The relaxation response is basically what happens when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated in the body. It is the opposite of the fight or flight response, also known as the sympathetic nervous system. With the relaxation response activated, you can lower your heart, metabolic, and breathing rate, Your body slows down to a state where healing and rejuvenation can take place. Activating this relaxation response is even more important to our survival today as our fight-or-flight response is constantly triggered by stress and tension.
Integration of Relaxation Response
In today’s modern and alternative medicine-rich world, people are seeking relief from pain, anxiety, and even dermatological, or skin issues outside of western medicine. Western medicine can be invasive, expensive and often come with pain and long-term recovery times. Thankfully, doctors are beginning to integrate the relaxation response and other relief methods to help their patients deal and cope. Some doctors are seeing the mind-body connection and the benefits of adding non-invasive alternative healing modalities. One such issue that has received some attention recently is the use of meditation and hypnosis for skin issues.
The Mind-Body Connection
It is not hard to understand the mind-skin connection and that your skin can reflect how you feel on the inside. For example, if you have ever been embarrassed, typically you might blush. The same is true when we see someone attractive. Study of the mind-skin connection has led to a new field of development called psychodermatology or psychocutaneous. As outlined by Harvard Health Publications, psychodermatological issues typically fall into three categories: psychophysiological, secondary psychiatric, and primary psychiatric.
Most skin issues stem from a physiological point, and these issues can be aggravated by stress and other emotional factors. Psychophysiological skin problems include but are not limited to acne, hair loss, eczema, herpes, profuse sweating or itching, and warts. All of these skin issues can have a negative effect on your emotions, which can continue to fuel the issue or even make it worse. Some of these emotions could be low self-esteem, shame, humiliation, anxiety, or depression. Studies show that simply activating the relaxation response can do a world of good for your skin!
Activating The Relaxation Response
Here are seven steps you can take right now to initiate the relaxation response. This typically takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.
- Choose a focus word or short phrase to repeat such as “I have healthy skin”.
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position with eyes closed.
- Relax muscles by imagining them relaxing with each breath.
- Breathe slowly and naturally. As you exhale, slowly repeat your focus word or phrase silently to yourself.
- When other thoughts come to mind, acknowledge and gently return to the repetition.
- Imagine what healthy skin would feel like and look like as you repeat the phrase.
- After 10 to 20 minutes, sit quietly for a minute or two allowing other thoughts to return. Open eyes and sit quietly for one more minute before rising.
You practiced the exercise, then you just activated your relaxation response. Meditation and mindfulness can have a favorable impact on skin issues as well as overall health. I have first-hand experience with using the powerful tools of meditation, mindfulness, and self-hypnosis on relieving conditions of the skin, namely acne. By allowing yourself to let go to access your deepest level of relaxation, you can empower yourself to take action to heal, on the inside and out.
Harvard Health Publications. (2006). Recognizing the mind-skin connection. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Recognizing_the_mind-skin_connection
Zoysa, P. (2013). Psychological interventions in dermatology. Indian Journal of Dermatology, 58(1), 56-60. doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.105312
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