The relaxation response and how it works

We’ve realized for a long time that relaxing comes with many benefits, including a boost to the immune system, but we now understand that the relaxation response alters the way genes are expressed. Recent studies reveal that deeply relaxing creates instant changes in the behavior of genes that influence metabolism, immunity, and insulin secretion. Although more research needs to be carried out, at present, it looks as though the relaxation response can be valuable as part of the treatment suggested for trauma, stress, and cancer, as well as useful for managing everyday emotional challenges.

In his book, “The relaxation response,” Dr. Herbert Benson suggests that people wanting to elicit the response need to be in a quiet place where they won’t be distracted. They need to shift their way of thinking so it’s no longer logical and externally oriented, and instead concentrate gently on repeating a phrase or word. Thus, if you want to practice, you might use a mantra, affirmation, or positive word that you associate with calmness.

Additionally, you can bring an awareness of the act of breathing into your mind, which may aid repeating your chosen phrase or word. Some people find combining their focus on breathing and repetition of a mantra or affirmation especially useful, as doing so has the power to stop even the most persistent stream of unwanted thoughts. Nonetheless, if such thoughts take time to fade, don’t worry about their presence. Just accept them and return your attention to your practice.

If you meditate, you’ll instantly realize similarities between inducing the relaxation response Dr. Benson’s way and the way people have been meditating for eons. However, when he wrote his book in 1975, he didn’t claim to be talking about anything new; he simply aimed to add validation to the relaxation response by demonstrating its benefits scientifically. His findings allowed meditation to become mainstream instead of something only a yogi sitting cross-legged in a cave could accomplish.

When under the influence of the response, your breathing and heart-rate are likely to become balanced, as your brain-waves alter and you begin to feel peaceful and blissful. Instead of the fight-or-flight response, otherwise known as the stress response, experienced by most people on a regular basis, your system can enjoy a state of harmony, and this allows it to function better in every way. Your mind gets a break from negative thoughts, and your body works as it should, unhampered by stress hormones.

Regularly relaxing this way can be highly beneficial, whether you are ill or just want to manage life in a calm way with less drama. You can fit practicing into your life by making time to relax each day, and once you become proficient, you’ll find relaxing quickly becomes easy.


About bridget

bridget webber

Bridget Webber’s background rests in mental health, counselling, hypnotherapy, NLP and art. She brings knowledge from her experiences into her writing and specializes in emotional wellness and the creation of, rather than search for, joy. You can catch up with her insights and musings on Twitter.

Twitter: @InsightManager

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