The Relaxation Response

During my last trip to see Dr. Tim Brown, N.D, I asked him for other relaxation techniques that I could share within a community of learners.

The staff at Ocean Park Natural Therapies regard their patients as more than just patients. In fact, it is the only public place where I have been treated as the whole (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) being that I am. (I’m not getting paid to write this. I’m mentioning this because I wish more places, particularly schools, took a truly holistic/integrated approach.)

While I was there, I also decided to pick the brain of one of the other professionals in the office.

Janise O’Leandros, CEO of Brain Body Solutions, is concerned with the number of young children, particularly boys that have been labelled with learning disabilities, who are coming to see her.

The neurofeedback equipment allows her to see “which part of the brain is acting as the bully on the playground, preventing the other parts from freely expressing themselves.” In many cases, she is seeing bombarded prefrontal cortexes, the part of the brain that is responsible for taking in data and houses working memory. A healthy prefrontal cortex allows us to pay attention, delay gratification, and focus on our thoughts and decision making.

… causing me to wonder if some of the practices used in schools are not only not beneficial for some learners but are actually counterproductive and even harmful for brain development and the overall well-being of children. Of course school alone cannot be blamed; balance begins with nutrition and spending ample time in nature… making it that much more important to give learners a balanced, not a data-driven, educational experience.

Merritt, B.C., Canada
Merritt, B.C., Canada

Fortunately, our brains never stop growing and can form new connections in order to restore their balance. Neurofeedback training is one way to facilitate this process. Neurofeedback training is “a learning process for the brain” that can treat ADHD, reading disabilities, anxiety, stress, depression, and addictive disorders. What I find most interesting is that its “primary use has been to improve brain relaxation through increasing alpha waves or related rhythms.”

It is actually the ability to relax that allows people to concentrate and live balanced lives.

So, let’s give our prefrontal cortexes a break:

1. Sit comfortably. 

2. Close your eyes. 

3. Relax, from feet to face. 

4. Breath, easily and naturally, in through your nose. As you breath out, say “One.”

5. Continue for 10-20 minutes. 

6. When distracted thoughts occur, rather than worrying about how relaxed you are (or aren’t), simply repeat “One” to access the anchored state of relaxation.  

As with anything, the more you practice, the easier it will become, resulting in deeper and deeper states of relaxation.

Herbert Benson, M.D. developed this simple practice that combines and simplifies various relaxation techniques (which I have further simplified here). Here are the full steps to elicit The Relaxation Response.

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