JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
When it comes to national security, the Department of Defense has three documents it depends on. One of those, the National Defense Strategy, contains four top-level priorities, including building a resilient Joint Force. To do that, resiliency teams are looking outside the box for innovative ways to create awareness and resilience among service members.
At the Vogel Meditation Center, located on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Olena Steinmetz, an integrative health specialist with U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), has done just that.
“The idea for Art Meditation Yoga, or A.M.Y., came last December as I was working on a painting to display in our yoga studio,” Steinmetz said. “One of our health promotion educator nurses, Myra Merritt, stopped by and encouraged me to implement an art component into our yoga classes. I have background in art, and am a yoga therapist in training, so this sounded like a quintessential fusion.”
Steinmetz said the purpose of A.M.Y. is to teach service members how to appreciate things every day.
“Gratitude is a mindful practice,” she said. “We can nourish the practice of gratitude in small doses through daily reflections, affirmations, and reminders.
“We recently held a class for one of our Army units, and it was very well received,” she said. “We did yoga and meditation, then incorporated the art component, and intertwined suicide awareness and prevention into the experience.”
Class members also wrote encouraging messages to leave on the gratitude wall at the center for others to view and reflect.
Steinmetz said helping people understand what they can do to improve resilience, through gratitude, can help maintain readiness as well.
“Our ultimate goal is to keep service members aware, healthy, and resilient,” she said. “We have found that, during these classes, participants are more open to share about overcoming their struggles, while others support and encourage.”
During September, in honor of Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, Steinmetz said the center is supporting the Uniformed Services University ‘Got My Six’ suicide prevention campaign by enticing more expressions of gratitude.
“I encourage everyone to start and finish their day, this month and going forward, by taking a moment to express gratitude for things, people, pets, and experiences, three in the morning and three in the evening,” she said. “As you practice, I encourage you to reflect on your emotional, mental, spiritual, intellectual, and physical states.”
Research has shown that through regular expressions of gratitude, a person’s overall well-being can be impacted positively, along with their ability to flourish psychologically, spiritually, and physically.
“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness,” according to Harvard Medical School. “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Steinmetz invites all JBSA members to share their gratitude with others by visiting the Vogel Meditation Center, posting their ‘Got My Six’ messages on the gratitude board, and signing up for A. M. Y., or requesting the class for a work group.
“As a community, we can stay strong together,” she said. “By uniting in our resiliency efforts, we can bring awareness, build a more resilient force, and help prevent suicides.”
The Vogel Meditation Center is located at 2454 Camp Travis Road, Bldg. 323, on JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. It is a part of the Vogel Resiliency Center, which is a project that brings eight resiliency services together, provides health and wellness programs to the JBSA community, and empowers everyone to explore mind, body, and spirit lifestyle changes.
Programs at the centers are free to attend and are open all JBSA active-duty members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, family members of those who serve and served, and Department of Defense civilian employees.
For more information on the wide variety of classes and services offered at the Vogel Resiliency Center and the Vogel Medication Center, go to: https://www.jbsa.mil/Resources/Resiliency/Vogel-Resiliency-Center/.