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The Relaxation Response Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 1976
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When you look at the popularity of mind-body medicine today, it's hard to understand what a groundbreaking book this was when it was first published in 1975. Based on studies at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Herbert Benson showed that relaxation techniques such as meditation have immense physical benefits, from lowered blood pressure to a reduction in heart disease. The Relaxation Response demystifies the mantra meditation used in the transcendental meditation program, explaining how anyone can reap its advantages with or without the help of a guru. If you want to understand the beginnings of today's alternative medicine movement, or if you're simply looking to learn a simple meditation technique without a lot of metaphysical trappings, this is a good place to start. --Ben Kallen
“This is the book that started it all, demystifying meditation and ushering it into the mainstream. Dr. Benson offers a simple technique for quieting the mind--and we need it now more than ever.” (Amy Bernstein, editor of the Harvard Business Review)
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I am excited to actually start using the technique but wish the book would have been more about that. Like going through each point given about the technique and what could be used as a mental device. Like if you chose to "gaze" what would be a good thing to look at?
I wrote out on paper the notes I need to actually do the technique because that's all I really wanted from the book anyways!
I do think this has great potential and the entire book was an easy read but like I said for some could be overwhelming or even cause anxiety.
The body’s “fight or flight” response to stressful conditions has long been recognized and it’s virtually a household term. However, despite the equally alliterative name and the fact that Dr. Benson’s original book came out well over 30 years ago, the relaxation response remains a lesser known phenomena. Decades ago, Herbert Benson, a Harvard physician, recognized that patients’ coping ability influenced their health outcomes--specifically with respect to hypertension (a.k.a. high blood pressure.) This led him to investigate how a state of reduced stress could be achieved, and whether this could have a positive impact on health outcomes.
Benson and his co-investigators found that Transcendental Meditation (TM) could trigger the relaxation response, and from that they further uncovered specific aspects of TM that were generalizable in achieving this state (i.e. an object of concentration and a passive / non-judgmental attitude.) From this it followed that activities such as yoga, chi gong, walking, and some types of exercise could achieve the same physiological state as meditation. There was scholarly pressure to establish that the relaxation response was more than a placebo effect. In proving that the relaxation response didn’t hinge on a patient’s beliefs and that it had a predictable effect (and hence it was inconsistent with the placebo effect) Benson also realized that maybe doctors shouldn’t be so dismissive of the placebo effect—people were getting better, after all, and there was some mechanism by which that wellness was achieved that would be worth understanding.
In the first chapter, Benson describes an epidemic of hypertension, the fight or flight response, and its opposite number: the relaxation response. The next chapter delves into the specifics of hypertension and related topics like cholesterol consumption. Chapter 3 makes a connection between stress and the proclivity to develop hypertension. The following chapter lays out various approaches to achieving a more relaxed physiological state, including: biofeedback, yoga, zen, progressive relaxation, and hypnosis. Chapter 5 is about altered states of consciousness, and, specifically, the meditative state. Various age-old methods of achieving a meditative mind are examined. That’s followed by a chapter which lays out the results of relaxation response training in reducing hypertension and drug use. Chapter 7 is an explanation of how to achieve the desired state that generalizes beyond the specific approach of TM. The last chapter is a brief summary.
I found this book to be both interesting and informative. It’s useful both as a practical guide to practice and an explanation of related information.
I’d recommend “The Relaxation Response” for anyone who is interested in learned to de-stress. It’s a classic, and the new edition offers substantial updates.
I practiced it for 4 months while I was studying for a very difficult exam, and I passed in the exam. During the exam day, it seemed that the answers came to my mind easier, instead of the blanks that I used to have in this kind of exams. I guess the blanks were based on anxiety, and the relaxation method helped me get less anxious during the exam.
Also, after practicing this method for a few months, I can get the relaxation response easier now. I don't practice daily anymore, but sometimes when I find myself in bed with difficulty to sleep, I start doing the method, and after a few minutes I forget about the difficulty and I sleep.
The method is really simple. But the book is good as you understand the fundamentals of it, what it was based on.
Thank you dr. Herbert Benson for your studies and for writing this book! It helped me for sure!