The Benson-Henry protocol was developed for bringing about the relaxation response by Dr. Herbert Benson, who coined the phrase "relaxation response" based on his extensive research. We have adapted his protocol specifically for use with addictive behaviors. We call this the Adapted Benson-Henry protocol. This Adapted Benson-Henry protocol or technique for bringing about the relaxation response consists of the 11 steps shown below. The primary difference with the Simple Protocol is the addition of the progressive muscle relaxation of step 4 and the second phase that involves visualization of freedom from addictive behavior, as shown below in steps 8 and 9.

This protocol is simple, so it should only take a few minutes to learn the basics. Step 1 and step 8 may take some special attention before you begin your practice. In Step 1, you decide on what can be called your "relaxation agent". Your relaxation agent can be a word, image, phrase, short prayer or just the rhythm of your slow and regular breathing. In Step 8 (Phase 2), you decide on your mental imagery, which in this case will involve freedom from your addictive behavior. Phase 2 was added by Dr. Benson after studies about the placebo effect.

After you make your choices for step 1 and step 8, practicing your protocol can become very routine. The conditioning of your nervous system against addictive tendencies should build up over time and should not depend on any feelings that you may have during your experience of the relaxation response.

We are not aware of any problems that people have had using open protocols for the relaxation response. However, it is good to be aware of problems that some people have had with some traditional practices. These problems are discussed on the website. Also, please read their disclaimer before choosing to start any practice on your own.

The Adapted Benson-Henry Protocol for Eliciting the Relaxation Response

1. Choose your Relaxation Agent

Choose a Relaxation Agent - a word or phrase that you feel comfortable with or the rhythm of your breath.

2. Find a Quiet Place

It is best to find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position. You may still be able to bring about the relaxation response when it is not quiet, but your relaxation may not be as deep.

3. Close your Eyes

Close your eyes and began to gently focus inward. Begin to breathe deeply, slowly, and naturally if you are not breathing that way already.

4. Progressively Relax All Your Muscles

Progressively relax all your muscles, beginning with your toes and moving up through your head. Take one or two minutes for this.

5. Begin Focusing on Your Chosen Agent

If you are using a word or phrase for your relaxation agent, then begin to gently repeat that word or phrase in your mind. Focus your attention on the easy repetition of that word or phrase.

If you are using the rhythm of your breathing for your relaxation agent, then gently focus your attention on the steady rhythm of your breath going in and out of your lungs.

6. Assume a Passive Attitude

You may notice that other thoughts come to your mind apart from your focus on your relaxation agent. When this happens, then gently and easily bring your attention back to the repetition of your relaxation agent.

7. Continue for 12-15 Minutes

Twelve to fifteen minutes is the average time that Dr. Benson suggests for achieving health benefits. Other studies have used longer times, however. You can find out what works best for you and your schedule through experimentation with different time durations.

PHASE TWO - Visualization

8. Use Mental Imagery

Use mental imagery about what it would be like to live free from your addictive behaviors. For example, picture a peaceful scene in which you no longer engage in your addictive behaviors and do not even think about them. What will that feel like? How will you act? What friends will you have? What will you do differently? This visualization should help the process of gaining freedom from your addictive behaviors through the power of hope, belief, and memory. This can also be enhanced by frequently visiting 12 step meetings, where you should be able to find other people who are living in freedom. What would you like to have in your life that you see that they have in their lives?

9. Continue for 8 to 12 Minutes

This second phase will usually take about 8 to 12 minutes in Dr. Benson's original protocol. Just as in the first phase, the time can be adjusted according to your experience, schedule, and personal needs.

10. Let Your Body Adapt Before Activity

Your body may be in a state of deep relaxation or rest after bringing about the relaxation response. Therefore, just as when you are coming out of a deep sleep, it is wise to give your body a few minutes before getting up. It is usually best to keep your eyes closed during this time. A common practice is to use about 1 minute with your eyes closed for every 10 minutes that you experienced the relaxation response.

11. Practice at Least Once Daily

A regular practice brings the most health benefits. Many people practice twice a day for increased benefits.