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The Relaxation Response

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,593 ratings  ·  122 reviews
The medical profession recently redefined high blood pressure as greater than 130/80; this means that more than 30 million additional Americans are now considered to have high blood pressure that should be lowered, preferably without use of drugs.

Herbert Benson, M.D., first wrote about a simple, effective mind/body approach to lowering blood pressure in The Relaxation Response. When Din The
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 8th 2000 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 1975)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  1,593 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: health, self-help
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
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 27, 2008 rated it liked it
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 st
Sep 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, health
Read this back in the 70s and enjoyed it very much at the time as it was the "thing." I would still recommend it as good basic book on meditation.
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was drawn to this book while researching Transcendental Meditation. A friend had become involved in TM and was singing its praises. Acknowledging the fact that you need to pay $1000.00 for the TM course, I really wanted to be sure that this investment would be worth it. What is it, how does it work? The ritualism involved, (fruit, flowers and hankys, incense, etc.), as well as the monetary investment made me a bit skeptical. However, the positive side has a definite allure. So, what IS this s ...more
~nikki the recovering book addict
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have picked up this book because I don’t quite need more convincing that meditation is good for our mental health. But it was eye opening, especially with medical studies, on how meditation actually affects physical health. The history of meditation in all major religions was also an interesting bit. I’ve always thought - wrongly - that meditation was a Buddhist practice. Good to know that is not the case!

This is a quick but interesting read!
Shashwat Singh
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Relaxation Response was the original book that brought meditation to the mainstream.

Written by a Harvard MD, it goes over the major effects and benefits of inducing the "relaxation response". Basically, the relaxation response is defined as "A physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress... and the opposite of the fight or flight response." It includes meditation, as well as other practices such as prayer.

Additionally, the book covers the original
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quit-reading
A one-trick pony. "Meditation is good for your health."

There. You didn't have to buy or read the book. I just saved you $10.
Samuel Morningstar
Aug 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: meditation
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
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Pamela by: Clint
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
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is well worth a read. The author presents the history of various forms of meditation as well as his research succinctly. The process of training yourself to reach the relaxation response is simple. I believe the single most damaging factor to our health is relentless stress that stimulates the "fight or flight" response throughout the day, most days. Though I have just started this form of meditation, I have had some success and look forward to continued incorporation of it into my day ...more
Sep 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Although the relaxation response technique is extremely short and easy to learn and is only described right at the end of the book, it is worth reading about the benefits of meditation if you are new to it. I looked into Transcendental Meditation but found that this method as taught by Herbert Benson dispels with the secret mantra as is just as effective without the mysticism. About to read Beyond the Relaxation Response now.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Short, easy read chock full of very interesting research about the effects of meditation on the human nervous system. Enjoyed it.
Aug 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: meditation
Garbage. It's 98% filler. The entire book's useful contents are found on 5 pages.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I am smack dab in the midst of a Herbert Benson reading spree, beginning with The Wellness Book coupled with reading this book, and Timeless Healing (here's my review) If you are interested in the Relaxation Response, I do suggest also reading Timeless Healing, as they complement one another, with Timeless Healing providing much background material.

You can learn more at and try it for yourself by following the steps listed here or just cut to the chase and watch this video.

Regardless of your ch
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Despite being quite old, this is an awesome book!

My main take-away is that, for health, wellbeing and productivity, there are tremendous benefits to eliciting the relaxation response once or more each day. Through doing a relaxation response exercise once or twice a day, I now feel and work much better! In particular, I still feel fresh in the 2nd half of the day.

The book has a very long and interesting foreword that discusses what has been learned since the initial publication date
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Much of this book, originally published in 1975, was dedicated to explaining the physiology of stress and anxiety. In the beginning Benson tells of the research and experiments looking into this. Only a little bit at the end dealt with actual meditation techniques and practice. For me, a meditation novice, I was looking for more guidelines in practicing meditation. I have, however, found lots of that in a recently published book, "Meditation For the Fidgety Skeptic" by Dan Harris, which is full ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Breaks down meditation and possible benefits, trading in vaguely spiritual trappings for good old fashion science. Author, being of the academic tradition, cites quality sources and demonstrates rigourous methodologies. If you want to know about the measured physiological affects of popular meditation techniques, skipping on the anecdotal evidence usually found in books on the topic, this is a great place to start.
Vu Chi
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read, and even better if practiced.

Still relevant, if not more so, over 4 decades after the book first published. A great foundational book for any student of meditation who wishes to understand it from a scientific perspective. Content aside, I really liked Dr. Bensons writing style, eloqent and dignified.
Miguel Panão
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stressed? Do you feel you cannot follow the fast-pace of the world we live in? Take a break, otherwise you break. The Relaxation Response is a milenar innate way to lower your blood pressure, regain control of your body, rediscover the value of religious practices or develop an open way to rediscover calm and your creative self. This is what this simple book is all about.
Amy Morgan
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: counseling
An ok book about a meditation technique this guy calls the Relaxation Response. It has four steps:
1. A quiet place
2. A focus word
3. A passive attitude
4. A comfortable position

He has a nice section on how religious practice has incorporated meditation throughout history, and spends the majority of the book detailing scientific studies that verified the relaxation response.
Simply amazing!!! This is more of a research paper than a book. It simply captures the facts without bias which I really like about this book. Author has gone extra mile to show that he is not promoting any method based on religion or group which is my best part. Everyone older than 30 must read this since this book has a life-saving technique in my opinion.
Ethan Liebermann
The first scientific account of mindfulness and meditation

This book is the foundation of the meditation movement from a scientific perspective. As an initial skeptic, I was impressed with the scientific and data driven approach the author took to his evaluation of the physiological impacts of meditation and mindfulness. It was a convincing argument from my perspective.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great, extensive list of references at the end of this book and a helpful (and healthful) guide to the relaxation response. Chapter five was a bit of an aberration, delving into religious traditions and meditative practices across the world.
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Groundbreaking in its time. I have come across these ideas from followers of Dr. Benson. He started this all in 1975.
This book was recommended to reinforce my commitment to getting back into a less stress-driven life. Compelling reasons to do that lie within!
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Don't know how I missed this one....
Mar 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Maybe I'll increase the stars after I attempt to practice the methods outlined in this book. ;)
Stacy K
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Wonderful learning tool with precise instructions. Recommend for anyone struggling to manage stress and\ or anxiety issues. Calendar provided to help with tracking.
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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 auth
“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.” 3 likes
“Therapies we can purchase and caregivers we can consult, whether available through conventional or unconventional medicine, are still far more impressive to us than our own hearts and minds, lungs and hopes, muscles and beliefs, even though they sustain us day in and day out.” 0 likes
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