In today’s complex and busy world, stress is not unusual. While many people are not even aware of it or of the harm that stress can put on the human body, stress needs to be reduced. Ways to reduce stress need to be applied if you are ever going to increase longevity. One way to do it is through a technique called the relaxation response.
When put in a position of stress, the body quickly makes changes to be prepared for fight or flight. Many situations can cause these changes – whether there is a threat of actual physical danger or something as simple as a test in school. Hormones are released (cortisol and adrenaline) which speed up your heart rate, increase your blood flow, and slow your digestive system.
Normally, these elevated conditions relax after the perceived problem is over. Several things that people face every day – and often multiple times a day – can cause them to remain in a state of stress for long periods. Other effects of stress include the elevation of sugar and salt in your bloodstream, which can cause problems to your heart and kidneys.
The relaxation response is a technique that has successfully helped reduce the impact of stress on the body. When stress is reduced, you become less susceptible to many diseases and conditions because your immune system will become stronger.
Stress increases your risk of several diseases. They include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, depression, cancer, arthritis, and it will cause you to age faster. Using the relaxation response regularly can even help reduce inflammation and oxidation in the body, which counteracts the effects of stress.
A strong advantage of using the relaxation response is that it is free. There are no pills or drugs involved and you can use this method anywhere. When using it, you will notice that it helps reduce the frequent symptoms of long-term stress, which may include headaches, tightness of your muscles, stomach issues, mood problems, and sleep issues.
The relaxation response works by reversing the stress response and brings your body back to a normal relaxed state. Researchers believe that practicing it twice a day when you are stressed affects your genes and helps protect them from some of the harmful effects of stress. Protecting your genes and organs from stress will enable you to increase longevity.
You can initiate the relaxation response by taking some time out – about 20 minutes – twice daily. The main idea is to focus your thoughts on things other than those that are causing the stress. When the normal focus of your thoughts is broken, your body will begin to enter the relaxation response state.
There are many ways to break your normal train of thought. You can start to relax by first getting into a comfortable sitting position. Then, you might try focusing on a word such as “peace” and keep repeating it slowly – and breathe deeply at the same time. Do this for about 10 minutes.
You can also get the same effect through prayer, meditation, relaxing your muscles, playing a musical instrument, knitting, or playing sports. As you enter the relaxation response phase, you will feel relief from stress and be more at ease to enjoy life more – and increase longevity at the same time.