Your Mind and the Relaxation Response

This section on the mind discusses how our thoughts and beliefs might affect how the Relaxation Response works. We also discuss how the Relaxation Response might affect our thoughts and beliefs.
The discussions in this section only apply to the open techniques. These discussions may not apply to the traditional practices. The traditional practices usually already have a set of teachings that people follow. With the open techniques, scientists want to study the Relaxation Response on its own, separate from any teaching or tradition.

How the Mind Affects the Relaxation Response

A question someone might ask is does someone’s belief system, mental condition, or past experiences affect the working of the Relaxation Response. For the open techniques, people are instructed to choose their own relaxation phrase. The main advice is to choose a phrase that does not link to anything negative in their mind. So far, there do not seem to be any studies that compare results using different phrases. Some people have not had the Relaxation Response work well when they chose a word that they may have later not been comfortable with. Apart from this, however, it seems that any phrase that someone is comfortable with should work to some extent. The gentle repeating of the phrase in the thoughts should have a good chance of bringing about the Relaxation Response if someone follows the technique.
Dr. Benson not only helped to start the research on the Relaxation Response, but he has also helped to start the research on the placebo effect. The placebo effect concerns how our beliefs might affect any treatment that we might have. From research so far, however, it seems that we can get benefits from the Relaxation Response whether we believe in it or not.

How the Relaxation Response Affects the Mind

We know from some of the traditional practices that continually bringing about the Relaxation Response can affect the mind and thoughts. In fact, in many traditions the goal of the traditional practices is to change our mind and thoughts.
The scientific studies of the Relaxation Response, however, have not addressed this area very much. So, at this time we only suggest reading the precautions section. That section should prepare you in case something happens to your thought life that you might not expect.