The Relaxation Response is a very pleasurable experience. Most people experience it as a peaceful state characterized by a sense of calm, refreshment, and well-being.
Because the Relaxation Response is an innate response within us we all have the capacity to experience it and receive it’s benefits. And because it is an innate response, it is always available to us whether in the morning when we first wake up, before dinner as a way to let go of the stress of the day, or during a coffee break at work.
Dr. Benson at the Harvard Medical School has identified four basic elements which are required to elicit the full Relaxation Response:
- The first element is a quiet environment. This means turning off the phone, and finding a safe undisturbed quiet place with minimal external distractions.
- The second element is a comfortable position. Although lying down may in some cases make relaxation easier, it can also bring the risk of falling asleep. The best position is one in which you can remain comfortably for 20 minutes without drifting off to sleep.
- The third element is something to focus your mind upon when your thoughts start to wander.
- The fourth element, which many researchers believe is the most important, is to temporarily achieve a passive, non-judgmental, state of mind. This passive attitude allows all the thoughts, images, and feelings that drift into awareness to pass right through consciousness without knocking us off our Center.
The healing effects of the relaxation response are dose dependent -the more regularly it is induced the greater the benefits for your health. To begin your healing journey away from stress and toward a life of health and balance, we suggest that you set aside at least 20 min per day to practice.
The important thing is to make relaxation a regular part of your weekly routine. Pick a time that works best for you according to the unique demands of your schedule, and then stick with it! Soon you will find yourself looking forward to your little mini mental vacations, and will even find yourself wondering how you ever got by without them.