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Mindfulness & Relaxation

Mindfulness meditation is about learning to be present. In addition to a variety of health benefits, you can also gain a clearer understanding of how one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors affect one another and contribute to both pleasant and unpleasant experiences. Practising mindfulness can also be a useful relaxation method.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that is designed to experience awareness in the present moment. The mindfulness meditation exercises available on the right side of this page focus on the mind, body, emotions, and breathing. The narrative and the visual imagery are designed to assist with awareness and practicing being present. Mindfulness practice has been demonstrated to promote clarifying emotions, reducing stress, managing chronic pain, improving overall well-being. Regular practice is essential to lasting change.

Relaxation

History: the heritage of most modern relaxation techniques stems from the meditative practice of Eastern religions.

Methods: Meditation, Guided Imagery, Autogenic Training (Schultz, 1932), and Progressive Muscle Relaxation (Jacobson, 1939)

Theoretical Foundations:

Meditation: original theories are centuries old and stem from religious philosophy. Contemporary theory classifies meditative experience into concentrative and receptive. Receptive refers to openness to all thoughts and sensations that occur. Concentrative involves directing and fixing attention on a stimulus. The most common form of this type of meditation involves the use of a mantra.

Guided Imagery: though used clinically, little is known regarding the underlying physiological and psychological effects of this practice. Lichtstein (1988) recommends using Lang’s model for understanding arousing imagery to research the relaxation response that results from imagery.

Autogenic Training: this practice combines somatic focusing with a pleasant mental scene. The experience of relaxation stems from reduced afferent stimulation, repetitive phrases, and passive concentration.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: involves sequentially tensing and relaxing the large skeletal muscle groups. Muscle relaxation is achieved by noting the contrast between the state of tension and relaxation and by increasing discernment of muscle groups that are prone to carrying tension.

Clinical Applications: anxiety, phobias, depression, phantom limb pain, hypertension, heart disease, Raynaud’s disease, diabetes, hemophilia, headache, dysmenorrhea, childbirth preparation, cancer, drug abuse, athletic performance, seizures, sexual dysfunction, asthma, and general well-being.

Guided Relaxation Audios

(Adapted from “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” by M. Davis, E.R. Eshelman, and M. McKay; “Clinical Relaxation Strategies” by K.L. Lichstein; and “Relaxation Dynamics” by J.C. Smith)