Stress: Meditation May Reduce Stress (cont.)

The relaxation response is a technique designed to elicit the opposite bodily reaction from the "fight or flight" response -- a state of deep relaxation in which our breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure, and metabolism are decreased. Training our bodies on a daily basis to achieve this state of relaxation can lead to enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, and reduction of lifestyle stress.

The relaxation response technique consists of the silent repetition of a word, sound, or phrase while sitting quietly with eyes closed for 10 to 20 minutes. This should be done in a quiet place free of distractions. Sitting is preferred to lying down in order to avoid falling asleep. Relax your muscles starting with the feet and progressing up to your face. Breathe though your nose in a free and natural way.

You can choose any word or phrase you like. You can use a sound such as "om," a word such as "one" or "peace," or a word with special meaning to you. Intruding worries or thoughts should be ignored or dismissed to the best of your ability by focusing on the repetition. It's OK to open your eyes to look at a clock while you are practicing, but do not set an alarm. When you have finished, remain seated, first with your eyes closed and then with your eyes open, and gradually allow your thoughts to return to everyday reality.

The technique requires some practice and may be difficult at first, but over time almost anyone can learn to achieve the desired state of relaxation. Dr. Benson, who originally described the technique, recommends practicing the technique once or twice a day. He recommends not practicing the relaxation response within two hours after eating a meal because the digestive process may interfere with the technique.

The relaxation response can also be elicited through other meditative and relaxation techniques. No matter how the relaxation state is achieved, the physical and emotional consequences of stress can be reduced through regular practice.

Reference:

eMedicine Live, Mindfulness Meditation, http://www.emedicinelive.com/index.php/Mental-Health/mindfulness-meditation-for-stress-reduction.html


Last Editorial Review: 12/1/2014


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