What is a Relaxation Response?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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Relaxation response is a technique that draws upon the power of the human mind to overcome stress, pain, and anxiety. Developed by Dr. Herb Benson, an internist at Harvard University in the United States, the basis for this type of self healing has to do with the ability of the mind to control the responses of the body. By employing the relaxation response, it is possible to move out of the physical and emotional discomfort caused by panic attacks, lessen the pain resulting from some type of accident, and even aid in lowering blood pressure.

At the heart of the strategy is the acknowledgement that the human body is equipped with an inherent defense mechanism that can make it possible to identify and gradually subdue pain receptors or overcome the effects of some type of outer stimuli that triggers the fight or flight reaction. In effect, the relaxation response technique allows the individual to acknowledge the presence of the agitation in whatever form it takes and gradually overcome the agitation by easing the body and mind into a state of being at peace.


There are various types of relaxation response techniques employed with different conditions. Relaxation response meditation is often helpful when dealing with high levels of stress that interfere with sleep and natural body function. This same sort of stress relaxation response strategies can also be used when an individual is dealing with an anxiety disorder and experiences anxiety attacks that appear to develop out of nowhere. Other examples of the technique are effective with pain management, especially in situations where the patient is dealing with major pain as a result of a fall or an injury sustained in an auto accident.

Forms of relaxation response have also been incorporated into treatments for people suffering with addiction issues. As part of the ongoing therapy, the relaxation techniques help to ease physical and mental cravings, and help to expedite the recovery process. The meditation process is helpful in soothing cravings for food when attempting to diet. Because of the calming effect of the response therapy, people who suffer from high blood pressure can engage the techniques and help to restore balance to both blood pressure reading and lower a runaway pulse rate.

While very helpful as a tool in bringing about peace of mind, relaxation response therapy should not be considered a cure for all conditions. In many cases, medication and other types of healthcare must also be utilized in order to restore wholeness. For example, a person suffering with severe anxiety can use relaxation response in conjunction with anxiety medication and counseling to manage and eventually overcome the condition.


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