The relaxation response was defined by Herbert Benson, MD in 1974 when he found that there was an opposite state to the stress response (the fight-or-flight response). The relaxation response is a state of deep rest that changes the short-term and long-term physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension).
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Deeply relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep them relaxed.
- Breathe through your nose. Focus your awareness on your breathing … breathe in … breathe out … and repeat. Breathe easily and naturally.
- When you become distracted … by thoughts, feelings, sounds, or anything else … simply notice that you have become distracted and gently return your attention to your breathing … breathe in … breathe out … repeat. Breathe easily and naturally.
- Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time or use a quiet alarm.
- When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened. Do not stand up for a few minutes.
Do not worry about distractions–which are normal and expected–or whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. With practice, the response should come with little effort.
Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with the elicitation of the relaxation response.