5 Mindfulness Tips for Veterans
If you’re an active member of the military or a military veteran, you may have experienced:
- Combat, assaults, or other violence.
- Deaths of friends or colleagues.
- Deployments away from loved ones.
These experiences may have produced lingering injuries and conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Some service members and veterans use alcohol and/or drugs to deal with their ongoing physical or mental pain. Unfortunately, some misuse or become addicted to their prescription medications.
To address PTSD, addiction, and other conditions, some people have been using mindfulness practices. Mindfulness encourages people to focus on the present instead of ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
One popular way to explore mindfulness is to practice meditation. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other entities offer meditation options to help people create more positive mindsets.
Some tips for incorporating mindfulness and meditation include:
- Starting slowly
People don’t go from constantly sitting on the couch to running marathons. Why should mindfulness and meditation be any different?
Instead, they can ease themselves into mindfulness. To keep from being overwhelmed, people can set a timer to meditate daily for five to ten minutes.
As they become accustomed to meditating, they can set the timer for longer periods of time or meditate more frequently throughout the day.
- Keeping it simple
In addition to starting slowly, keeping things simple can be an excellent way to start and stick to a mindfulness practice.
To meditate, people can chant a word or phrase repeatedly, focus on an object, concentrate on breathing in and out, or hold a single pose. These simple actions are accessible to everyone and allow people to discover what works best for them.
As added bonuses, these simple options are inexpensive and portable, so people can practice mindfulness whenever and wherever.
- Taking classes
We go to school to learn other things, so why not take classes to be more mindful?
By searching the internet, we can enroll in formal meditation classes that are online or in person. We can find videos of sessions that might be more informal but are still helpful.
For example, a quick search on YouTube produces many types of classes and instructional videos.
- Being kind to ourselves
Learning new things isn’t easy. Learning new things because they feel different or weird can be even more difficult.
If our minds drift during meditation, that’s okay. The goal of meditation isn’t to remove all thoughts from our minds but to change the way we react to these thoughts.
We can acknowledge that our attention is drifting and refocus our thinking. This is kinder than judging ourselves for thoughts and actions that occur naturally.
- Using apps
Although it might be a good idea to limit the use of electronic devices at certain times—before going to sleep, for example—certain apps might help us become more mindful.
Meditation apps can be useful tools, especially if we’re still learning about mindfulness and have never meditated before.
By helping service members and veterans focus on the present, meditation and mindfulness can improve their futures.
drugabuse.gov – DrugFacts – Substance Use and Military Life
blogs.va.gov – Meditation May Help Veterans with PTSD
mindful.org – How to Meditate
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – The Top Ten Meditation Poses
youtube.com – Basic Meditation Class
greatergood.berkeley.edu – How to Focus a Wandering Mind
mobile.va.gov – Mindfulness Coach
medical.mit.edu – Choosing a Mindfulness App
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Learn How Meditation Can Help During Addiction Rehab
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