Chill Out: Meditation & the Relaxation Response

What

The relaxation response is intended to calm your mind, focus your attention, and reduce stress. The goal of this kind of meditation is to focus on the present: let go of the past and don’t fear the future.

Why

The relaxation response can help develop a mindful approach to eating (so you eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full); exercise (so you have quality workouts); and interpersonal relationships (so you have a better handle on emotions).

When

  • In the morning: to set a calm tone for the day
  • Before lunch: to be more aware of the foods you eat
  • Before meetings: to feel attentive, yet relaxed
  • Before bed: to maximize sleep
  • During stressful times: to help reduce anxiety

Where

  • A quiet spot at home: bedroom, garage, patio—anywhere that is peaceful to you
  • A beautiful spot in nature: the beach, your garden, the Esplanade, etc.
  • On the T: close your eyes and off you go—just don’t miss your stop!
  • At your desk: breath deeply and say no to chaos

Who

Everyone can benefit from meditation. You don’t have to chant Ommmmm or wear flowing robes.

How do I do it?

Sit or stand in a comfortable position. Keep your back straight and supported enough to allow the free flow of breath. Relax your face and shoulders. Close your eyes or focus on a spot in front of you.

Try one of the following:

1. Focus on your breath. Count to 10 breaths. As random thoughts creep in, let them go, return to your breath, and continue your count.

2. Focus on a real or imagined object that brings you peace, joy or love. Examples may include a view of the ocean, a sunset, a photo of an inspiring person or a favorite poem. Allow positive feelings to wash over you and revel in the present moment.

3. Recite a simple poem, lyric, prayer or mantra that expresses your true essence.

4. Play relaxing sounds; whether it is eastern Sanskrit kirtan, Gregorian chants, opera, or the splashing sounds of an outdoor pool. Set a timer for 5, 10, 15 or 60 minutes: whatever you have time for. Any time you devote will help.

Our Be Fit Nutritionists are comprised of dietetic interns studying at Massachusetts General Hospital. During their internship, they receive training on acute care nutrition, ambulatory and community nutrition, food service systems management, and research. Their comprehensive work is done in collaboration with registered dietitians.

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