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It’s not all bad: Looking for the good during and after your deployment

Lt. Col. Brande Newsome discussed the value of gratitude during a virtual Yellow Ribbon event Jun. 20. Newsome is a Reserve Citizen Airman assigned to the Air Force Reserve Medical service at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Monica Ricci)

Lt. Col. Brande Newsome discussed the value of gratitude during a virtual Yellow Ribbon event Jun. 20. Newsome is a Reserve Citizen Airman assigned to the Air Force Reserve Medical service at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Monica Ricci)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, NJ -- --

You had a long day and you can think of a million things that went wrong…but what about the things that went well? Looking for the good in life is a skill you have to teach yourself, Lt. Col. Brande Newsome told Airmen during a virtual Yellow Ribbon event Jun. 20.

Newsome is a Reserve Citizen Airman assigned to the Air Force Reserve Medical service at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

“The more you can practice positive psychology, it's contagious,” Newsome said. “So the people around you who you're closest to can get that from you, and you may get a little bit of that back from them.”

Newsome said you can have gratitude for just about anything—even on deployments.

“There's a lot of things that people can come back and be grateful for, as the time that they spent away, helped them to kind of recenter, refocus, and really take care of the things that they necessarily aren't able to do in the day-to-day world that we live in,” Newsome said.

For example, said she was grateful to be able to read books the downtime on her deployment, something she never seems to have time for at home.

Master Sgt. Weifeng Liu, a finance technician with the 439th Airlift Wing at Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, recently returned from a deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. He said that he had to start ‘looking for the good’ on his deployment by finding things he enjoyed doing to pass the time.

“Homesickness was the hardest part of my deployment,” Liu said. “In order to combat homesickness I participated in after-work activities such as running club and ping pong club to keep myself busy.”

Liu said he was motivated to continue that way of thinking after attending Newsome’s session on gratitude. So how can Airmen maintain this positive way of thinking throughout their deployment and beyond? Newsome says: Practice!

“It's just about making a commitment to yourself,” Newsome said. “Sometimes you will have to put something in your outlook (calendar) to say, ‘Hey, I'm going to pause at this time and think about what's going well within the last 24 hours, because I know that I need to make sure I remind myself to do this because it won't happen naturally.’”

She said it is also important to acknowledge the walls and barriers that impact our ability to express gratitude and look for the good in things. To reinforce that point, she shared the story of father-and-son duo Dick and Rick Hoyt. When Rick was young, Dick was told his son would never be more than a vegetative state due to his cerebral palsy diagnosis. He didn’t listen, however, and raised him as normally as he could—even creating a computer Rick could speak through and famously pushing his son through hundreds of road races including the Boston Marathon.

“All the normal hurdles that the day-to-day person has, he had that and then some,” Newsome said. “But each time something presented as a challenge, it was like, ‘OK, we've gotten through something else.’ And that's one thing about building a gratitude and looking for the good: once you realize that you can get around a major feat, it gives you that ability to use that positive psychology to say, ‘this next thing that presents itself, we're definitely getting through this.”

Newsome ended the session by sharing a video that offered a many tips to help foster contagious, positive psychology: say thank you, practice self-care by taking a nap or treating yourself to a favorite desert, leaving things better than you found them, and being more kind than necessary.