2007-05-23 11:35 PM

Relaxation Response

Today’s book is The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson, M.D.

The Relaxation ResponseDr. Benson presents some exciting research results in the blandest, driest way possible. I can not fathom why he spends quite so much time on approval processes and waiver forms when describing experiments they’ve performed.

The nearly thirty page introduction to the 25th anniversary edition appears to contain the bulk of the interesting information. For those who want to save their money at the used book store here is the gist. By focusing on a repetitive stimulus (a word, mantra, prayer, motion, breath, visual fixation, etc) and allowing yourself to return from distraction with a passive attitude (free from judgement or worry) you can elicit the “Relaxation Response” which is the antithesis of (and possibly the antidote to) the fight-or-flight response. Benson also includes a laundry list of conditions that can be helped by their straight forward method.

As always I am enthused by unexpected synergies and this time I find Benson’s approach to relieving stress (which he defines as “environmental conditions that require behavioral adjustment”) highly complementary to the idea of lifelong learning espoused in Change or Die.

One of my take-aways from Change of Die was another view on how to maintain the wonderful plasticity of the human mind — by continuing to stretch your mind in new directions. However it was suggested that what most adults consider learning is not enough to maintain their plasticity. Deutschman says we need challenge — enough challenge that we are struggling as raw beginners. The rub is that those are exactly the sort of situations that Benson defines as stress and would benefit from eliciting the relaxation response for 10-20 minutes a day.

How much benefit will you extract from tweaking the time you already spend in prayer, exercise, or meditation to include a bit more focus and passive attitude?

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan No Comments »

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