Yesterday I posted about Dr. Collinge’s stress response and relaxation response. The final part of his information includes three relaxation response techniques.
Below are the three most common approaches to experiencing the relaxation response on a regular basis. They include meditation, progressive relaxation and mental imagery.
There are hundreds of variations of meditation that have been taught over the years. Meditation is usually associated with spiritual goals and it is considered an extra benefit that it leads automatically to the relaxation response.
Meditation should take place in a quiet environment, a setting where you can sit quietly and undisturbed in a comfortable position for at least 15 – 20 minutes. There are two steps to follow:
1. Focus your attention on one thing that keeps you present in the moment. This can be the silent repetition of a word, sound, phrase or prayer.
2. When you find your mind has wandered and thoughts intrude into your repetition, return your attention back to the focus of your attention.
With progressive relaxation, your body itself is used as the focus of attention. It can be done by either lying down or sitting. Collinge suggests:
“One technique involves thinking of your body as a network of muscle groups. Beginning with the muscles of your feet, you focus your attention on each muscle group for a minute or so, and then move on to the next, adjacent muscle group. So you may move from the feet up to the legs, then to the buttocks, then the lower back, then the abdomen, then the chest and rib cage, then the shoulders, the upper arms, the lower arms and hands, then the neck, and finally the face and head. As you focus on each of the muscle groups in this progression, you may imagine you are breathing your breath into it, and that as you exhale from the area, your outbreath carries with it any tension that was being held there. Your attention is progressively moving up through the body, releasing tension as it goes.”
Mental imagery involves using symbols in your mind’s eye to imagine that the changes you desire in your body are actually happening. One example is imagining that tight muscles are represented by a block of ice and that as you breathe your warm breath into the area, the ice melts, and the tension and tightness melt away, leaving everything in your body soft, warm and deeply relaxed.
The key to these methods working, according to Collinge, is maintaining a regular routine of practice once you find which method works the best for you.