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Filed under: Mind

Breathe out stress; breathe in relaxation or energy

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Check out HPRC’s instructional videos on breathing tactics you can use to relax or energize you mind and body!

HPRC shows you how to perform three basic breathing exercises in the HPRC Breathing Exercises for Optimized Performance video. Three basic techniques are covered:

  1. Deep Breathing. Use this method whenever you need to release tension and relax. This is a very effective strategy to de-stress quickly.
  2. Alternate Nostril Breathing can help stimulate both sides of your brain, which encourages optimal cognitive performance. So if you are feeling mentally fatigued, try this technique.
  3. Breath of Fire. Commonly used in some yoga practices, fast-paced breathing encourages increased brain activity and can confer feelings of energy in mind and body. Also known as “bellows breath, this is a powerful method to be used carefully according to instructions.

Using any of these strategies in the right situation can provide you with the edge you need to reach optimal performance. Instructions for these techniques are also available in an annotated transcript of the video.

Use self-talk to boost your performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Learn new skills, reinforce old skills, and stay motivated with self-talk strategies.


Talking to yourself (called “self-talk”) is a commonly used sports practice that can boost performance by training you to pay attention to the details of an activity or encourage yourself to keep going.

There are two types of self-talk that can help boost performance: instructional and motivational. Visit HPRC’s Performance Strategies on optimizing self-talk to learn more about these types and how they can benefit your performance.

If you’ve ever choked under pressure, read on.

Emerging research suggests that activating the right side of your brain may decrease likelihood of choking under pressure.

When your body simply refuses to perform a well-learned skill, it’s called “choking.” For Warfighters, the results could be disastrous. Recent research focused on the theory that it involves a disconnection—or loss of focus—between the muscles and the part of the brain responsible for motor skills (for most people, the right side of the brain).

The study tested a small group of athletes to see if better physical performance would result from stimulating the right brain. They found that those who did so—by squeezing a ball with the left hand to stimulate the right brain before a high-pressure situation—performed better than those who squeezed a ball with the right hand or not at all and almost as well as in a low-pressure situation. Although more work is needed to verify the concept, it is something you can try on your own.

Performance Quote: No garbage in

“Garbage in, garbage out.” - George Fuechsel, IBM programmer and instructor

“Garbage in, garbage out.” - George Fuechsel, IBM Programmer and Instructor

What you put in your mind and body has an impact on your performance. Surround yourself with positive people who can encourage you to build the motivation you need to maintain high performance during hard times. Replace negative thoughts and conversations with “I can…” statements. Nutrition also has an impact on your performance. Fueling yourself with high-performance foods can help you perform at your best consistently. Like a car, you cannot run on empty nor fuel yourself with empty calories. The Warfighter Nutrition Guide is an excellent resource for information about performance nutrition. For even more information on fueling performance, explore HPRC’s Nutrition domain.

“Interactive Brain”—A roadmap to your brain

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
“Interactive Brain” can help you understand how the different parts of your brain work and how injury can impact the way your brain functions.

Ever have a buddy ask, “What’s going on inside your head?” Now you can look at the inner workings of the mind—“Interactive Brain” helps you understand how specific parts of the brain can impact basic functions and performance. This tool provides facts about the functions of the right and left sides of the brain, as well as the anatomy of vision, including videos of how head injuries affect eye movement. By going through the sections and clicking the links on the diagrams, you’ll also gain insight into how certain brain injuries such as mild to moderate TBIs can impact performance. Be sure to watch the introductory and anatomy videos that accompany the interactive diagrams, especially if you want to understand traumatic brain injury better.

Meditation and TBI

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Traumatic Brain Injury has both physical and mental aspects, and mindfulness practices such as meditation may help, but the jury is still out.

Meditation has been suggested as a possible strategy to benefit those with TBI, but currently there is not enough research on the ability of those affected by TBI to meditate or to benefit from meditation, and the few published studies report different results, so its effectiveness remains unknown. For more information, read HPRC’s Overview, and for an even more in-depth analysis of the research, read our Research Summary on the topic.

Performance Quote: Catching confidence

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” - Vince Lombardi, legendary NFL coach

Confidence is a central aspect of performance. Confidence comes from a belief in self, coupled with hard work. Surround yourself with confident people whose support can help get you through situations where it may seem impossible to succeed. Likewise, being a confident, positive role model helps bolster the confidence of those around you. Confidence within a group or unit is contagious and can have amazing results when you believe in yourself and those around you.

TBI Pocket Guide from DCoE

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Traumatic brain injury can be a serious invisible injury. The DCoE provides helpful information about symptoms and treatment.

You’ve probably heard of TBI—the acronym for traumatic brain injury. The Defense Centers of Excellence defines a traumatic brain injury as “a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain.” TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, with 80-90% being mild. The symptoms, treatments, and recovery time are different for mild versus moderate-to-severe TBIs.

Common symptoms associated with TBI are:

Physical: headache, sleep disturbances, dizziness, balance problems, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, visual disturbances, sensitivity to light, ringing in the ears

Cognitive: slowed thinking, poor concentration, memory problems, difficulty finding words

Emotional: anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings

For more information, including strategies and suggestions for rehabilitation, check out DCoE’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Pocket Guide for Warfighters. TBI is a serious physical as well as mental injury, so it is important to consult a health professional before attempting any kind of treatment.

It’s never too late to quit

Are you a smoker, but you’re trying to quit? Have you smoked for so long that you don’t see the point in quitting? Well new research has found that it’s never too late to kick an old habit.

Tobacco use, especially in the military, is still an important health issue in this country. While the negative effects of tobacco use have been well documented, what you may not know is that there’s also a lot research about what happens when you quit smoking—and the news is good, especially if living longer is something you care about. Scientists have compiled information from these studies and have found that it’s never too late to quit, even if you have been a lifetime smoker. The military is committed to keeping its past and present service members ready and resilient. Check out HPRC’s article “Tobacco in the military: Be a quitter!” Live longer and better. Consider quitting, starting today!

Buyer beware! “Brain games” questioned

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Many commercial “brain exercise” products claim to improve overall cognitive performance, but a large study shows this may not be the case.

A recent American Psychological Association press release focused on the overall effectiveness of brain training programs as explored in a review of research that appeared in the Journal of Developmental Psychology. It turns out that not only are these exercises ineffective for treating cognitive disorders such as ADHD, but their effectiveness on improving brain function and intelligence in healthy adults and children is minimal. In fact, the effects weren’t comprehensive and didn’t last long.

If you’re looking to increase cognitive performance, mindfulness training such as meditation may be a good bet. Although mindfulness meditation is a relatively young field of study, so far studies indicate that regular practice has a positive effect on memory, attention, and mood regulation.

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