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Just a Thought – Part 2

December 20, 2010

In the last post we briefly looked at the control our thoughts can have on our over all health.  Now it’s time to take that awareness and put it into action so that you can gain those potential health benefits.

There are many ways that we try to relax at the end of the day – watching tv, reading, playing video games, socializing with friends/family, even sleeping.  There’s nothing wrong with those activities except that they all require you to be either too engaged for your mind to settle down or tuned right out so as to miss the awareness of their calming benefit.

Instead, I suggest to try and incorporate the process of active relaxation – a state of being self-aware during an activity designed to calm the mind.  Think of it this way:  you can stay alive by getting all of your nutritional requirements through an intravenous feeding tube.  But I’m willing to bet that you would miss out on the pleasure gained from actually tasting and chewing your food.  In the same way, for the full benefit of relaxation, you should be conscious and actively engaged in the act of calming your mind.

There are a variety of ways to actively relax:  meditation, yoga, prayer, deep breathing and many more.  Pick something that fits with what you like.  Outlined below is one method of active relaxation called the Relaxation Response and it is based on the work by Herbert Benson, MD.  The Relaxation Response refers to a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress.  Dr Benson’s book Timeless Healing gives an in-depth look at not only the Relaxation Response but also the research in the field of mind-body medicine.

This is the technique taught at the Benson-Henry Institute.

  1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system, such as “one,” “peace,” “The Lord is my shepherd,” “Hail Mary full of grace,” or “shalom.”
  2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
  5. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
  6. Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, “Oh well,” and gently return to your repetition.
  7. Continue for ten to twenty minutes.
  8. When finished, do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.
  9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.

Remember that any form of active relaxation is a skill and like any skill it takes practice.  Don’t worry about whether or not you’re doing it “right”.  Just start with a thought and transform it into an action.

For more information on relaxation and how to feel better and stay well you can contact Guelph Chiropractors at Clear Path Chiropractic Health Centre.

Photo credit:  derekpluscamera

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6 Comments
  1. Nice post Mark,
    I think that closing point about practice is important, it’s hard to sit still at first!

    Your readers might like this video. I really like the case it makes for meditation: http://bigthink.com/ideas/3876. And it’s an amazing blog too.

    BTW, I see you’re in Guelph. I’m home visiting my parents in London and it’s beautiful here right now.

  2. Hi John,
    Thanks for your input. Yes, practice, practice, practice. And also just recognizing and feeling good about the progress you make with each step.

    The video gives a nice and simple explanation for the purpose of meditation. I’ll definitely check a little deeper into the rest of their blog too. Thanks for sharing.

    I hope you have a good time in London. It’s great with all of this snow around.

  3. Great post on the benefits of meditation and the art of relaxation. I’ve been encouraging it for years, admittedly though, typically tied in with some kind of movement like slow mobilizations or static stretches. I like Progressive Relaxation as a tool too, especially before bed to calm the mind and body. 20 minutes of some kind of guided relaxation process (mine is typically foam rolling, mobility work and a few static stretches) can put you to sleep fast.

    As a practicing Chiropractor you may also find this of interest.

    http://posturalrestoration.com/

    There are additional benefits of good breathing patterns (very common in meditation/relaxation practices) on posture and movement mechanics, not just the mind.

    • Thanks for the comment Darren. It’s good that there are so many different styles and techniques to choose from. It always helps to have more tools in the tool chest.

      Also, thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.

      Have a happy New Year!

  4. Good post. In yoga we develop a breathing practice, almost more importantly than the physical asana practice. Instead of allowing the state of mind influence our breath we use the breath control to influence our state of mind (or mood, reactions etc). Really powerful stuff. Thanks for the tips

    • I like the idea of using one’s breath to influence the mind. It’s nice to know that we have simple, easily accessible strategies that can make such a difference. Thanks for commenting.

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