It is not surprising that Dr. Benson, being a physician, focuses on the medical benefits of the relaxation response. However, it is important to note that the relaxation response is important for cognition and memory health (See the healthy memory blog post “Keys to a Healthy Memory: Growth Mindsets and Mindfulness”).
Key to the relaxation response is that it helps us to take control of our attention. Regular readers of the healthy memory blog should be aware that attention is key to getting information into long term memory. Very often when we cannot remember something, it is because we did not adequately attend to it in the first place. Concentration and the ability to focus is central to effective thinking. Our attentional resources are both limited and precious, so we cannot afford not to use them efficiently. Meditation helps us to control our attentional resources. They are especially important to controlling the executive functioning of our brains. When we are stressed, worried or upset, we lose control of our attentional resources. Before responding in any situation it is important to remember the acronym STOP, which stands for
S – Stop. Simply pause from what you are doing.
T –Take a few slow, deep, breaths with awareness and tune in.
O – Observe and curiously notice your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
P – Proceed with whatever you were doing with awareness and kindness.
Effective cognitive functioning also fosters good interpersonal relations.
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