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The Relaxation Response

The Relaxation Response

3.8 27
by Herbert, M.D. Benson M.D., Miriam Z. Klipper

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For the first time, the ebook includes a video of Dr. Benson teaching how to elicit the relaxation response. This video allows the reader to access his or her innate capacity to counteract the harmful effects of stress.

When Dr. Herbert Benson introduced this simple, effective, mind/body approach to relieving stress forty years ago, his book became an


For the first time, the ebook includes a video of Dr. Benson teaching how to elicit the relaxation response. This video allows the reader to access his or her innate capacity to counteract the harmful effects of stress.

When Dr. Herbert Benson introduced this simple, effective, mind/body approach to relieving stress forty years ago, his book became an instant national bestseller. Since that time, millions of people have learned the secret — without high-priced lectures or prescription medicines. The Relaxation Response has become the classic reference recommended by most health care professionals and authorities to treat stress. 

Discovered by Dr. Benson and his colleagues in the laboratories of Harvard Medical School and its teaching hospitals, this revitalizing, therapeutic approach is now routinely recommended to treat patients suffering from heart conditions, high blood pressure, chronic pain, insomnia, and many other physical and psychological ailments. It requires only minutes to learn, and just ten minutes of practice a day.

Editorial Reviews

Noah Gordan
The Relaxation Response can show us how to lower our blood pressure, change our harassed personalities, and, perhaps, even save our lives. —Journal of Human Stress
David W. Ewing
Pills, special diets, and exercises can help some people, but The Relaxation Response as Dr. Benson describes it can help everyone. —Harvard Business Review

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HarperCollins Publishers
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The Relaxation Response

Chapter One

An astute physician is lamenting the times:

"But the present world is a different one. Grief, calamity, and evil cause inner bitterness ... there is disobedience and rebellion ... Evil influences strike from early morning until late at night ... they injure the mind and reduce its intelligence and they also injure the muscles and the flesh."

This chronicler lived 4,600 years ago in China, even though his observations appear contemporary. Human beings have always felt subjected to stress and often seem to look longingly backward to more peaceful times. Yet with each generation, complexity and additional stress are added to our lives. The truth is that most of the persistent problems of this planet are even further from solution than when the Chinese doctor decried them. The technology of the past forty-six centuries, and especially that of the last century which was supposed to make life easier for people, often seems to intensify the stress in our day-to-day existence.

Victims of Stress

What psychological price do we pay in attempting to adjust to the knowledge that war or its imminence is with us every day? Are we proud that our scientific know-how has increased the sophistication of weapons since that time when a shepherd named David could defeat an entire army with a rock thrown from a sling? Or do we knowingly or subconsciously despair of the current nuclear weaponry that could exterminate every human being, indeed almost all life?

Most of us find that we are helpless in solving the big problems. We have some vague hope that the leaders we elect (and theexperts they in turn rely on) can find the solutions. But our concern usually involves everyday difficulties. Our frustrations come about because we generally can't even solve the less earthshaking problems, such as being on time to work in a large, congested city. Indeed, the everyday demands of living make it more and more difficult to escape the increasingly adverse psychological effects that seem built into our existence. Whatever it may be-the daily commute, or the rising cost of living, or the noise and fumes of the city, or unemployment, or random violence-we find it difficult to reach a satisfactory equilibrium, and as a result we become the victims of stress.

Our rapidly changing world has necessitated many other adjustments. For example, before the women's-liberation movement had filtered so far and deep, people were married under a set of unspoken agreements that society now questions and sometimes shatters. Today, women must reexamine their own roles and life-styles against conflicting expectations and suppositions. For the older woman, the problems of reeducation and readjustment can be overwhelming. Men must also adjust to a new role that may mean more responsibility for family and household. They are being forced to view women in a new way, one that may be threatening to their accustomed role. Concurrent with and related to the movement is the change of the family structure. Mobility separates families into small nuclear units. Women raise children outside of marriage. Divorced fathers assume custody of children. All share in the impact of societal changes.

How are these anxieties and stresses affecting us? The presence of mental stress as a part of modem living has been the subject of a number of books, most of which concentrate on the psychology of stress. We will consider stress from a somewhat different perspective, for our concern is not only the psychology but also the physiology of stress. We will explore what happens to you internally under stressful situations and how stress physically undermines your health. This will be done by examining the relation between your emotional reactions and what they may cost you in hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases. We will then point out what you can do about the effects of stress. We will show how, by your personal adoption of a simple psychological technique, you can improve your physical and mental well-being.

The Hidden Epidemic

We are in the midst of an epidemic, one that is all too prevalent in the United States and other industrial nations. The name of this epidemic is hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure. Hypertension predisposes one to the diseases of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart attacks, and strokes. These diseases of the heart and brain account for more than 50 percent of the deaths each year in the United States. Therefore, it is not surprising that various degrees of hypertension are present in 15 to 33 percent of the adult population. Although this epidemic is not infectious in nature, it may be even more insidious, simply because its manifestations do not affect large numbers at the same time and because we are not generally aware that the disease is slowly developing within us. Throughout its course there are few, if any, symptoms. Yet each day we see it strike without warning, cutting short by decades the lives of our friends and loved ones. According to carefully compiled Government vital statistics, the diseases resulting from this epidemic account for an average of two deaths every minute in the United States alone. Put another way, that is nearly one million out of two million deaths a year. Translate this statistic into your own personal experience-the loss of a friend who leaves young children, the premature death of a father about to enjoy his retirement years. You are a fortunate Individual if you have not personally experienced the ravages of this epidemic.

High blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes have markedly increased, not only afflicting a growing percentage of the population but steadily finding their way into younger age groups. The late Dr. Samuel A. Levine, an eminent American cardiologist, pointed out in 1963 that in families he had treated for many years, sons suffered...

The Relaxation Response. Copyright (c) by Herbert Benson . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Herbert Benson, M.D., is the Director Emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (BHI), and Mind Body Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. A graduate of Wesleyan University and the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Benson is the author or co-author of more than 190 scientific publications and 12 books.  More than five million copies of his books have been printed in many languages.

Dr. Benson is a pioneer in mind body medicine, one of the first Western physicians to bring spirituality and healing into medicine.  In his 40+ year career, he has defined the relaxation response and continues to lead teaching and research into its efficacy in counteracting the harmful effects of stress. The recipient of numerous national and international awards, Dr. Benson lectures widely about mind body medicine and the BHI's work. His expertise is frequently sought by national and international news media, and he appears in scores of newspapers, magazines, and television programs each year. Dr. Benson's research extends from the laboratory to the clinic to Asian field expeditions. His work serves as a bridge between medicine and religion, East and West, mind and body, and belief and science.

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Relaxation Response 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We all know how to get ourselves in a stressed out and keyed up state. But, do you know how to make your body relax and de-stress in a matter of minutes, guaranteed? This book will show you. A real gem, I give it 5 stars easy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A classic on mind-body ideas and how they relate to creating a 'relaxation response' where the body calms down and reduces blood pressure and a variety of other good things, as a result of your voluntary control. He discussed the various techniques used to produce the relaxation response very clearly and the book is useful as a guide for doing it. But, it is probably best as a great background into mind-body ideas and the beginning of presitigious (Harvard...) extensive research by this author and others. Highly recommended landmark book.
MerleF More than 1 year ago
This book was a 25 year old article "bulked up" into a single topic book. I'd bought it on advice of a counseling professional, but hardly learned anything new from the book. It's just a overly verbose discussion of "medical" benefits of transcendental meditation, and other types of relaxation. In my opinion it was too much of the same old - same old from the 70s.
TheTechLady More than 1 year ago
There is only ONE PAGE of instruction in the book. Not kidding - ONE PAGE. The rest is very dry and outdated research into the detrimental effects of sustained stress on the body; nothing you don't already know if you watch the Science Channel, DIscovery, or PBS, or read any popular literature on the subject. I wanted to learn a relaxation technique, but I didn't want a New Age-y mystical guide. This looked promising. It ended up to be a huge disappointment. I'm surprised it is still on the market.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is short, but effective. It has already changed my life. It is basically an informative book about an easy meditation method to achieve the relaxation response.
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Jeff_T More than 1 year ago
This book does a good job of presenting a rather simple meditative technique in terms of its historical context, scientific underpinnings, and examples of success stories. However, I thought this book could have been condensed into a shorter story. I zoned out through the section about the history of meditation, as I thought one too many examples were provided to prove the point that, yes, cultures and religions throughout history have utilized the relaxation response. Also, although there were several studies noted which provide scientific evidence that the relaxation response does produce health benefits, it seemed that a couple of the studies did not necessarily prove the author's point. For example, the study concerning the effect of the relaxation response on drug use left me to wonder whether the relaxation response caused decreased drug use or drug use decreased because the study's subjects were seeking to end their drug use anyway, and that's why they began engaging in meditative techniques. Overall I would recommend this book, even though it is not flawless.
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Oneira More than 1 year ago
Parts of this book I really loved. The chapter on the history of religious meditation was great. He mostly concentrated on Western meditators since it's an often overlooked topic.

Actually, though, most of the book dealt with high blood pressure. He is a medical doctor and the first in the medical field to successfully show the benefits of meditation. This book was very, very medical. I liked it, though most of it didn't pertain to me since I don't have problems with my blood pressure.

Nevertheless I would still reccomend this to anyone who suffers from anxiety and/or clinical depression, and most especially to those who suffer from high blood pressure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Quite simply put, this book will teach you an easy technique you can do almost anywhere that will put your body in a state of relaxation. The best part? It is very well researched and documented and it really works!