The Relaxation Response for Grief & Stress

What is the Relaxation Response?

The Relaxation Response is the physiological exact opposite of the stress response known as “fight or flight.” It is characterized by decreased metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing, as well as a calm mind, increased focus and ability to make decisions, and changes in gene activity opposite of those associated with stress.

Thousands of peer-reviewed studies show it can help reduce symptoms commonly associated with grief, including anxiety, mild to moderate depression, and insomnia, and many more stress related complaints.

Relaxation Response Guided Meditation

The Benson-Henry Protocol to Evoke the Relaxation Response

Daily Time Commitment: 20-25 Minutes

Phase One: Activate The Relaxation Response

Step 1: Choose Your Focus Word or Repetitive Activity. This could be a calming word, phrase, short prayer, your breath, or repetitive motion such as walking, yoga, knitting or gardening.
Step 2: Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. (If you are working with insomnia you may choose to lay down and practice right before bedtime).
Step 3: Close your eyes or gaze softly at a focal point.
Step 4: Scan your body from your feet to your head, or vice versa, progressively relaxing all of your muscles.
Step 5: Breathe slow and naturally. Each time you exhale, silently repeat or picture your focus word or phrase. Alternately, just focus on your exhale or the repetition of movement.
Step 6: Assume a “passive disregard for everyday thoughts.” If you get distracted or thoughts intrude simply think “oh well,” and return back to your chosen object of focus.
Step 7: Practice this for 12 to 15 minutes.
Step 8: Repeat daily. When you feel you have mastered this technique, add Phase Two: Visualization.

Phase Two: Visualization

After practicing The Relaxation Response, spend an additional 8 to 10 minutes imagining a peaceful scene in which you are completely healthy, relaxed, and stress-free. If you are undergoing medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, it is important that you picture yourself outside the medical facility.

Interview: The Relaxation Revolution with Dr. Herbert Benson


Get compassionate live online grief support with author Heather Stang

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