Herbert Benson, MD | The Relaxation Response


The Boston Globe described Dr. Hebert Benson as a medical rock star after he wrote his best selling book The Relaxation Response. The book outlined his research and approach to countering the harmful effects stress has on our body, and was an international best seller. Since then he’s written another 11 books, and sold more than 5 million copies world wide.

Dr. Benson made his major research breakthrough while studying the meditation techniques of transcendental meditators over thirty years ago. He observed they had decreased metabolism, decreased oxygen consumption; their respiratory rate slowed down and their brainwaves were different from sleep. Dr. Benson realized he had found a response opposite to the ‘fight or flight’ response, which was first described in the 1920s by American physiologist Walter Cannon. As a cardiologist he was delighted to have found something measurable, predictable and reproducible and it heralded the beginning of a new wave of mind body research.

“Now we have the evidence-based proof that the mind can heal and it should be added appropriately to drugs and surgeries.”

Dr. Benson founded the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospitalwhich works to integrate modern scientific medicine, psychology, nutrition, exercise physiology and belief to enhance the natural healing capacities of body and mind.

We filmed the mind body medicine pioneer in Boston and met a number of patients who were adding his programs to their chronic illnesses treatment strategy. Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, autoimmune disease and stress induced conditions like chronic headaches and fatigue are all illnesses responding well to his programs.

“Modern science has shown us that the mind has the power to heal. We should use that capacity.”

Recently Dr. Benson’s work has been extended into researching the effects of his relaxation response techniques on genetic expression. In clinical trials the research is indicating that practicing the relaxation response produces immediate changes in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.

Dr. Benson is the author of 12 books and over 175 scientific papers that show physical benefits of psychological treatment. He is a frequent guest on national and international television shows and his work has been featured in countless magazines and newspapers.


BHI will host its annual conference at Harvard Medical School October 19-21, 2017.  This year's course, “Mind Body Medicine: Guiding Patients to Health and Happiness,” will provide hundreds of clinicians and mind body practitioners from across the globe an opportunity to explore cutting-edge research, share best practices and discover new strategies for treating patients. The 2 ½ day Continuing Medical Education (CME) course will be held at the Joseph Martin Conference Center in Boston.

The conference will feature a joint presentation by BHI founder Dr. Herbert Benson(author of “The Relaxation Response,” a groundbreaking work of mind body medical literature) and Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, whose pioneering work in the field led him to coin the phrase “mindfulness” and found the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester.  BHI Director Dr. Gregory Fricchione will present “Evolutionary Mind Body Medicine: Implications for Health and Well-Being.”

Keynote speakers Amy Cuddy, PhD and Robert Waldinger, MD are Harvard professors and TEDtalk phenoms who between them have more than 50 million views.  Dr. Cuddy’s 2015 book “Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges,” explores how harnessing inner strength can help propel individuals to greater success. A professor of psychology at Harvard, Dr. Cuddy is perhaps best known for her TEDtalk about “the power pose,” which discusses how one’s carriage can influence interpersonal relationships.  Dr. Waldinger directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest longitudinal studies of adult life ever done.  Dr. Waldinger’s research focuses on the lifetime predictors of healthy adult development, studying two groups of men recruited as teenagers from Harvard College and from Boston inner city neighborhoods, and who have been part of the Study for 76 years. 

The BHI is proud to feature members of the Healing Emergency Aid Response Team 9/11 (H.E.A.R.T. (9/11).  The team of New York-area police, fire, emergency medical and building trades personnel responded in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attack; their shared experiences bonded the members and propelled them to share their strategies for responding to crises with other first responders around the country.   HEART 9/11’s mission is to respond to natural and man-made disasters, help those affected to rebuild and recover by teaching resiliency skills to individuals and families.


Giving people the tools to better care for themselves in order to prevent and manage disease.


BHI & MGH Cancer Center team up for Spring SMART for Cancer Survivors programs

BHI is pleased to partner with the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in offering Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) programs for Cancer Survivors at the cancer center’s Boston and Waltham locations. This program is designed to assist patients who have completed treatment by providing the tools they need to cope with the experience of their illness, treatments and changes.orchid 563433 1280

During nine, 90-minute weekly sessions, this program will help participants:

  • Learn self-care techniques, through relaxation, mindful awareness, yoga and adaptive thought patterns
  • Reduce stress and physical/emotional symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment
  • Cope with and manage late effects of treatment
  • Promote a sense of control, optimism, acceptance, and well-being

Elements of the program include:

  • Interactive lessons
  • Healthy behaviors
  • Group learning
  • Skills training
  • Symptom monitoring
  • Self-Care


The Mind Body Program for Cancer Survivors is billable to insurance; most insurers cover the program. Pre-registration and a $50 materials fee are required.

Tuesdays at MGH West Cancer Center (Waltham)

10 AM - 11:30 AM with MGH Cancer Center Psychologist Elyse R. Park, PhD
To register, please email epark@mgh.harvard.edu

Fridays at MGH Cancer Center (Boston)

9 AM - 10:30 AM with MGH Cancer Center Psychologist Lara Traeger, PhD
To register, please email ltraeger@mgh.harvard.edu

For more information about the MGH Cancer Center Survivorship program, please visit http://www.massgeneral.org/cancer/survivorship/


Putting the patient at the center of care, in order to address the full range of physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual influences affecting health.

Relaxation Response: Dr. Herbert Benson Teaches You The Basics

Be the first to review this item!

Bookmark this