The standard Benson-Henry protocol for eliciting the Relaxation Response consists of the following 10 steps*. Steps 11 and 12 are not explicitly defined in the standard protocol but do provide some additional advice that has proven valuable to many people.

Someone closing their eyes for the relaxation response

Note that this is a very simple protocol at its core, so it should only take a few minutes to learn the basics. The steps that may require a bit of additional thought at the beginning are step 1 (deciding on your Focus Entity) and step 9 (deciding what Mental Imagery to use). After that, the practice should become very routine. Health benefits accrue over time and are not dependent on the subjective feelings that you may have while experiencing the Relaxation Response.

Note also that Phase 2 was not part of the original instructions for eliciting the relaxation response, so many of the benefits of the relaxation response can be gained just from Phase 1. Phase 2 was added later by Dr. Benson after investigations into benefits from utilizing the placebo effect.

Phase One - Eliciting RR

2. Find a Quiet Place

Ideally, it is good to find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position. However, the relaxation response can still be elisited in less than ideal conditions.

5. Begin Focusing on
Your Chosen Entity

Breathe slowly and naturally. As you exhale, focus on the entity that you have chosen. Either repeat silently in your mind your word, phrase, or prayer, or picture the image you have chosen, or focus on your breathing rhythm.

[ --- Optional --- ]

PHASE TWO - Visualization

11. Let Your Body Return to Homeostasis

Your body may be in a state of deep rest after doing 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 to return to its regular state for conducting activities (called homeostasis). It is usually best to keep your eyes closed during this time of returning to homeostasis, using a ratio of about 1 minute with eyes closed for every 10 minutes that you were experiencing the relaxation response.

12. Return to Your Normal Activities

Return to your normal activities of the day with a more peaceful state of mind and body.

The total time for Phases One and Two will then be 15 to 30 minutes per session, depending on how long you are in each phase and whether you use Phase Two or not.

* These 10 steps are described on pages 9-10 of The Relaxation Revolution, by Herbert Benson and William Proctor (2010)