Herbert Benson relaxation technique

David Holt
Herbert Benson relaxation technique


  • What is the goal of relaxation
  • How to relax
  • Numerical Representations Method
  • Dr. Herbert Benson's method

What is the goal of relaxation

Relaxation is especially indicated in psychosomatic disorders and in all those disorders in which anxiety or anguish is what causes functional disorders. As a psychoprophylactic habit it could be indicated for the majority of the population in all those stressful situations of daily life such as exams, work stress, conflictive relationships, etc..

The fundamental objective of relaxation methods consists in the production under the control of the subject of states of low activation of the autonomic nervous system. These states of low activation are achieved as a consequence of the establishment of certain attitudes and cognitive activities. Their achievement will result in greater self-control of their emotional, behavioral and intellectual behaviors. You should not try to strive for relaxation directly. Any attitude of effort or maintenance of an expectation of achieving relaxation will be counterproductive since it will contribute to producing a state exactly opposite to what is intended..

How to relax

The basic attitude should be to eliminate any expectation of "have to do" or "have to achieve." You must focus on the tasks described below, paying all possible attention to their performance and consequently trying to avoid any type of representation unrelated to the task..

Relaxation must be trusted to occur as a side effect of task completion.

A relaxation exercise is best done in a room with little noise and low light, preferably in a supine position (face up) on a bed. However, some of them can be done seated and in conditions of variable noise and brightness..

Numerical Representations Method

The method of numerical representations aims to achieve correct psycho-emotional self-control in specific stressful situations.

This quick and simple technique to reduce anxiety consists of mentally representing the number 10,000, preferably so that it is drawn as on a blackboard in the field of consciousness. Two units are subtracted from this number and we represent the resulting number, that is 9,998. Two more units are subtracted and the next resulting number is plotted. This activity should be performed repeatedly for 15 minutes, until negative thoughts disappear from our mind.

Dr. Herbert Benson's method

Herbert Benson is one of the leading scientists who began the study of transcendental meditation, and he has attempted to demystify it by providing the following simple instructions for achieving relaxation:

  1. Sit or stretch quietly in a comfortable posture.
  2. Close the eyes.
  3. Thoroughly relax all the muscles of the body, leaving them "loose", resting on the surface where we are, as if we had the sensation that this part weighed more than necessary..
  4. Start with the feet, think that they are weighing us down, that they lean freely on the sofa, bed, etc., slowly and progressively advance this feeling of heaviness with the rest of the body: the legs, hands, arms, abdomen ( feel that the whole back is resting relaxed on the surface where we are) and thus up to the muscles of the face. Keep them relaxed.
  5. Breathe through your nose. Become aware of the breath. As you breathe in, say the word "one" to yourself, then "two," and so on. Breathe naturally, not deeply.
  6. Continue for ten to twenty minutes. They can open their eyes, to check the time, but not use an alarm clock or an alarm system. When finished, remain seated for a few more minutes, first with your eyes closed and then open. Do not get up until a few minutes have passed.
  7. Do not worry about achieving a level of deep relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and let the relaxation occur at its own pace. If disturbing thoughts appear, you should try to ignore them by not dwelling on them and repeating "one" again. With practice, the answer will come with little effort. This technique should be practiced once or twice a day, but not for two hours after a meal, because the digestive processes interfere with the emergence of the relaxing response.

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