Likely you have come across the term the stress response which is sometimes known as the fight/flight response. It is our bodies physiological defence against a perceived threat. Sometimes this response is appropriate, for example, being caught in a fire may trigger the fight/flight response which enables a heightened physiological arousal and awareness. The problem with modern society is that the flight/fight response is often triggered by things which do not threaten our day to day survival.
While most people can achieve some level of relaxation, society is setup to mass produce anxiety. Essentially, we are taught to always crave more and we chase ‘more’ with a fervour. Unknowingly our stress response, is almost always on and people have become used to living in a hyperactive state of looking for perceived threats.
Prolonged exposure to stress and anxiety affects our lives negatively. Therefore, it is important to learn to relax. There are many benefits to adopting a more relaxed lifestyle. Our physical health, our state of mind, our relationships, our work among many other things seem to benefit when we are relaxed. We can help ourselves to deal with life in more beneficial way by adopting the opposite of the stress response in our daily life. The opposite of the stress response is simply the relaxation response.
A very easy and simple way to integrate relaxation in our lives is to practice the relaxation response. Do not be fooled by the simplicity of the technique. While simple, it is very powerful. There is some very convincing scientific evidence that this simple technique is very effective (please look up the relaxation response on Google for more information). There are three steps to the relaxation response:
Select a word or mental image or sound etc. which is relaxing to you. Focus your attention on that.
Every time the mind drifts (and it will) bring your attention back to that word, image or sound which relaxes you.
Do this for 15 minutes twice a day.
That is the whole technique. It is very similar to mindfulness, except in this case we are focusing attention on relaxation. What we should find with practice is we begin to slow down. Our breathing slows, our muscles loosen, our minds become less stressful.
The key is to practice it so that it becomes a daily ritual much like brushing our teeth. It has to become a part of our lives to achieve the most benefit. Once we are adept at the relaxation response we can also use it whenever we encounter a stressful situation. In these situations, use the relaxation response for a minute or two until you feel more relaxed. Part of integrating the relaxation response as a daily practice is to form neural pathways which trigger relaxation whenever we use the technique.