Recent Blog Articles

Harvard Health Blog

A once (and future) meditator tries the relaxation response for stress

Relaxation-at-work
October 14, 2011

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Comments

Cassie Miller
February 13, 2012

Stress is very common nowadays especially for those people dealing with a lot of problems. This is compose of too much worrying, anger,disappointment’s, hard work(physically)and hard work (mentally). I think this is not only occurring to adults but also to teens and students that will lead them to something that can even harm themselves.

Peter Lind
February 9, 2012

I think any time you talk about stress or should I say reducing stress is a good thing. Everybody deals with it whether you’re old or young rich or poor; it doesn’t matter. When Benson first talked about the stress response he brought in a new twist on an old idea. Just like you talk about, how stress affects us we should be proactive in our dealing with it.

Pinata Hunter
January 18, 2012

Have never tryed meditation I will definetly have to try and see if it works, so i’ll probably see you on the meditation planes

Heather Smith
January 3, 2012

Good post, not only relaxation but also a happy disposition in life for me is the right response not to have a stressful life.

Sophia
November 2, 2011

I started doing meditation a long time ago, but only tried TM recently. It’s great for stress and really helped when work was getting too much! Great post.

Sophia
[URL removed by moderator]

Green Tea
November 1, 2011

Meditatation is one of best ways to keep yourself stressfree. It also gives energy to work for a long time.

October 28, 2011

I suggest a wonder time in the spa, get a massage and feel the wonderful aromas of the essential oils, to relieve the stress. Although everyday is not really required, maybe 1 a week would be wonderful enough =D

Britt Marice
October 20, 2011

Years ago I tried a few different ways to meditate but finally found something really deep when I learned TM. From my experience its the only way to go. Plus they are always there for you to get a free follow up lessons or whatever you need.

naturalemotion
October 18, 2011

This a good article, when I had heart trouble or experiencing stress, sometimes i like to do meditation. with the accompaniment of a musical, relaxes muscles and concentrate on something beautiful can reduce the burden of stress.

Jimmy
October 15, 2011

While Benson’s technique may produce some relaxation, I think it’s important to note that the relaxation response as originally hypothesized was never substantiated by science, and in fact has been disproved many times over. Benson’s premise was that the mind-body state recorded during the early 70s in hundreds of subjects practicing Transcendental Meditation could be reproduced by any number of meditation techniques — including the one Benson made up (the Relaxation Response technique), which was very loosely based on TM. But even the initial research studies, to anyone who looked closely with an objective eye, did not support this premise. The studies on TM and Benson’s technique showed many physiological distinctions between the states produced by these two practices. TM produced deeper levels of rest (measured by GSR, plasma lactate, cortisol, and respiration, etc.) and an entirely different brain pattern: highly coherent alpha waves during TM, especially in the prefrontal cortex. For an analysis of the research, please see: The Myth of the Relaxation Response http://www.truthabouttm.org/truth/TMResearch/ComparisonofTechniques/RelaxationResponse/index.cfm

Forty years of research in meditation has demonstrated that different meditation techniques produce very different results, and that there is no single “relaxation response” induced in the physiology by the various meditation techniques.

You might also read: http://meditationasheville.blogspot.com/2011/03/transcendental-meditation-technique-and.html

knee walker
October 15, 2011

Many people have a fear of meditation. For many, it goes against some of their religious beliefs. Thankfully, Dr. Benson developed a technique he has labeled “The Relaxation Response.

This is exactly what meditation does, but Benson’s process doesn’t require the act of active mediation. And it doesn’t require years of practice to reach any certain level of awareness. The beauty of The Relaxation Response is that anyone – regardless of religious affiliation – can perform this exercise anywhere.

jimmy goodman
October 16, 2011

Yes, it is important to know if a practice has religious overtones or involves faith or beliefs that one might tend to shy away from. That’s why I personally prefer TM: it is completely free of religious orientation. But that’s not the only reason. I think the main concern is one of effectiveness: the research shows that not all practices produce the same results.

knee walker
October 15, 2011

Many people have a fear of meditation. For many, it goes against some of their religious beliefs. Thankfully, Dr. Benson developed a technique he has labeled “The Relaxation Response.

This is exactly what meditation does, but Benson’s process doesn’t require the act of active mediation. And it doesn’t require years of practice to reach any certain level of awareness. The beauty of The Relaxation Response is that anyone – regardless of religious affiliation – can perform this exercise anywhere.

jimmy goodman
October 15, 2011

It’s important to note that the relaxation response as originally hypothesized was never substantiated by science, and in fact has been disproved many times over. Benson’s premise was that the mind-body state recorded during the early 70s in hundreds of subjects practicing Transcendental Meditation could be reproduced by any number of meditation techniques — including the one Benson made up (the Relaxation Response technique), which was very loosely based on TM. But even the initial research studies, to anyone who looked closely with an objective eye, did not support this premise. The studies on TM and Benson’s technique showed many physiological distinctions between the states produced by these two practices. TM produced deeper levels of rest (measured by GSR, plasma lactate, cortisol, and respiration, etc.) and an entirely different brain pattern: highly coherent alpha waves during TM, especially in the prefrontal cortex. For an analysis of the research, please see: The Myth of the Relaxation Response http://www.truthabouttm.org/truth/TMResearch/ComparisonofTechniques/RelaxationResponse/index.cfm

While Benson’s technique may produce some relaxation, forty years of research in meditation has demonstrated that different meditation techniques produce very different results, and that there is no single “relaxation response” induced in the physiology by the various meditation techniques.

You might also read: http://meditationasheville.blogspot.com/2011/03/transcendental-meditation-technique-and.html

tammy harshaw
October 14, 2011

>>>> I suggest you check out the latest research on meditation practices — it definitely matters which meditation technique you use: they do not all elicit the same response in mind and body. The EEG coherence and integrated brain function consistently seen during TM has never been noticed during any of the research on the Relaxation Response practice of Benson’s. Dozens of peer-reviewed studies in brain research have established TM’s distinct brain pattern. See Cognitive Processing, 11:1, 2010.

MIndfulness produces a completely different physiological state and has its own brain signature (theta), different from Benson’s meditation and also different from TM (which creates high amplitude alpha coherence). Concentration practices (like Tibetan Buddhist compassion meditation) yields another distinct neurophysiological response and also has its own brain pattern (gamma).

Benson overlooked the most vital aspect of Transcendental Meditation when he devised his relaxation technique: the process of transcending. TM consistently produces a 4th state of consciousness — from the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeanne-ball/fourth-state-of-consciousness_b_897085.html

Saijanai
October 17, 2011

I know of no research on any other technique besides TM that shows this state:

Research on the physiological correlates of pure consciousness found during TM practice:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7045911
Breath suspension during the transcendental meditation technique.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10512549
Pure consciousness: distinct phenomenological and physiological correlates of “consciousness itself”.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9009807
Autonomic patterns during respiratory suspensions: possible markers of Transcendental Consciousness.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10487785
Autonomic and EEG patterns during eyes-closed rest and transcendental meditation (TM) practice: the basis for a neural model of TM practice.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19862565
A self-referential default brain state: patterns of coherence, power, and eLORETA sources during eyes-closed rest and Transcendental Meditation practice.

Research on the physiological correlates of the stabilization of pure consciousness outside of meditation in long-term TM meditators:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12406612
Patterns of EEG coherence, power, and contingent negative variation characterize the integration of transcendental and waking states.

http://www.tm.org/american-psychological-association
Abstract for the 2007 Conference of the American Psychological Association
Brain Integration Scale: Corroborating Language-based
Instruments of Post-conventional Development

Research on the physiological correlates of the stabilization of pure consciousness outside of meditation in non-meditators:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01007.x/full
Higher psycho-physiological refinement in world-class Norwegian athletes: brain measures of performance capacity

jimmy goodman
October 14, 2011

While Benson’s technique may produce some relaxation, I think it’s important to note that the relaxation response as originally hypothesized was never substantiated by science, and in fact has been disproved many times over. Benson’s premise was that the mind-body state recorded during the early 70s in hundreds of subjects practicing Transcendental Meditation could be reproduced by any number of meditation techniques — including the one Benson made up (the Relaxation Response technique), which was very loosely based on TM. But even the initial research studies, to anyone who looked closely with an objective eye, did not support this premise. The studies on TM and Benson’s technique showed many physiological distinctions between the states produced by these two practices. TM produced deeper levels of rest (measured by GSR, plasma lactate, cortisol, and respiration, etc.) and an entirely different brain pattern: highly coherent alpha waves during TM, especially in the prefrontal cortex. For an analysis of the research, please see: The Myth of the Relaxation Response http://www.truthabouttm.org/truth/TMResearch/ComparisonofTechniques/RelaxationResponse/index.cfm

Forty years of research in meditation has demonstrated that different meditation techniques produce very different results, and that there is no single “relaxation response” induced in the physiology by the various meditation techniques.

You might also read: http://meditationasheville.blogspot.com/2011/03/transcendental-meditation-technique-and.html

Saijanai
October 14, 2011

You might want go back to your local TM center and get your TM meditation checked (it’s free). The difference in effects between the Relaxation Response and TM accumulate over time.

Commenting has been closed for this post.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.