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Meditation & Relaxation

A relaxation/meditation technique is a method, process, procedure, or activity that helps a person achieve an altered state of awareness.  The aim of using these techniques could be quite simply to relax; to attain a state of increased focus/calmness and/or reduce levels of pain, anxiety/stress, anger etc.

Tell me more

Meditation is a mind-body practice originating from ancient religious and spiritual traditions. The practice of meditation started thousands of years ago and first became popular in Asia with the teachings of Buddha, who practiced meditation himself. Eventually, the Buddhist form of meditation spread to the Western world, and remains popular today. In meditation, one learns to focus their attention while trying to eliminate or diffuse their stream of thoughts.

Relaxation, meditation and breathing techniques are also included within mindfulness practice.  Some of the techniques are very similar e.g. a progressive relaxation method is commonly used within relaxation, meditation and mindfulness.  Some methods may vary slightly but the end result is generally a calm, focused mind and relaxed physiology (body).

How can it help me?

Relaxation techniques are often employed as one element of stress/anxiety management and can decrease muscle tension, lower the blood pressure and slow heart and breath rates.

The practice of meditation is believed to result in a state of greater relaxation and mental calmness. Practicing meditation can change how one reacts to emotions or thoughts.

How do I do it?

The relaxation response was developed by Harvard physician Herbert Benson in the 1970s. It is a technique designed to elicit a state of deep relaxation in which breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure and metabolism are decreased. Training our bodies on a daily basis to achieve this state of relaxation can lead to enhanced mood, lowered blood pressure and reduction of lifestyle stress.

The two essential steps to the relaxation response are:

  • The repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer or muscular activity.
  • Passive disregard of everyday thoughts that inevitably come to mind during the process, followed by a return to the repetition.  In other words, thoughts are acknowledged as they occur e.g. ‘ I wonder who that is I can hear talking outside’ but then that thought is released and let go.  It’s a little bit like training a puppy who constantly wonders off when you ask him to sit and stay.  Calmly bring him back and start again.


  • Choose a sound, focus word or phrase or prayer for repetition. You can use a sound such as ‘om’ or perhaps a word such as ‘relax’ or ‘calm’
  • Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place. Close your eyes and relax your muscles progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head and neck.
  • Breathe slowly and naturally and as you do say your sound, focus word, phrase or prayer silently to yourself while you exhale.
  • Intruding thoughts should be dismissed to the best of your ability by focusing back on the repetition – like bringing the puppies attention back.
  • Continue for 5 - 10 minutes (longer as you become practiced). It's okay to open your eyes to look at a clock while you are practicing, but do not set an alarm.  With practice – learn to trust your internal body clock and tell yourself how long you want to practice for.  Something, e.g. a thought or feeling, will alert you when you reach your time.
  • When you have finished, remain seated, first with your eyes closed and then with your eyes open, and gradually allow your thoughts to return to everyday reality.

Different methods work for different people. No matter how the relaxation response is achieved, the physical and emotional consequences of e.g. stress/anxiety can be reduced through regular practice

Meditation & Relaxation resources

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What's in this resource?

  • Intro Meditation And Relaxation (.pdf)
    Introduction to meditation and relaxation

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  • Meditation Visualisation And Meditation Techniques (.pdf)
    Visualisation and meditation techniques

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  • Quiet Relaxation Meditation (.pdf)

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