Do you struggle with stress? Are you uncertain of how to deal with it? Then you might consider developing your capacity for the relaxation response. Allow me to explain.
In 1971, a Harvard trained medical doctor published a landmark book. It was called The Relaxation Response. It was a revolutionary moment that’s easy to see in hindsight. But at the time, it was like a tiny pebble rolling down the mountain which eventually triggered a land-slide.
That doctor’s name was Herbert Benson. When you see the proliferating media coverage on mindfulness and meditation, we have him to thank. When you hear about all the new studies that scientifically prove the benefits of meditation, he’s one of the pioneers who made that possible. And next time your doctor recommends starting a meditation practice because you have symptoms of stress, Herbert Benson deserves a lot of the credit.
Against the norms of the establishment, Dr. Herbert Benson did extensive studies on the effects of meditation in the 60’s and early 70’s. He spent time examining the brains of buddhist monks and he examined the effects of meditation on practitioners of the popular mantra-based Transcendental Meditation movement started by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
What he found was amazing, and he distilled the results in this groundbreaking book, The Relaxation Response. Dr. Benson published his first scientific article on the topic in the American Journal of Physiology in 1971. The title of the paper was, “A wakeful hypometabolic physiologic state.” In other words, meditation.
What Is The Relaxation Response?
So what is the re
In a pain management guide produced by the University of Michigan, they describe the Relaxation Response this way:.
Since 1971, there have been numerous studies on the relaxation response which have highlighted the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:
- lower blood pressure
- improved blood circulation
- lower heart rate
- less perspiration
- slower respiratory rate
- less anxiety
- lower blood cortisol levels
- more feelings of well-being
- less stress
- deeper relaxation
Meditation And The Relaxation Response
Dr. Benson’s work was the foundation of a now-burgeoning field of study. Indeed, Dr. Benson is a founding member of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
Both within and beyond Harvard, extensive research now explores the neurological benefits of meditation. Preliminary results show that meditation–and the relaxation response–can increase blood flow to different regions of the brain and expand grey matter in the areas of the brain associated with memory and emotion.
Indeed, research shows that meditation is one of the most effective ways to stimulate your relaxation response. When your mind is focused, and you resist the temptation to let it wander, that’s the essence of meditation training. And consistent focused training in meditation will help you achieve a state of deep health and wellness.
I think the most important thing you need to know about the relaxation response is this. It’s the most powerful and effective countermeasure to chronic stress. Recent statistics claim that more than 50% of all medical visits are stress related. In the UK alone, stress related illness costs businesses $4.5 billion annually.
So stress is a huge issue in our society. One of the most effective ways to manage stress and reverse its damaging effects is through regular meditation practice.