Someone closing their eyes for the relaxation response

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.

Phase 1 : Start Technique

5. 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.

6. 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).

[ --- Optional --- ]

PHASE TWO - Visualization

9. 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.

11. Let Your Body Adapt Before Activity

Your body may be in a state of deep rest after bringing about the Relaxation Response. Therefore, just as when you are coming out of a deep sleep, it is wise to give your body a few minutes before getting up. It is usually best to keep your eyes closed during this time. A common practice is to use about 1 minute with eyes closed for every 10 minutes that you experienced the Relaxation Response.

* These 10 steps are described on pages 9-10 of The Relaxation Revolution, by Herbert Benson and William Proctor (2010)