The Relaxation Response
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The Relaxation Response

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  761 ratings  ·  63 reviews
When Dr. Herbert Benson introduced this simple, effective, mind/body approach to relieve stress in The Relaxation Response twenty-five years ago, the book became an instant national bestseller. Since that time, millions of people have learned the secret of the relaxation response--without high-priced lectures, drugs, or prescription medicine. The tremendous success of this...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 8th 2000 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 1975)
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Gretchen
This is an informative, readable book about how to meditate. It promotes no specific religion or philosophy. Its focus is on combating the fight–or–flight response with a calmer reaction to problems. Through meditation the relaxation response is invoked twice a day. This learning spills over into the person's response to everyday stresses. It does discuss meditation in various Western and Eastern religions, and does condone using religion in conjunction with meditation if the person is so inclin...more
Stella
I've recently reviewed this book for the second time. A study was done at Harvard by Herbert Benson and colleagues back in the 70's. Their findings were that by triggering the relaxation response in the body through meditation all kinds of ailments are relieved. It's amazing to me that the benefits of conscious relaxation aren't more commonly known and understood in our society. I have practiced this in conjunction with restorative yoga and other meditation techniques with miraculous results in...more
Luciano
This book is succinct and easy to read. I bought it based on its reputation, as it is a widely quoted resource on meditation. The book delves into the mind/body connection and how we can use meditation to bring down our stress level or as the book describes it, "The Relaxation Response," without the use of drugs or prescription medication.

I have put into practice the suggestions made in the book and it has made a world of difference in not only my stress level, but how I deal with stress in gene...more
Robin
Usually I’m suspicious that doctors who write popular health books are more interested in making a buck or selling a product than in helping people get healthy. However, author Herbert Benson seeks to empower the reader by offering a simple method—the relaxation response—to counteract stress. Originally published in 1975, this was the first book to link stress with hypertension and to substantiate how regular use of relaxation techniques can reduce symptoms of hypertension and cardiovascular dis...more
Deemah Al-Otaibi
لم اكن اظن ان نشاط بسيط مثل الاسترخاء مهم بدرجة كبيرة ! و كيف ان التوتر لابسط الاشياء قد تسبب امراضا عديدة مثل صغط الدم المرتفع و تصلب الشرايين!..كان كتابا بسيطا يشرح به الدكتور بنسون تجاربه التي اداها في هذا المجال.. انتهيت من الكتاب بمعلومه جوهريه الا وهي انني بإسترخائي فإنني اؤدي لجسمي معروف واحميه من امراض كثيرة.. فالاسترخاء لمدة 10 دقائق يوميا يحصننا من كثير من المشاكل الصحية.. في الكتاب ايضا طرق للاسترخاء يشرحها الدكتور بإسلوب سهل و جد مفيد!!
Steve
This wasn't the most exciting read but I did like the author's basic concept. Most of the book provides reasons for eliciting and gives a historical account of "the Relaxation Response". Instructions for achieving it are found in the last couple chapters.
Samuel Morningstar
It's tough to review a book like this because almost everything you need to know is summarized in the introduction. The actual technique is very simple to learn, yet is a very powerful basic technique that every meditator needs to have in their toolbox. The majority of the rest of the book is filled with medical studies backing up the notion that meditation does indeed have a powerful effect on the mind and body. If you think meditation isn't for you or that you simply 'can't' meditate, this is...more
Christen
This book has been around for a while. I had taken some meditation training in the past and I wanted to learn more about the science behind why meditation worked to reduce stress (and whether in fact it did). I found a wealth of information about the blood pressure responses to consistent meditation. What happens in the body as a result of high blood pressure was also described clearly. I also discovered some alternative meditation practices to those I had been doing periodically. This book as a...more
Alison Zemanek
This book on meditation was researched and written by a Harvard PhD., so it takes a very physiological approach to the subject and outcome of meditation. The author suggests a technique (which is the technique he used with success in his own studies), but he also allows the use of prayer, mantra, or any other spiritual device that might bring the desired outcome. I found this book to be very interesting and once I can find some quiet time, I look forward to beginning. Apparently, different peopl...more
Nathan
Reread this one after a decade or so. Presents meditation as a bit of a panacea, and focuses a bit too much on hypertension/cardiology (his speciality) rather than mental calmness and stress management. On the other hand, it's a dated book, and seminal in establishing Western medicine's increasing openness to the proto-psychologies religions got right long before modern medicine. I'm not well read enough in the subject, but it seems like an early example of preventative medicine over diagnose-an...more
Pamela
A short book, about 100 pages long, that covers something that has been known and practiced for ages. The difference here is scientific study was applied and Benson shares the results. After the two pages describing how to do it, the rest was why. The Relaxation Response is like meditation, or deep prayer, and part of the book explores the different religions and writings that have discussed this process. It is a simple thing to do. The hardest part is to make it a habit and do it at least once...more
Laura
Short, easy read chock full of very interesting research about the effects of meditation on the human nervous system. Enjoyed it.
Tania Clarkson
Good if you want history and science of meditation. I was hoping for more of a how-to but it was an interesting book.
Rick
Great way to learn mechanics of meditation. Don't need to read more than first few pages, though.
Katherine
A classic! Succinct and accessible medical explanation of Flight/Fight and Relaxation Response mechanisms within human body and how to work with both in this chronically stressful modern culture. Also a brief history of meditation across cultures/religion/history. Benson did the groundbreaking scientific research on biological impact of meditation that laid the foundation for moving mind/body treatments from the fringes to the mainstream of health care and summarizes it here.
Alison
A revised edition of a 1970's book by a Harvard doc who was shunned by the academic community for beginning to study the physiological effects of Transcendental Meditation. I love one of the quotes from a review in the front by an MD: "I am delighted that someone has finally taken the nonsense out of meditation..." Ha! For those of you who have trauma or work with it, this is a great basic primer of how breathing and relaxation calm us physiologically.
Charity (CJ)
The first have was very bland (all this stuff about blood pressure and how high blood pressure happens...not at all the reason I'm interested in the topic), but the section about meditation practices in world religions was very interesting, as was the section on how to elicit the Relaxation Response. So, three stars rather than the two I would have given it had I stopped with the blood presure stuff.
Dej
I thought this book was just the reason I needed to start meditating. it explains that prayer, meditation, and conscious relaxation produce physical health benefits needed to balance out the stress and fight/flight response in every day life. it was also refreshing to read a well written and well researched book on this topic.
Adrienne
As someone who has struggled with anxiety issues for the past 10 years, I found this book very helpful. It talks about using meditation in a very "non-crunchy" way. I would recommend this book to anyone who has wrestled with anxiety/depression/insomnia. It has some very down-to-earth techniques and advice.
Jason Meinig
It seems to be an early, and rudimentary, exploration of what basically amounts to focused meditation. I'm sure it was more groundbreaking when published. There a healthy amount of quotes from various religious disciplines (both Eastern & Western) that I found interesting that I hadn't come across before.
Mirko
Very instructive book, backed up with scientific research. I skipped few chapters dealing with details about blood presure measurement, which I didn't find necessary. It is quite old book, and it's probably the pioneer work in the body-mind link, which was weird in its time, but nowadays is popular.
Aimee
Although I disagreed with some of the author's ideas because of my religious affiliation and beliefs, I found the overall idea of this book very good. I particularly enjoyed the chapter looking at historical and religious relaxation response ideas and quotes. I think I just might give it a try!
Michael Brooks
Very succinct and practical. Great for anyone that has stress of any kind. Highly driven people may find that it could save your life!

Most people know how to trigger the fight or flight response but most people are not even aware of the relaxation response.
Gretchen
Just beginning to read about meditation, so I'm staring simple. This one is all you need to start a practice. Simple, Western orientation. Non-threatening, non-sectarian, certified Harvard approved. Nothing to scare off a cynical New Yorker
Erin
Oct 16, 2008 Erin added it
Herbert Benson conducted the first major studies on the physiological effects of meditation, which he called the "Relaxation Response." The book didn't tell me anything particularly new to but it was interesting to read about the studies.
Julie
I kind of skimmed this one because I really wanted the information about the "Relaxation Response" - which is a relaxation practice to reduce stress. Have I done it yet? No. But I'm planning on giving it a try.
Tara
This book has some good insight into how to really relax but it was not enjoyable to read. I have not been able to pick it back up. If I do and I can get through it maybe it will get better. Will update.
Cristian Marrero
For me I didn't like it. Old scientific and medically written text on how to practice meditation. Control our mind and blood flow. And the power and need to say and use the word "No".
Tanya W
Mar 28, 2011 Tanya W marked it as to-read
Seems like a good thing to learn to help with personal stress management... and also something to teach children when they need help with emotions (anger, anxiety, etc.).
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Herbert Benson, M.D. (born 1935), is an American cardiologist and founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He graduated from Wesleyan University and Harvard Medical School.

Benson is Mind/Body Medical Institute Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute (BHI). He is the author or co-aut...more
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“You will learn that evoking the Relaxation Response is extremely simple if you follow a very short set of instructions which incorporate four essential elements: (1) a quiet environment; (2) a mental device such as a word or a phrase which should be repeated in a specific fashion over and over again; (3) the adoption of a passive attitude, which is perhaps the most important of the elements; and (4) a comfortable position. Your appropriate practice of these four elements for ten to twenty minutes once or twice daily should markedly enhance your well-being.” 0 likes
“(1) A Quiet Environment Ideally, you should choose a quiet, calm environment with as few distractions as possible. A quiet room is suitable, as is a place of worship. The quiet environment contributes to the effectiveness of the repeated word or phrase by making it easier to eliminate distracting thoughts.   (2) A Mental Device To shift the mind from logical, externally oriented thought, there should be a constant stimulus: a sound, word, or phrase repeated silently or aloud; or fixed gazing at an object. Since one of the major difficulties in the elicitation of the Relaxation Response is “mind wandering,” the repetition of the word or phrase is a way to help” 0 likes
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