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Enhance Your Body’s Self-Healing Mechanisms:  Reduce Pain, Relieve Stress, and Boost Energy with the Relaxation Response

Mindfulness is centered on the relaxation response and the techniques of deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization.  The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension).

How can Mindfulness Help You?

  • Reduce anxiety and stress
  • Promote quality Sleep
  • Increased energy
  • Greater self-confidence
  • Improved concentration
  • Prevention of stress-related illnesses.
  • Increased body awareness


How do I practice Mindfulness?

Mindfulness involves the repetition of a sound, word, phrase prayer, or movement, and the passive setting aside of intruding thoughts and returning to the repetition.

  • Start by practicing mindfulness of breath (diaphragmatic breathing)
  • Progress to mindfulness of the body (progressive muscle relaxation)
  • Then move on to mindfulness of thoughts


Basic Techniques

  • Breathing exercises to relax your mind and body
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation scripts to reduce excess muscle tension
  • Guided imagery meditation
  • Mindful Meditation to reduce stress and anxiety

Everyday activities can be employed, and the relaxation response can be elicited by repetitive prayer, tai chi, jogging or even knitting.

Guided Meditation Scripts can be used to help relax the mind or body.

Scripts which use metaphor help you distance yourself from an almost constant stream of thoughts. The Leaves in the Stream metaphor is used as an exercise to help you stand back and observe our thoughts rather than get caught up in them.

Other scripts are more direct, and can involve progressive muscle relaxation.  

Where does Mindfulness come from?

Herbert Benson, a physiologist at Harvard University, was instrumental in bringing the practice of Transcendental Meditation to the mental health community.  Dr. Benson subsequently adopted some of the principles from TM and incorporated them into his own approach, known as the relaxation response. Benson was involved in studying the relationship between behavior and blood pressure, when he was approached by practitioners of TM who were interested in having their ability to control blood pressure assessed.

As a result of his studies, Benson concluded that the physiological changes were part of a generalized and integrated response.  These changes appeared to be the opposite of the commonly-known “fight-or-flight,” or stress, response and Dr. Benson labeled it the “relaxation response.” By extracting four elements, he tried to eliminate religious and philosophic overtones of TM, and to minimize the need for complicated and time-consuming instruction.

For more on relaxation techniques.

Lynn Martin

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