Relaxation is instrumental for health and a good quality of life. In fact, learning to relax may be one of the smartest things you do for your self-care. Use the following sequence of steps to quickly elicit the relaxation response anytime and anywhere. To start, sit in a comfortable position and do one of the following:

– Say a meaningful word, perhaps “peace” or “quiet,” aloud or silently;
– Say a prayer, if you’re a person of faith, also aloud or silently;
– Think of a visual image, such as a candle lighting the darkness.

Repeat this word, series of words or image. If distracting thoughts come into your head, resist the temptation to follow them. Don’t punish yourself for having these thoughts, either; just calmly return to your word or phrase. Do this for 10 to 20 minutes.

You can also elicit the relaxation response through physical activity. Just focus on your breath or your physical movement while engaged in movement, and if you find your mind wandering, refocus in a relaxed, nonjudgmental way.

adapted from What Your Doctor Hasn’t Told You and the Health Store Clerk Doesn’t Know by Edward L. Schneider, M.D. (Avery, 2006).

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