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Filed under: Mood

Keep the happy in the holidays: If you’re feeling pulled, try stretching

As you work on your happiness this holiday season, remember that it’s not just a mind thing; incorporate the physical activity of stretching too.

HPRC continues it series on keeping the happy in holidays, as last week we focused on practicing acceptance. This week, a simple tip: If you’re feeling pulled in a hundred different directions or have been too busy to simply sit and relax, find five minutes to stretch—both your body and your mind. In addition to being an important component of fitness, stretching can also help quiet your mind from the stress of the holidays. Try this basic stretching routine from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). While you’re at it, practice some of the other skills described in this series to foster happiness: examining your thoughts and practicing gratitude, acceptance, and optimism. Your body and mind will thank you.

HPRC’s website has more ideas on mind-body skills you can try this holiday season and New Year.

Keep the happy in holidays: Be aware of depression in those around you

If you or a loved one is feeling less than joyful this holiday season, reach out and get help.

Continuing HPRC’s series on keeping the happy in the holidays, last week we “focused on the positive.” This week, learn what the signs of depression are, and make sure you know how everyone in your family is doing.

Depression is not something that you can just snap out of. It can impact a person in many ways and can range from mild to severe. According to the American Psychological Association, “Depression is more than just sadness.” Symptoms can range from lack of interest to thoughts of suicide, so learn what to watch for. Check out this factsheet that details the signs and symptoms of depression and another on “Taking Charge of Depression” that includes helpful strategies. Depression is treatable with professional help; don’t isolate yourself and don’t let others do so.

For more information on depression, check out the suicide prevention section of HPRC’s website.

Keep the happy in the holidays: Focus on the positive

Another tip in this holiday season’s quest for happiness: Learn to be optimistic by focusing on the opportunities and possibilities in life.

Last week we focused on being a gratitude-seeker this holiday season. This week’s tip is to focus on the positive. Optimistic Warfighters who “see the glass half-full” are less impacted by warzone stress, experience fewer mental health issues, and exhibit better health and resilience overall. The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) defines optimism as “a set of beliefs that helps to focus your attention and behavior on the opportunities and possibilities of life.” Everyone falls victim to negative or “the grass is greener” thinking at times, but negative thoughts create more negative thoughts. Learn to stay realistically positive. Optimistic thoughts are contagious too, so you’ll be passing on positivity! The Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness program calls focusing on the positive a “hunt for the good stuff.”

You can learn optimism in a variety of ways, such as focusing on what’s positive and possible, taking advantage of opportunities that arise, and developing realistic expectations about outcomes. DCoE has specific suggestions on how to accomplish realistic optimism. And for more Mind Tactics to promote resilience, check out HPRC’s Mental Resilience section.

Be a “Joy Multiplier,” not a “Joy Thief”

Filed under: Mind, Mood, Relationships
The way you respond to someone when they share good news can either enhance or detract from your relationship. Learn how to strengthen others with “Active Constructive Responding.”

At the Warrior Resilience Conference V in August 2013, representatives of the Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness (CSF2) program discussed one of the resilience-promoting skills that they teach for strengthening relationships: Active Constructive Responding.

Active Constructive Responding shows “authentic interest” where sharing creates a deeper experience for both individuals. For example, when someone shares a positive event with you, the best response is to show interest or excitement about what he or she is telling you, followed by a positive conversation about it. By doing this you can be a “Joy Multiplier.” By comparison, it’s important not to do any of these:

  • Kill the joy by focusing on possible negatives about the event (being a “Joy Thief”).
  • Bring up something that happened to you, turning the attention away from the other person, or completely ignore what you were told (being a “Conversation Hijacker”).
  • Respond to the other person as if distracted and/or with limited interest (being a “Conversation Killer”).

To learn more about this technique (and the ones to avoid), check out this presentation from CSF2. And for more about CSF2, check out this section on HPRC’s website.

Tips for combating loneliness

Feeling isolated or alone isn’t a recipe for resilience. Learn ways to overcome isolation.

There may be times in your life when you feel isolated or all alone. Connecting with people can help you find meaning in life, feel better, improve your mood, and beat boredom. Afterdeployment.org has a tip sheet—“Beating Isolation”—with ideas for how to overcome loneliness that include making plans to hang out with someone, reaching out to people you know, and getting involved in your community.

Breaking down some mind traps

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind, Mind tactics, Mood
Check out HPRC’s new card for tips on helping your mind to be its best.

Does your mind ever get in the way of you being your best? Are your thoughts stuck in a negative rut? Do you wish you knew a strategy for trying to get yourself out of these “thinking traps” that we all fall victim to every now and then?  Check out HPRC’s downloadable card—“Change Your Mind for Peak Performance”—which highlights some common mind traps and learn about one strategy that may help.

For more information on enhancing your mind, check out HPRC’s Mind Tactics domain.

Chronic Multisymptom Illness: Environment to blame?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Veterans of Middle East deployment are experiencing health complications that have led doctors and other health professionals to investigate possible environmental causes.

Warfighters involved in Operation Desert Storm to current missions in Iraq and Afghanistan may be experiencing what the Institute of Medicine is calling “Chronic Multisymptom Illness.” Research suggests that it is connected to toxins and contaminated environments in Middle East combat zones. Those who appear to be suffering from it have apparently unexplainable symptoms lasting at least six months in two or more of the following categories: fatigue, mood and cognition issues, musculoskeletal problems, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory difficulties, and neurologic issues. Dust storms and smoke from burn pits may be the vehicles for transporting toxic metals, bacteria, viruses, and perhaps the nerve gas sarin. Experts suggest that high temperatures and low humidity in the Middle East cause people to breathe more through their mouths than through their nose, carrying the pollutants deeper into the lungs, especially during rigorous physical activity. New legislation has recently set up burn pit registries to track the medical histories of those who may have been exposed to smoke from the practice of burning waste (human, plastic bottles, etc.) using jet fuel. With the rise of unexplained medical conditions among younger veterans of recent conflicts, researchers are looking for more conclusive evidence as to what exactly is causing this chronic illness. In the meantime, the IOM has just published a report with extensive information and recommendations for treatment.

Anger control plan

 It’s okay to get mad, but it’s not okay to get out of control. Try some of these resources to keep your anger in check and your relationships good.

Everyone experiences anger—it’s normal. It’s also normal that the people you love will make you angry at some point. The trick is figuring out how to manage your anger—an essential skill for yourself and your relationships. Not dealing with anger just makes the situation worse. Afterdeployment.org has handouts on different aspects of Anger and Anger Management to get you started, including Anger Cues and Measuring Anger, Myths About Anger, how to manage anger with Time-Outs, and how to create an Anger Control Plan.

For even more information on how to strengthen your relationships and manage your own emotions, check out additional resources in HPRC’s Family & Relationships and Mind Tactics domains.

Optimism can boost performance—give it a try!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
 “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier” – Colin Powell, 65th Secretary of State, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired U.S. Army four-star General

Optimism is a hallmark of resilience, and being optimistic can enhance your performance. Having a positive outlook can also help you harness your mental and physical strength to deliver your best performance, no matter the conditions. Whether you’re facing physical, mental, or emotional challenges, learn how to shift your thinking from negative (pessimistic) to positive (optimistic), and see how an optimistic perspective can help you achieve a greater outcome. For help on how to accomplish this, check out HPRC’s "Reframe your thoughts for peak performance."

Meditation has a lasting effect on emotions

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Need another reason to meditate? Integrating meditation into your daily routine may benefit how you process your emotions in the long term.

Researchers have long been interested in meditation and its potential benefits. A recent study found that regular meditation practice of 20 minutes a day has a lasting effect on how your brain processes emotions. This suggests that meditation could potentially help your brain handle stress, anxiety, and depression, and possibly other feelings. For those individuals dealing with relocation, deployment after-effects, chronic stress overload, recent family changes, or new training assignments, having a strategy to improve your resilience and help process the expected extra doses of emotions can be helpful.

For more information on meditation, visit the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s meditation page. HPRC will be adding a new section on Mind-Body Strategies in the near future that will give you more resources, too—so check back for that.

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