Relaxation therapy is a practice by which anxiety or tension in the mind is released in order to improve physical and mental health.

 

Definitions

 

Mindfulness is the moment-by-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations,and environment without evaluating or judging them.

 

Relaxation is the state of being free from tension and anxiety or the restoration of equilibrium following emotional disturbance.

 

Stress management is a set of psychological techniques for increasing the capacity to better cope with psychological stress. It usually includes relaxation methods.

 

Description

During the 20th century, a group of famous yogis brought eastern meditative approaches to the West.These approaches were an alternative and a challenge to some of the practices of Western medicine. Therefore, groups began to develop a plan to legitimize relaxation and meditative practices through scientific study.

When research on meditation was conducted by medical practitioners at many universities, it turned out that quieting the mind and body helped subjects in achieving a state of physical and mental relaxation.

 

These states of relaxation led to faster and better healing,  both physically and psychologically. With scientific research to support its effectiveness, relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness therapies are now proven therapeutic approaches and recommendations for those with mental and physical disorders. It is now practiced in many clinical settings under a variety of different names and with slightly different approaches.

 

Development

 

Dr. Edmund Jacobson was the first American physician to become widely known for using relaxation therapy as a therapeutic technique. He began using it especially to  release tension from muscle groups. His seminal work  Progressive Relaxation was published in 1938. In the 1950s, Dr. Joseph Wolpe, a behavior therapist, used similar ideas and therapeutic techniques to help treat anxiety and other behavioral disorders. Progressive relaxation became an effective method of stress management.

 

One of the most famous American physicians and advocates of relaxation therapy is Dr. Herbert Benson. He first published his popular book The Relaxation Response  in 1976. It was based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his transcendental meditation  that became very popular as a cultural phenomenon in the early 1970s. Cultural icons such as the Beatles went to India and learned from the Maharishi. In part, this helped popularize meditation and relaxation approaches among young people.

 Dr. Benson’s success was partly based on his ability to clearly explain the benefits of meditative relaxation. He could scientifically describe and show how the regular practice of relaxation therapy, with or without  spiritual roots, could help treat a wide range of stress-related disorders. Dr. Benson went on to found  Harvard University’s Mind Body Medical Institute to study the methods and effects of meditation, mindfulness, and similar therapies on healing.

Current Status

Today many hospitals and clinical settings regularly use  or recommend the use of meditation or relaxation techniques. These recommendations are made to decrease  tension as a key factor in the promotion of recovery and better health. In clinical trials, patients suffering a diverse range of problems, from cardiac and cancer patients to those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders, all showed significant improvement through the use of relaxation therapy. With these results, it is no wonder that at least 20 million Americans practice meditation, yoga, and other methods of relaxation as asystematic treatment to prevent problems experienced by the mind and body.

 

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