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Relaxation and Meditation


What are mind-body therapies? Mind-body therapies (MBTs) include meditation, relaxation, hypnosis, and imagery. These forms of treatment do not use medicine. MBTs are done with the belief that your feelings, mental health, spiritual beliefs and physical health affect one another. MBTs may be used as part of the treatment plan for certain medical problems. These problems include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), mental disorders, heart disease, and insomnia (trouble going to sleep or staying asleep). MBTs may help decrease acute (short-term) and chronic (long-lasting) pain. A mind-body therapy may be used alone, or with other therapies or treatments. Using a MBT may help you feel like you have more control over your health, and more involved in your treatment plan.

What is meditation? Meditation is a mind exercise that is done to help relax your body and free your mind of worry. Your thoughts are relaxed, while you stay alert. You may sit in a certain way, and have your eyes open or closed for meditation. Meditation can be done alone or with other people. The following are types of meditation:

  • Mantra meditation: A mantra is a word or phrase that is thought or spoken over and over. It often has a smooth sound. The mantra is used as a way to help you focus. The sound is believed to make vibrations that have different effects on people. You may chant the mantra out loud, or just think it. Examples of mantras are 'Om' and 'Mu'. You may also use a prayer as your mantra.

  • Mindfulness meditation: With this type of meditation, you are taught to focus on what is happening in your life at that point in time. You become aware of your thoughts and feelings in the present without making any judgment. You learn not to worry about bad times in your past, or about the future.

How may meditation help me? Meditation may help decrease your blood pressure, your heartbeat and how fast your breathe. It may be helpful in treating anxiety (worry), depression (deep sadness), and pain that can come with chronic diseases. These diseases include psoriasis, fibromyalgia, HIV, AIDS, and cancer. If you have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse, this therapy may be used to help you overcome it. Meditation may also help improve your sleep.

What is relaxation therapy? Relaxation therapy (RT) is an mind-body therapy that is used to calm your mind and body. You may practice relaxation therapy on your own, with the help of someone else, or you may use an audio recording. The goal of this therapy is to relax by focusing on a body sensation or muscle. Over time, you may learn how to tell when there are times of stress in your daily life. You may learn healthy ways to cope during these times. The following are types of RT:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation: With this therapy, you are taught to relax by tensing (tightening up) and then releasing (loosening) your muscles. This is often done starting at one end of your body, and going to the other, such as from your feet to your head. With practice over time, it may get easier to relax your muscles. Someone may teach you how to do progressive muscle relaxation, and then you may use a recording of the exercise at home.

  • Autogenic training or self-control relaxation: This therapy is used to help you increase blood flow to your legs and arms. With autogenic training, you try to make parts of your body feel heavy, warm, or cool. You imagine a peaceful place, and comforting feelings.

  • Breathing retraining: This may be paced respiration or deep breathing. Paced respiration teaches you how to breathe slowly when you are anxious or nervous. With deep breathing, you take a deep breath, hold it for five seconds, and then breathe out slowly. This is done many times.

How may relaxation therapy help me? If you get headaches, or have arthritis or low back pain, relaxation therapy may help decrease your pain. If you have problems going to sleep or staying asleep, this therapy may help you. Relaxation therapy may decrease your heartbeat, how fast you breathe, and how much oxygen you need. These changes may help improve your ability to exercise, and decrease chest pain caused by angina pectoris. If you have ischemic heart disease, RT may help you recover from, and prevent another heart attack. If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), relaxation therapy and breathing retraining may help decrease your symptoms. These symptoms include stomach pain, growling or gurgling, and bloating. This therapy may also decrease the number of doctor visits that you feel are needed.

What is hypnosis? Hypnosis is a method of changing your state of mind by changing your brain activity. With the help of your caregiver, you become less aware of things around you. Your movement decreases, and you are led to a trance or sleep-like state. Once you reach this state, your caregiver offers suggestions to decrease pain, fear, and anxiety. Your caregiver will keep talking to you and guide you out of the hypnotic state.

How may hypnosis help me? If you have stress in your life or feel under pressure, hypnosis may help you relax. Hypnosis may help decrease pain caused by headaches, cancer, or osteoarthritis. It may also help decrease pain caused by medical procedures, such as bone marrow aspiration. It may also decrease pain for women delivering a baby, and pain caused by changing the bandages on burn wounds. If you have IBS, hypnosis may help decrease the symptoms that you have.

What is imagery? Imagery, or guided imagery, makes use of your imagination to help you relax. With imagery, you think about being in a place that makes you feel peaceful and calm. You try to see, hear, smell, and taste things that you picture in your mind. For example, you can imagine lying on a beach, feeling the warmth of the sun, and hearing the waves. Imagery may be done with the help of a caregiver, or tape recordings.

How may imagery help me? If you have anxiety or depression, imagery may help decrease it. Imagery, along with other treatments, may also help decrease your pain. It may be used to help you sleep. Imagery is often used in sports to help a person perform at their best.

What are the risks of using mind-body therapies? If you have a mental health condition, mind-body therapy can make your signs and symptoms worse. You may feel bad if you cannot finish a program that is set up for you. If you do not heal from a disease, or a medical condition gets worse, you may believe that mind-body therapy caused this to happen. Your pain may not decrease or go away if you choose mind-body therapies instead of other medicines and procedures. Ask your caregiver if mind-body therapies are right for you.

Where can I find more information about MBTs?

  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH
    Information Clearinghouse
    PO Box 7923
    Gaithersburg , MD 20898
    Phone: 1- 888 - 6446226
    Web Address:


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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