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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 Tactics

Leveraging mindfulness as a performance-optimization tool

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Practicing mindfulness can improve performance by reducing stress and increasing well-being.

PsychCentral’s March 2012 "Ask the Therapist" article addresses how mindfulness relates to military performance—especially important now that the military has been incorporating mindfulness tactics for enhancing Warfighter mental and physical resilience. Of particular note is a study from the Journal of Clinical Psychology that demonstrated significant improvements in PTSD symptoms, depression, etc. in veterans after completing a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The article also noted other studies that showed long-term stress-reduction, well-being, and positive experiences. Simply put, acknowledging emotional pain helps you overcome it. You are then able to focus and communicate with loved ones more effectively.

If you’d like to learn more about meditation and mindfulness, check out the Mind Tactics section of the HPRC website, which contains many resources related to meditation and mindfulness, as well as resources related to mental fitness, mental toughness, and resilience.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Do you know your Drinking IQ?

Not only is alcohol abuse harmful to your social life and relationships, but it also takes a toll on your physical and mental performance. Alcohol abuse is a serious performance degrader that results in irritability, difficulty communicating with friends and family, delayed reaction timing, reduced metabolic rate, and decline in cognitive processing.

If you’re not sure if your drinking levels constitutes abuse or not, check out Military Pathways’ free and anonymous Drinking IQ screening. This online self-assessment can help you determine the seriousness of your drinking habits and how it can impact your total performance. A few tips from the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism will also show you how to cut back on your alcohol consumption.

Listen your way to relaxation

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Learn to “Relax Relax” with a toolkit of audio files from NMCPHC.

Grab your headphones and learn effective relaxation strategies for performance optimization and stress reduction with the Relax Relax Toolkit from the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC). Featuring audio instruction from experts and links to evidence-based information on each technique, this toolkit covers a number of strategies including breathing exercises, muscle relaxation strategies, meditation styles, and combination and advanced strategies. To help meditation, Relax Relax also presents a variety of relaxing music to help you meditate.  Visit the HPRC’s Stress Control Tools for more information on relaxation strategies.

Improve performance— get help to quit smoking

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Quit smoking with useful resources from Quit Tobacco—Make Everyone Proud.

Optimized performance and mission readiness are compromised by smoking. The list of adverse effects includes increased fatigue, diminished respiratory capacity, poorer night vision, slower wound healing, and even slower reaction times. It’s hard enough trying to optimize performance without adding the other health issues that smoking brings. Try using the resources offered by Quit Tobacco—Make Everyone Proud to get you on a smoke-free path to optimum performance—or to help someone else. Remember, if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the others who are counting on you to perform at your best.

New One Shot One Kill materials now available online

New program materials for the One Shot One Kill (OSOK) performance enhancement program are now available on HPRC’s website!

One Shot One Kill: Want to learn how the elite warrior accomplishes optimal performance time after time, under the most challenging conditions? The HPRC now has new program materials for the One Shot One Kill (OSOK) performance enhancement program online for you to use and download—by yourself or with your unit! One Shot One Kill (Integrative Platform version) is a “warrior-centric” performance enhancement program that warriors can set up and manage on their own. OSOK-IP is designed to enhance performance, hardiness, and resilience. By building on the skills that Warfighters already possess, OSOK aims to translate good Warfighter qualities to outstanding ones. OSOK-IP comes in two versions:

OSOK-IP Solo is a step-by-step integrative training plan, with supplemental materials, that enables the individual Warfighter to pursue this method of Total Fitness on his or her own and reach the optimal level of performance in almost all areas of life.

OSOK-IP Train the Trainer enables your unit to train as a group by selecting one member to learn and present OSOK-IP to the rest of the unit. This section of the website has the full curriculum available to download and even customize OSOK-IP content for your own military culture and unit.

We look forward to your feedback, too. Check out OSOK and let us know what you think!

Acupuncture in military medicine is a growing phenomenon

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
The December 2011 issue of Medical Acupuncture features a number of free, peer-reviewed articles detailing the use of acupuncture in the military.

Recognizing the expanding use of acupuncture within military medicine, the December 2011 issue of Medical Acupuncture is dedicated to exploring the uses of acupuncture in military medical care. Often used as a treatment for pain, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and mild traumatic brain injury, the practice of acupuncture is growing as a medical treatment for a broad range of ailments in the military, even in war zones. Featured articles include a roundtable discussion on challenges and opportunities for using acupuncture, an account of a U.S. Navy doctor’s use of acupuncture downrange, and future directions and applications of acupuncture.

“Infographic” on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from Military Pathways

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
This colorful sheet engages readers in learning about key statistics and tips on getting help for PTSD.

Military Pathways presents an “infographic” (a graphic fact sheet) that highlights basic information on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The sheet includes are statistics on PTSD in both the general population and military to help put this syndrome in perspective, as well as possible causes and outcomes of not getting help for PTSD, and identifies prevention and treatment methods that you can use to help avoid or minimize the occurrence and effects of PTSD.

Smartphone apps to help with stress and relaxation

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
The National Center for Telehealth and Technology offers expanded mobile apps to help users control stress and monitor PTSD symptoms from their smartphones.

The National Center for Telehealth and Technology has introduced a line of mobile apps focusing on mind-body strategies to help improve mood, PTSD symptoms, and induce relaxation. Currently, most of the applications are available at the iPhone app store and Android Market. Below is a list of a few that are currently available. For more details, visit the MT Stress Control Tools.

Could sleep be your single most important health habit?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Guest contributor Dr. Daniel Johnston of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness makes a case for why he thinks sleep is the most important health habit.

Have you ever had one of those days that never seemed to go well, from the minute you heard the alarm clock go off? Maybe you didn’t have time for breakfast, forgot your laptop at home, lost your temper when someone cut you off on your way to work, replied to an e-mail in a way you really wished you hadn’t, ate poorly all day, couldn't concentrate at work, and then couldn't find the energy to go the gym?

Ask yourself how you slept the night before. One factor that can contribute to bad days is lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep is all too common in the military and across the country—it’s often looked at as the price you pay to get ahead. Some sacrifice sleep for social activities at night—web surfing, e-mailing, watching TV, playing video games, or one more drink out with buddies—which further worsens the issue.

Bottom line: Not getting enough sleep is pervasive throughout all ranks and has major negative impact on your health, relationships, and career. The effects of sleep loss affect performance in much the same way that alcohol intoxication does. So coming to work deprived of sleep is rather like coming to work drunk. Your interactions with others and your job performance suffer—which has a huge impact on safety. Losing sleep isn’t sustainable for the long run.

But the damage doesn’t stop there. In fact, sleep loss has a ripple effect throughout virtually every aspect of health and wellness, including your physical, emotional, social, family, and spiritual well-being (see the five program components of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness here). It increases your risk of disease and harms your social relationships and possibly your professional reputation.

Sleep deprivation can be a byproduct of mission demands, of course. In the military, sleep loss is sometimes used on the battlefield as a weapon, wearing the enemy down through non-stop engagement. The problem is that this strategy affects our own Warfighters, too. Senior leaders are cautious in employing this tactic, and it’s used only for specific, organized, orchestrated periods of time, allowing for a full rest and recovery before massive errors occur that can cost lives.

Where many of us go wrong is thinking this type of sleep schedule is normal and maintaining it post-deployment. Most people aren’t able to tell when their state of mind—alertness, mood, concentration—has been compromised by lack of sleep until gross errors are made.

I believe sleep is the single most vital wellness function we do every single 24-hour period, and yet it requires no treadmills, no weights to be lifted, no personal trainers, and not even special clothes. It has dramatic implications for your entire body and sets you up for optimization everywhere else. Sleep is commonly overlooked at the doctor's office because physicians (including myself) don't understand exactly how it works, and in fact, there is no standardized medical test to see if you are getting enough sleep. But that’s no reason to ignore the health treasures afforded to those who get a great night's sleep on a regular basis.

On average, we spend 20-25 years of our lives sleeping, and five to seven of those are spent the critical dream periods known as "Rapid Eye Movement." REM periods occur at regular intervals throughout a night of good rest (when not impaired by alcohol, caffeine, or other drugs). Unfortunately, many of us look at this time as wasted, yet it can be some of the most glorious "unconscious" time to improve our health!

During REM periods, your brainwave patterns register signals much like those produced when you are awake and concentrating. During sleep you also secrete hormones that repair tissue and renew microscopic damages to cells and organs before they develop into bigger problems. In fact, you actually concentrate and focus for several hours throughout a good night's rest as you repair your body! Your brain, the center of all health, is exercising while you lie quietly in dreamland! When you destroy the quality of your REM sleep, the result is poor performance, inattention, obesity, hormonal imbalances, poor appetite, lack of normal growth, high blood pressure, poor interpersonal skills, no energy for the gym, possibly diabetes, and more.

Getting enough sleep means you are more likely to live longer, experience less disease, retain information better, perform better, and get more out of your workouts. You will be more patient with others, less demanding and prone to anger, and able to optimize all aspects of human performance, including your family relationships. For more about getting enough sleep, visit the HPRC’s Sleep Optimization page. Don't overlook the simplicity of a good night's rest.

Strategically time your exercise to optimize sleep

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Exercising before bed could keep you up at night. To optimize your sleep, avoid exercising within three hours of bedtime.

Although regular exercise can improve sleep (see this HPRC article), your workout time may be putting you in a less-than-ideal state for a good night’s rest. Exercise not only makes you more alert but also raises your body temperature, both of which can make falling and staying asleep more difficult. To create healthy sleep habits, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends that you finish your workout at least three hours before you go to bed. View more healthy sleep tips on the NSF website.

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