The Benson-Henry Technique

The standard Benson-Henry technique for bringing about the Relaxation Response consists of the 8 steps* shown below. An optional second phase is shown below as steps 9 and 10. Step 11 was added by this website to provide advice about time after the Relaxation Response.
This technique is simple, so it should only take a few minutes to learn the basics. Steps 1 and 9 may take some thought at the very beginning. In Step 1, you decide on what this website calls your “relaxation agent”. Your relaxation agent can be a word, image, phrase, short prayer or just your breathing. In Step 9 of Phase 2, you decide on your mental imagery. Phase 2 was added by Dr. Benson after studies about the placebo effect.
After you make your choices for steps 1 and 9, practicing your technique can become very routine. Health benefits build up over time and usually do not depend on any feelings that you may have during the Relaxation Response.
We are not aware of any problems that people have had using open techniques for the Relaxation Response. However, it is good to be aware of problems that some people have had with some traditional practices. These problems are discussed in the precautions section. Also, please read our disclaimer before choosing to start any practice on your own.
  • 01. Choose your Relaxation Agent

    Choose a Relaxation Agent - a word or phrase that you feel comfortable with or the rhythm of your breath.

  • 02. Find a Quiet Place

    It is best to find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position. You may still be able to bring about the relaxation response when it is not quiet, but your relaxation may not be as deep.

  • 03. Close your Eyes

    Close your eyes and began to gently focus inward. Begin to breathe deeply, slowly, and naturally if you are not breathing that way already.

  • 04. Progressively Relax All Your Muscles

    Progressively relax all your muscles, beginning with your toes and moving up through your head. Take one or two minutes for this.

  • 05. Begin Focusing on Your Chosen Agent

    Breathe slowly and naturally. As you exhale, focus on the relaxation agent that you have chosen. Repeat in your mind your word, phrase, or prayer, or picture the image you have chosen, or focus on your breathing rhythm.

  • 06. Assume a Passive Attitude

    You may notice that other thoughts come to your mind besides your relaxation agent. When this happens, then gently and easily bring your attention back to the relaxation agent (word, phrase, image, short prayer or breathing).

  • 07. Continue for 12 to 15 Minutes

    About fifteen minutes is the average time that Dr. Benson suggests for achieving health benefits.

  • 08. Use Mental Imagery

    Use mental imagery, such as picturing a peaceful scene in which you are free of your ailment. This should help the process of healing through hope, belief, and memory.

  • 09. Continue for 8 to 12 Minutes

    This second phase of mental imagery will usually take about 8 to 12 minutes.

  • 10. Let Your Body Adapt Before Activity

    A common rule of thumb at the end of your practice is to keep your eyes closed in the ratio of about 1 minute for every 10 minutes in which you were eliciting the Relaxation Response.