ever thought about how social media use impacts your well-being and productivity? Learn how to avoid the possible detriments of social media.

The average person spends almost 2 hours each day on social media, probably without considering its impact on well-being and productivity. Maintaining connectedness to friends and family, plus almost instantaneous access to information, are some of the reasons people are drawn to social media. However, for some people, social media usage can lead to increases in depression and anxiety.

Exposure to cyber-bullying and incivility can skew your view of human nature. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can grow if you have a lot of “friends” on social media but don’t have good-quality interactions with some of them, or worse, if you neglect other relationships in your life. Social media impacts your attention and productivity by distracting you and taking your attention away from the task at hand.

How can you make the best of social media?

  • Set clear boundaries on how much and when you will use social media. Look for tools to block sites during times when you need to remain present and task-focused.
  • Beware of social comparison, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy or envy. Remember that people only post what they want others to see, and comparing yourself to others can become destructive.
  • Be selective of what you see in your feed to prioritize what contributes to your life, and filter out what takes away from it. Emotions—positive and negative—are contagious. Monitor how time spent on social media impacts how you feel, and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Disconnect often if you find that you’re spending too much time engaged with your devices. Practice being more present with your friends, spouse, and family. Work toward gaining more face-to-face time with those who mean most to you.

Finally, conduct on social media can have real consequences for Warfighters. You can find general guidelines and review component-specific policies on this DoD CIO web page.

Communicate with curiosity

You probably work and interact with people who are different from you. Approaching conversations with curiosity can improve those relationships.

People you work or interact with might differ from you in age, ethnicity, ideology, or a number of other ways. In conversations with individuals you perceive to be different from you, strive to come from a place of curiosity.

Being curious means entering conversations and relationships assuming only that you have something to learn. What’s more, people who are curious are more likely to feel better about themselves and their lives. They experience more positive emotions such as joy and surprise.

Ask yourself: Am I willing to learn about the lives of people who are different from me? Can I ask more questions? How might I benefit from learning more? Do I communicate with a willingness to learn?

Being curious requires being a good listener, which means being aware of the assumptions you bring to conversations. When you hear or read something someone said, it arrives after being screened through your own personal filter. You might draw what appear to be “logical” inferences, but these might not be accurate at all.

Before you act on your assumptions, ask open-ended, curiosity-driven questions such as:

  • What was that like?
  • How did that feel?
  • What did you think when that happened?
  • How did you end up making that decision?
  • Tell me more.

Healthy communication means listening, accepting, respecting, and negotiating differences. Note your body language, too. If your arms are crossed, muscles tense, and your face in a grimace, you’re not conveying curiosity. Approaching conversations with anger or blame or intent to criticize, threaten, or punish leads to communication breakdowns and strained relationships.

The U.S. Armed Forces celebrates diversity and encourages inclusion. When you communicate with others—whether the conversation is in person, on the phone, or over social media—be driven by curiosity. Being curious can benefit you and your improve relationships with others. In the end, you might find out you’re more alike than you are different.

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