Herbert Benson - The Relaxation Revolution: Enhancing Health Through Mind Body Healing

Herbert Benson – The Relaxation Revolution: Enhancing Health Through Mind Body Healing

and now it's my pleasure to introduce dr. Herbert Benson dr. Benson is the mind/body Medical Institute associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the director emeritus of the Benson Henry Institute for mind-body medicine at Mass General Hospital a pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine dr. Benson's work has helped bridge the gap between spirituality and medical science he has written several books and innumerable papers on the subject including the best-selling book the relaxation response a term he coined to describe the precise opposite of a stress or fight-or-flight response dr. Benson's new book relaxation revolution co-written with William Proctor details his recent work on the subject of mind-body medicine much of it in conjunction with colleagues in the field of genetics the book describes the surprisingly powerful impact of the relaxation response on even the molecular level and outlines possibilities for treatment of conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to Parkinson's disease Thank You Rachael it's indeed a pleasure to be here at the Harvard bookstore and to see so many friends and colleagues here what I'll speak to tonight is the relaxation revolution medicine is remarkable in what we can do to save and prolong people's lives how many of you would not be here today if it were not for medicine or surgery could I have a show of hands you're a young young audience at about 40% of you you know lives were saved by this but you have to remember as good as our surgery is as good as our medicines are 60 to 90% of visits to doctors are in the mind-body stress-related realm poorly treated by drugs and surgery so what do we do we have within us an innate capacity that's the opposite to the opposite of the lighter flight response and that's called the relaxation response the relaxation response is nothing new people have practice techniques that have brought it forth for millennia because to bring it forth you have to break the train of everyday thinking and traditionally people have done this through a repetition the repetition could be a word a sound a prayer a phrase or movement when other thoughts come to mind you disregard them those thoughts and come back to the repetition now this is be started with with meditation in the 7th 8th century BC in India it went on to be practiced for example with yoga tai chi chi-gong with repetitive Jewish Christian and Islamic prayers they all evoke the relaxation response but traditionally over at least in the West in the last 150 to 200 years we have separated the mind from the body largely because of Rene de cartes separation of mind and body and that was largely a political that was largely a political decision because he wanted the body and the church wanted the spirit and so that separation occurred then what occurred was this separation was reinforced by some of the most incredible discoveries that were due to science for example an early discovery came from English sailors sucking on limes to prevent scurvy hence limeys then later Jenner in England discovered that injecting people with cow pox could prevent against smallpox and incredible two then the water some of the largest ones came about from a Louis Pasteur recognizing that diseases are caused by bacteria that he showed that anthrax in animals could be caused by a bacterium and then robert cog in germany was able to define the specific bacteria and tetanus became treatable if you were scratched with the rusty nail and you would develop tetanus you would die well Kok Kok developed anti tetanus toxin then in in Canada insulin was discovered and diabetics who would offer diet awful death ketoacidosis could be kept alive not cured by daily injections of insulin then the big one came along in that Fleming in London at st. Mary's Hospital discovered penicillin pneumonia became curable if you had the if you develop pneumonia and you were over 50 you had close to a hundred percent chance of dying penicillin took care of that penicillin could also cure syphilis and then a scientist at Merck sharpened dome found that from soil samples streptomycin another antibiotic could be a cop could be produced and tuberculosis the white death became curable and all of this was reinforcing the fact that you didn't have to worry about stress if our medicine continued with its discoveries of VOC cataract surgery the blind could be cured by biblical standards is a miracle well here we are medicine went on to develop leaving that only drugs only surgeries would work and but there were always glimmers of the fact that the mind could be affecting the body a lot of the works started right here at Harvard with Oliver Wendell Holmes him and pointing out the importance of doctor/patient relationships William James live very close to here found that the mind was inseparable from the body and then we found early in our work that meditation led to a response that looked exactly opposite to the fight-or-flight response and it was done at the very room at Harvard Medical School in which the fight-or-flight response was discovered by William B can in 60 years before and it made no sense that Transcendental Meditation would be the only way to do this so we found that as I just pointed out that techniques had existed for millennia that did this and so we started applying it to stress-related conditions and a very large literature now literally a thousands of papers have shown that these techniques can effectively treat any condition that's caused or made worse by stress anxiety often with medications now but anxiety mild and moderate depression insomnia high blood pressure all forms of pain not if they're stress-related they could be effectively treated it's virtually curative of tension headaches for example but still mind-body work was not being accepted that was sorted it was building upon the pejorative don't worry honey it's all in your head it's really not an important and that separation of mine from body was was being continued so the technologies over my own career of 40 some years was always developing and we were using the latest elegies to see whether we could better define this mind/body reaction that we had labeled the relaxation response frequent fMRIs came along and work done by Sarah Lazar for example at Massachusetts General Hospital show that there is a specific quieting of the brain in certain areas of the brain less activity less noise when the relaxation response was being a vote and then she found that the brain actually became thicker thicker as people got older when normally it became thinner as we get older we forget things and what have you well the brain became thicker and people of O king the relaxation response then the last 10 or so years we've been attempting to answer the question does the relaxation response alter your genetic activity what did we talk genes genes are the fundamental building blocks of the body or enzymes all our biochemistry based guns are based on genes for example and it's changing second by second by second not changing the genes but the genes activity influence activity in your brain and that activity in turn influences your body you are a different person today for having seen me talk these several moments what you've learned has changed you and it changes and things are changing simultaneously as things are learned and true you're not going to change the genes themselves that they determine whether you are male or female whether you've got dark hair or white hair whether you're tall or short sure the influence the environment influences that but this basic genetic structure you inherited your genes what we measured was that genes activity what we did this was done in collaboration with dr. Tuvia Lieberman and other people at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital we took patients who had been evoke in the relaxation response for years on an average of oh nine years the range was from twenty years to about four years they were using different techniques to evoke the relaxation response some meditated different forms of yoga mindfulness Transcendental Meditation breath meditation different forms of Prayer yoga tai chi but they've been doing it regularly for some on an average of nine or so years we match them with people who are of the same gender same age same race and same education and looked at the activity not the genes of the activity of every single one of their genes to see whether there's a difference measured in all forty to fifty thousand genes and lo and behold there was a difference the difference and which genes were they genes were being turned on and turned off in a fashion that one was acting exactly opposite to the G those genes that were turning out of that were turned on or turned off by stress genes that control inflammation in the body were being turned down in other words there would be less inflammation and the genes looking at the very life of cells that the the the length of life of cells were were consistent with cells getting a living longer nice that was a statistically significant change then we took the that was what's called a cross-sectional study looking at match controls amongst different people then we took the controls who had never before evoke the relaxation response and had them evoke it in a standard method we use routinely for eight weeks and compare them to themselves before versus after and lo and behold there were the same jeans activity the same genes expression changing in the same fashion in the same jeans to a lesser extent showing that the longer you do it the more the more active these jeans or who actively these jeans are appropriately changed and the probability of that occurring by chance was one in ten billion so this was now showing us that the mind can affect the body and the whole Cartesian split really has very little validity and this whole concept that my body is saw that mind body is wool and really there's validity to this now to the fact that the mind can control jeans activity now that's what we call in our book William Proctor William Proctor is a graduate both of Harvard College where he was a mountain in history and also Harvard Law School bill went on to Vietnam where became a lawyer in the jag and then decided he didn't want to be a lawyer and wrote books and I had the good fortune of working with him many years now I am a very poor writer thinking I would not be here for we're not for people like William Proctor well what what we call this the the phase one of what we're calling the Benson Henry the Benson Henry protocol evoke the relaxation response and remember I said at the beginning of the talk that your mind's quieter after you do that it's less active less noise more receptive to new facts coming in that can be used therapeutically for example you all have memories before you had an issue whatever your issue is a being without that problem be it rheumatoid arthritis be it insomnia via a PMS what have you and what you can do is evoke the relaxation response and in the mind as the mind in that quiet mode you then can visualize what it was when you were well you can remember wellness you're still wired in your brain for that and those changes to the extent that a mind-body reaction is causing the issue it can be corrected by remembering wellness another name for remembered wellness is the placebo effect so you can turn on in a positive fashion the the capabilities of your memory let me give you a dramatic example of how that operates say you have you had an injury to your left hand frightfully painful and your left hand was this was their painful for years then either to surgery or an injury you lose that left hand even though you don't have a left hand your brain is interpreting you have a painful left hand because it's been wired you can D wire that by this same process remember what it was to be without a painful left hand so we cover many different illnesses in the using this two two-step process phase one the relaxation response phase two visualization at the Bentson Henri Institute for my body medicine at MGH we use this very process in what's called the relaxation response resiliency program we open the mine and then substitute not only visualization but also cognitive restructuring a group support and I'm proud to say due to the influence of one of the people here today that David Rosenthal who's head of Harvard University Health Services we're also doing this with students and faculty at Harvard University what I want to end with now is the fact that you have within yourselves not only the capacity to be stressed out but also the capacity to counter that and you can effectively use this inborn capacity and effectively treat any disorder that's being caused or exacerbated by stress and we are not saying you should not use medications or surgeries there are things that mind by that that are far more powerful in many diseases then are the mind-body effects they should be used in conjunction and I think you'll have you will experience better health and well-being because of that thank you stressors vary in intensity some things are absolutely frightful losing a a spouse losing a child losing a parent developing a hearing the words I'm sorry you have breast cancer there are many other stressors that for many are equally powerful you're fired we're at a money oh my gosh the oil is still gushing forth from that well those are stressors you can't change those stressors what you can change is your bodily reaction to them so whether it's minor or major you can buy evoke in this process and break through breaking the train of everyday thought and visualizing help will it cure your stress no but it protects your body and your mind against its frightfully harmful effects Oh what I'm saying breaking the train of everyday thought is a way of opening your mind that's phase one that's where cognitive therapy then comes in in other words with your mind more open more receptive you're more able to listen to what the therapist being a psychologist a nurse a physician a social worker what what they're teaching so it should be in combination does that mean you shouldn't use medications of course not as they're often the most important most important feature remember most of us most of we physicians have been educated in the reductionistic model drugs and surgeries and it's changing though it is markedly changing beak and that's why the book is entitled relaxation revolution to not change the book but to bring about another feature and many physicians are frustrated by their inability to help a person who's coming back repeatedly they've run out of tests we've run out of tests we've run out of surgeries we've run out of pharmaceuticals they would welcome this and we at the Institute in the earliest days for you know when this work started 40 years ago about third of physicians would accept that a third were ambivalent and another third outright rejected it that's that's ridiculous that's a new age well the science has changed a lot of that and that's one of the reasons this book was written to show that there's now scientific data and if your physician should share this with your physician we've often found that the early stages of this in that those who were ambivalent would not prescribe it to their patients but often started with their own family first in other words they wanted to see whether it's working or not and I think with what's occurring today in terms of cost contained this work is made self care that's cheaper and something you do for yourself we're not saying turn away from what you need and for the long term um people are our Institute for example Maryland will sure have centered on educating our children starting at at preschool going right on through college we we're doing this at at Harvard University and then teaching them how they can counteract the harmful effects of stress and perhaps prevent excessive alcohol excessive drug abuse violence and of course anxiety and what have you you have to start at the very fabric of society so you don't you aren't wired to believe that only pills and surgery can work and with respect to your field with nutrition we use the opening the mind opening for example in our cardiovascular programs to teach appropriate nutrition you see it's applicable to all of these different conditions that you wish to change because of the very innate capacities of the brain to change itself yes feedback is not what we're talking about because feedback takes a specific event say a pain and has you do various maneuvers to get rid of that pain and then feed back what you're doing but biofeedback is a way it is another way too is another approach that whose effects could be maximized by utilizing the relaxation response to open yourself to it in other words it's you mentioned how biofeedback would use a remembering and given trauma well that oh that's that's cognitive restructuring so you see you do the relaxation response and then you bring about on appropriate memories to break through the issue of the trauma you could desensitize people the very same way in fact there are several aspects of the book which speaks specifically to how you can get rid of phobias through this same process in other words evoke the relaxation response and remember yourself in gradual steps without the phobia it's not a question of one being better than another it's what you choose what you will be Mott you as an individual and others would be most comfortable with for example right now mindfulness meditation is very popular but it's one of scores of techniques we've showed to know the genetic expression and mindfulness meditation is the same as other meditation but let's say some people don't like sitting quietly then yoga is a better approach some people are quite religious believing in something rightfully beyond themselves for them a repetitive prayer hail Mary full of grace Ave Maria Shalom Lord is my Shepard own is what they would choose and what we do at our Institute is give people a smorgasbord of choice but to have them choose one that they determine is the best for them they're more likely to do it it would be malpractice if we taught only prayer I mean how do you deal with a atheist or an agnostic or it would be equally inappropriate not to teach a prayer to someone who believes in their particular religion that's why it applies to all cultures so whether you're saying you know say a given culture and you're a fundamentalist belief the words Lord Jesus opens the door but you wouldn't have a Catholic using Lord Jesus they would use Hail Mary full of grace or a person who was not religious using the word love or peace or gentle the fundamental the price for this is not in dollars and cents the price for this is the time it takes to do this once or twice daily for 10 to 20 minutes that is the issue you have these changes you have to put in the time massage needs to be better treated touching there's something to this I mean you just watch primates and you know we touching is very important and I don't think it's been adequately studied does it evoke the relaxation response I don't know but we have shown for example thought to be Chiang that acupuncture is enhanced if it's done simultaneously with the relaxation response so you can use combinations find although I'm not speaking specifically to you find something that your father believes in and would be comfortable in doing and is capable of doing let me show you how to evoke the relaxation response very briefly this is voluntary okay in other words water its side effects side effects of you all be very careful of what I say after I vote you evoke the relaxation response because it's going to get in better the this has been used for good and evil what follows in a Christian services prayer the sermon open the door get the message in but look what Jim Jones did with this in the Guiana jungles convincing people that drinking cyanide low school a school aid was appropriate behavior I'll just take you through the instructions very simply and not for a prolonged period of time just what it is and this is voluntary if you choose to do this for a medical reason please check out with your physician and health care professional each of you choose a word a sound a prayer or a phrase the number one the word peace the word gentle the word calm if English is not your original language please choose the word in your original language if you're religious hail Mary full of grace if you're Spanish Portuguese Italian that becomes Ave Maria Lord is my shepherd our Father who art in heaven make a joyful noise unto the Lord the Shema prayer shema yisrael and in Norlin Hainaut annoy a halt prayer and tibetan buddhism Omani pep pot may hung hailed rule of the Lotus ohm choose that oh okay now take things off your lap and this is where harvard book store management steals pocketbooks okay close your eyes and relax all your muscles starting with your feet your calves your thighs shrug your shoulders around roll your head and neck around now sit at ease without movement and breathe slowly each time your breath is coming out say silently to yourself your chosen word or sound or prayer or phrase and you're going to find all sorts of other thoughts coming in your head that's normal they're natural and should be expected when they come don't be upset but simply say oh well and come back to your repetition now I'm going to let you do this just for a minute or two at the end of which time allows you to keep your clients eye eyes closed but then start thinking regular thoughts and now on your out-breath the focus and other thoughts oh well and back to it now keep your eyes closed keep them closed but just our thinking your regular thoughts and now slowly slowly open your eyes was that brief interlude upsetting for anyone even for two minutes did any of you notice any changes anyone anything I didn't it wouldn't expect you one but in anyway that's to be done if you choose to do this approach ten to twenty minutes once or twice a day genetics right now is a very intensively studied field initially we spent a lot of money we the government at private people vet nur and others spent a lot of money to define the genome believing that we would come up with specific genes that would predict a specific disease for example cancer that has not worked out the complexity of genes are such that one in a vast number of cases this gene one gene equals specific disease has not worked out because genes interact with each other and when genes activity is turned on turned off then you find that the second it is changing it changes another around it as it changes itself so the very complexity is such that you can't look at it in a reductionistic fashion you have to look at whole patterns changing and the statistics of this are very complex but now it's beginning to evolve just two weeks ago in science of prominent magazine it was shown that if you repeatedly bring forth a certain genes activity you may change that gene enough so you can pass the change Jeanne's structure onto your children this is all going under study now but it's highly complex but we know we can change patterns of this and almost as quickly as a new technique comes up we have to restructure we for example have found that when you evoke the relaxation response you have this pattern of gene expression very exciting and you look at these are normals then you look at certain cancers certain lipomas and what have you that have their expression and lo and behold for some of these cancers the expression of the relaxation response in normals is different from those with cancer right now we'll be studying does relaxation response affect the expression of a cancer itself but that's years away before we get to that but it's opening that kind of possibility you say we have an expert here in the audience David you think it ever possible that mind/body could affect genomic structure I don't think so myself pardon anything and that's the heart at the head of Harvard University Health Services say you're right I mean let me bring up something that we don't all want to hear and it belies all of Medicine we're mortal you know we try and cure but frequently we're dealing about with a process that's in depending upon your religious belief but that's incurable so our main job is to stay as lie and live as long and healthy as possible but one shouldn't blame medicine because not not everyone lives for effort we've got an issue there we're not going to solve it today how many of you Jah God how many of you have experienced the runner's high the runner's high is the relaxation response brought about by the cadence of your feet that's the repetition it occurs normally in the third or fourth mile it will occur in the first or second mile if you focus left right when you start off when you do so and I'm shouting at you now keep your eyes open hold the area I am a cardiologist by training early I was concerned that blood pressure elevations could be due to stress there was no literature on it so I returned to Harvard Medical School from which I had recently graduated to set up an animal model for stress induced high blood pressure we use Skinner's BF Skinner's operant conditioning and found low and behold we could train monkeys to develop hypertension then some young people came along and said why are you fooling around with monkey study us we brought we practice Transcendental Meditation that's how it got started 40 years ago again under Maryland Wilshire of our Institute we have training programs where we train trainers her model in schools is to train the teachers themselves but first to have them experience it themselves so they could be by by by their very existence the model and then this is an extraordinarily popular and now occurring in many schools throughout the nation from we've done studies for example and the South Central Los Angeles and inner-city area where the riots started in LA that level of basic community where as Marilyn tells it the children do not expect to live beyond teenage virtually 75% of them know someone either a relative or a friend who's been murdered and so for that it works there but it's also a major program now at Phillips Exeter we're students at that level perhaps their worries are they going to get into Harvard or what have you so it's that's where it should be going on at these oh yes should be frankly it should be a daily practice think back a generation or two or three that you know and I'll bet your parents great pair parents or great-grandparents we're doing a technique on a daily basis we have gotten so busy and overwhelmed and we're trying to that the stressors are overwhelming and what's our treatment for get busier so you don't have to think and we're just grinding ourselves up with this and that's why you should know this early in life just as the example you pointed out you remembered that saying the number one could break whatever issue you were having that's why it should be learned early one of our good point good point one of our earlier supporters was Norman Cousins and he was heavily into ethical culture yes groups of all kinds have come to us he's a religious or secular the point is again and I'll end with this it's an innate human capacity that we have that will protect us against the harmful effects of stress and then at that point you can take it and sell it and sell your philosophy and convince others so so with that thank you for the bookstore

25 thoughts on “Herbert Benson – The Relaxation Revolution: Enhancing Health Through Mind Body Healing

  1. I went to the doctor about 3 years ago once I left my doctor she called me n a panic she sounded quite worried she stated that my liver count came back very high…..( I mean she sounded really worried) it kinda caught me off guard honestly…..she said I needed to come in a few days later to give more blood to run more test…..at 1rst I was kinda scared I mean I was on google and I’d diagnosed myself with hepatitis B and a few other diseases….I prayed the night b4 I went n for my results and I released it all to God I accept the fact that whatever it could be I wasn’t going to let it kill me and I was ready to face it head on….the funny thing that happened was when I did return for my results my liver count was absolutely fine…..my Doctor was stunned to say the least she started asking question like did I drink or had I gotten drunk the night b4 my 1rst labs were taken (which I hadn’t I don’t drink at all) then she asked if I took a lot of Tylenol or pain killers (which I don’t) moral of the story is that I didn’t except that anything was horribly wrong with me and it wasn’t…..I promise I’m so happy I found this video it’s confirmed a lot of things I already knew when I speak or share these types of things with my friends they think I’m crazy I believe and I receive all the goodness that comes with the relaxation response and I plan on using it on a daily I believe in everything this man has spoken whole heartedly…..

  2. If any of you guys are interested in finding the source of his knowledge and other people who you think have contributed to this field need to watch this video

  3. he is exposed. a satanist


  4. The “Te(a)chIn Sport” general project objective is to raise awareness of the importance of health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) of students and young people through increased participation in sports using innovative technologies and promote voluntary activities in University sport. The project target groups are the University students, young people, teachers, trainers and academic stuff.

  5. it's interesting how people in the scientific community are coming to some realizations that people have known about since the beginning of creation…but what these people in the scientific community don't realize is that they have not even scratched the surface when it comes to meditation.

  6. PLAGIARIST !!! Took everything from VIPASSANA FROM INDIA and without crediting it, TRY TO OWN IT……As always….caucasian THIEF !!!

  7. Wow, so disappointed when this segment was over. What an in-depth discussion regarding the MIND, BODY connection. I feel that when the MIND and BODY are connected, there is HEALth and natural HEALing that is on a subconscious level that translates to the conscious MIND and BODY. When there is the disconnect, is when there is dis ease, "DISEASE" that requires treatment on a natural level, but it becomes sidetracked in a natural and holistic format with the attack of surgery along with drugs. This is only within my most humblest of opinions. This was fascinating!

  8. Like to hear that anything is possible with the genome and mind body. It's all to do with what genes are turned on or off. Dis regulation of stress genes is common in disease, switching them off by reducing stress is a way to treatment without negative side effects.

  9. Brilliant! Every Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga, and Mind-Body Teacher owes more than they can ever imagine, to Dr. Herb Benson's pioneering work.

    Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, World Yoga Day, and World Healing Day

  10. Interesting for those that want a scientific breakdown on why meditation is so beneficial to us human being, irrespective of whether we are atheists or believers in some higher power

  11. How powerful to see this icon of medical research speaking to the latest in mind-body medicine!  Imagine what we will know in another decade?

  12. I'm so happy to have seen this – one of the pioneers of mind body reality in Western medicine.  Notice how he had to explain/ justify that the Cartesian division ''really had no validity''.  Amazing things have been done by 'conventional' western medicine for sure… so this is a balanced and reasonable look at the research.

  13. Thank you for putting this up this video was very interesting! I heard about Herbert Benson from a small NewScientist piece about meditation for health and this video has answered a lot of questions I had. Looking forward to getting some positive gene therapy into my daily life!

  14. There isn't a scientific explanation of what to do because the technique is not science. The science is in the analysis of the changes going on in the body as a result of regular meditation. There are lots of places online which explain the relaxation response, search for "relaxation response technique" in google, I just found one on some AOL site, Don't get lost in the simplicity of this technique with regards to it's effectiveness,, it is just that… simple,, but effective. hope this helps

  15. Ok, where the hell is the process online? Why doesn't the guy put up a goddam video tutorial instead of selling books? Why is there supposed science but I can't for the life of me find an actual scientific description of just what the hell I'm supposed to do? "Meditate." Gee, thanks that's fucking helpful.

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