Army H.e.a.l.t.h. Arsenal
April, 2017


Smiling Mind is a website and app developed by psychologists and educators that helps make mindfulness meditation accessible for all ages. It is a simple tool that allows you to practice modern meditation daily. It features guided meditations with the objective of managing stress, increasing resilience and assisting in reducing mental health risks in later life. It also features interactive dashboard graphing with mood results, reminders to mediate and much more.

Smiling Minds is designed to help build individual mental health and wellbeing through positive, pre-emptive tools based on mindfulness meditation. Through regular guided practice, users can learn strategies to calm their minds, focus and stay in the moment.

The Smiling Mind app is available for free in the app store for iPhone and Android

Sleep Corner

Mindfulness for Sleep!

Many people have problems falling asleep at night, but science says mindfulness meditation may help. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and UCLA have been testing the effects of mindfulness meditation on sleep through controlled studies. They have found that this technique evokes a relaxation response that may ease depression, pain, and high blood pressure, along with alleviating insomnia and next-day sleep related impairments.

Some practical tips on how to use mindfulness meditation to sleep include breathing awareness and muscle relaxation. Through focusing on the breath in and out, we can bring our attention away from worries and stress. Breathe slowly and attend to the feeling of the air going in and out of your nose or the rising and falling of your chest. When thoughts enter your mind simply acknowledge them and let them pass rather than ruminating on them. Also, progressively tensing and relaxing muscles will help with physical relaxation to match the mental relaxation process.


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The Mindful Family


Practicing mindfulness has a multitude of benefits for busy adults – practicing can reduce stress, mitigate the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and help enhance relationship function. However, mindfulness is not an “adult only” activity!

Mindful or Mind Full?

Studies have shown that involving mindfulness skills in the family can help improve parent-child relationships. Children who practice mindfulness with their families are better at noticing and controlling their behavior; likewise, parents who practice with their family are better at noticing and regulating their emotions, especially during particularly stressful parent-child interactions. This can be especially helpful for help adolescents. Emotions can run high in parent-adolescent interactions, but the mindfulness skills of becoming aware of, evaluating, and experiencing the emotions in the moment can turn a screaming match into an open, productive exchange of feelings. These skills can also help increase co-parenting relationship quality – coparents who practice mindfulness together have higher levels of agreement and lower levels of conflict when making parenting decisions.

Meditation Station

Working mindfulness into family time doesn’t have to be difficult. There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into the family’s daily routine:
  1. Set a time – don’t let conflicting schedules steal away your mindful moments. Set a specific time where everyone can sit and practice a mindfulness exercise together. Spending a few moments relaxing can be especially helpful before bed.

  2. Practice gratitude at the dinner table – a good time to work mindfulness into an especially hectic family schedule is during a family dinner. Practice gratitude by taking turns saying something you are grateful for, and something you appreciate about the other people at the table. There is always something to be grateful for – maybe even whatever’s on the table for dinner!

  3. Make a “Peace Place” – create a special space that is used specifically for mindfulness. This can be in the main area or in a specific room of the house. Ask each family member what they would like in this special place to make it relaxing (maybe soft blankets, or a specific scented candle). Each family – or perhaps the entire family at once – can come to this space to spend some moments in peace during moments of anger, frustration, or stress. Creating a physical space can encourage everyone to “leave your worries at the door” and to practice being in the moment with their emotions.

  4. Notice new things – family outings can be a good place to practice mindfulness as well. The next time everyone is taking a walk or riding in the car together, take turns noticing something new about the surroundings. It can be anything from the clothes a neighbor is wearing to the color of the birds flying by. Taking time to notice new things about the surroundings helps further ground everyone in the moment.


Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Practicing with the family can improve parent-child and parent-parent relationships, as well as keep everyone accountable for living in the moment a little more each day.



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FAQ

Q: When I practice mindfulness, my mind tends to wonder a lot. How can I stop my mind from wondering so much?

A: A wandering mind while practicing mindfulness is common, regardless of how long you have been practicing. When you find your mind wandering, bring your attention back to a designated “home object”. If practicing mindful meditation it is common to use your breath as the home object. Otherwise, have the home object be something in the environment, such as your dishes if you are washing dishes, or the taste/texture of your food, if you are eating.

Mindful Moment

The best way to capture precious moments with family is to pay attention. Mindfulness is ‘being awake’ in every moment. Don’t let precious time pass you by!


Bottom Line

Sleep is a vital component to our mental and physical health. Many factors can interfere with a good night’s sleep, including alcohol. Having a routine bedtime ritual that excludes alcohol can help our body prepare for sleep.

Many professional athletes are now realizing the impact that sleep can have on performance. Top athletes from around the world are now scheduling sleep into their day in the same manner they would prioritize physical training.

Just like professional athletes, working with our natural circadian rhythm is a good way to improve sleep. A daily afternoon slump may be a sign that we are not getting enough sleep. Or we may simply need to adjust our afternoon routine by switching tasks, working out, and/or refueling.



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Featured Recipe: Strawberry Mango Salsa



The groundhog’s six more weeks of winter has officially passed. With spring rapidly fading into summer, that means one thing: fresh produce. This fruit salsa is a fresh take on a Mexican food favorite, and makes use of all the fresh fruit coming into season. It’s easy to prepare and works well as a dip, a topping, or even a snack by itself!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup diced strawberries
  • 3/4 cup diced mango*
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced**
  • 2 tablespoons diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons honey, or more to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime

  • Instructions In a large bowl, combine strawberries, mango, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, honey and lime juice.

    Serve immediately alone, as a topping on chicken or fish, or with your favorite baked tortilla chips or whole grain crackers!

    Nutrition Information:
    Servings: 4      Calories: 184      Carbs: 48g      Fiber: 0g      Sugar: 38g                Fat: 0g            Protein: 2g        Sodium: 7mg     

    * Not sure how to tango with the mango? Check out this video on how to dice a mango (and learn a cool trick for turning a slice inside out!)

    ** Whether you like your salsa mild or mouth-burningly hot, you can set the spice using your jalapeño. The flavor of a jalapeño comes from its green flesh, but the spice comes from the white membrane and seeds inside the pepper. If you like your salsa mild, skip the seeds and membrane altogether. If you like a little more heat, mince the membrane and add it and some seeds to the mix. Jalapeñ-pro-tip: when you pick your pepper at the store, give it a sniff. If it tickles your throat it’s muy caliente!
    Featured Exercise: Child's Pose


    Sources:
    Featured Recipe adapted from Damn Delicious.