NLP and traditional health enhancementtake time to relax

Before I began to specialise in NLP training I ran stress management workshops for a number of years beginning back in 1983. Often I would be running two to five 2-hour workshops in any week in the Bournemouth-Poole area in Dorset (UK). And I also had a private psychotherapy and counselling practise in which I saw people individually.

During this time I had the privilege of encountering some great people who were making inspiring changes in their lives.

This process continued, albeit in a slightly different way, when I began concentrating on ‘pure’ NLP training programmes from the early 2000’s . I still encountered (and still encounter) many, many people who are making wonderful changes in their lives.

And while NLP is wonderful, some of us who specialise in NLP may be in danger of becoming so enthusiastic for NLP processes and methods that we ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’. That we may be in danger of dumping all of the old in favour of the new.

The new is so fascinating that we forget about the really effective and time-proven traditional.

Mind-Body methods

In order to help a close friend I’ve recently had reason to revisit (and update) some of the mind-body research that I used in my ‘stress-specialist’ days and it has been a useful experience for me. It’s reminded me of things I used to advocate and teach but had almost forgotten about. And one of these is the value and the simplicity of relaxation.

“What?? You mean doing nothing?” Well, yes, because taking time to do nothing but relax, chill, take a break, or just ‘be’ is one of the most pro-active things we can do to feel good. It is a powerful, if quite passive, way of enhancing one’s health.

But is relaxation really useful?

In a word, yes. Very much so.

Back in 1985 Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a renowned researcher at Ohio State University, published a paper with the not-quite-catchy title of  “Psychosocial enhancement of immunocompetence in a geriatric population“. The title notwithstanding, it was an illuminating piece of scientific research which proved the value of relaxation training and practise.

(1) They got a group of elderly people to do a one month programme of relaxation practise and found that participants’ immune systems improved noticeably – and that there were significant increases in natural killer cell activity and in lymphocyte responsiveness at the end of the month (yes, that’s right, just one month…)

(2) They also tested a group of medical students approaching an important and stressful examination. Again the groups only practised for a month. However this produced not just a better psychological outlook but an increase in the ‘good’ helper T-Lymphocytes.

NLP is great. And there may be a risk in our thinking that, because many of the NLP processes are so powerful and genuinely transforming, that it’s all we need.

Babies and bathwater

There is no doubt in my mind – and from my experience in using it for over 30 years – that NLP is wonderfully effective in making changes enduring on one’s life. Yes, the NLP methods are valuable. They are powerful. And they are frequently life changing.

But NLP needs to be integrated with many of the traditional ways of feeling good and thinking clearly, too… so, in our enthusiasm for such a wonderful body of knowledge, we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

(Actually… do people still throw out bathwater?)


  1. Margaret E.Johnson on 25th June 2010 at 3:44 PM

    So true, I first became aware of relaxation techniques as an antenatal teacher. I had to remind myself of them when I went to University and again when my partner became ill and died(lots of adrenaline running through the system at the time) high blood pressure and panic heart rates.

    I found some of the relaxation CDs available localy usefull for the calming effect of the voice. Later I read some of the stuff on breathing that you put on the net, very sensible.

    I never thought of this before but it would be usefull to be able to turn on a calm voice in times of stress. Any Ideas on how to do that Reg?

  2. Reg on 25th June 2010 at 4:16 PM

    Hi Margaret: the article came out of re-visiting a theme I’d been thinking about some ago i.e. that the highly proactive approach of NLP can easily overshadow methods like relaxation and reflection.

    Ideally both approaches will complement one another – a bit like the I Ching’s Creative (Yang) and Receptive (YIN) principles, I suppose.

    (Not sure what you mean about the voice so…) there are also approaches to relaxing which do not require a voice (our own or that of another) but rely on paying attention to the body e.g. observing or sensing the air entering and leaving the nostrils.

  3. Margaret E.Johnson on 26th June 2010 at 6:59 PM

    When I was doing relaxation in the antenatal classes I used guided imagary among other things including: deliberately tensing certain muscles and relaxing the rest of the body this was especialy useful for women who were to experience childbirth as the uterus is a huge muscle which contracts to expel the baby; another technique to help relaxation before sleep was to take the group on an imaginary trip; a balloon ride or a ship on a calm ocean were favourites of the groups I also used a story about being on a picnic laying down on a blanket and falling asleep totaly safe in the warm sunshine of a summer’s evening.

    I was thinking that these techniques take time and that is fine when time is what someone needs to take, we all need down time sometimes, for our body and sometimes for the brain to get freed up and work properly again. For instance If I cannot recall the name of a plant I often say to myself,or even out loud, it will come back to me soon. Somehow this seems to relieve pressure and give the brain working time to use the retrieval system.

    I wondered if you had any handy tips on how to get an inner voice to do something similar when under other sorts of pressure. After all many of us have those inner voices telling us uncomplimentary things like “You stupid idiot” when we make a mistake. Wouldn’t it be great to have the resource of an inner voice that helped us to be calm under pressure. Some people seem to have this naturaly but I think it must be learned from somewhere.

    Perhaps the “let go of your breathing” promt might be a good start. I am rambling in writing with my thoughts so I will stop now.

  4. GrahamJ on 1st July 2010 at 9:54 PM

    Hi Margaret,
    I have just read your comments and, like you, I know about the benefits of relaxation such as the tensing and easing of muscle groups. After a 20 minute session of that it feels like you are super-sensitised and walking very calmly on air.
    As for inner voices and guided imagery, you can find all kinds of things via google. I’m wondering about inner voices – how about the option of no voices at all? What I’m saying is – suppose your head was just empty of everything but the knowledge that you were breathing and no need for anything else? Twenty minutes of bliss and coming back to earth with a smile on your face and full of energy – not a bad investment.

  5. Margaret E.Johnson on 5th July 2010 at 12:20 AM

    Mmmmm,sounds like heaven. Or maybe a precourser for sleep. I was realy looking for something instant when under pressure that maybe only exists if we recall an instance of uncertainty that was resolved with a re-assuring voice. But how to recall that?

  6. Shawn Tester on 15th July 2010 at 11:03 PM

    I wholly agree with you on keeping the baby and not throwing out the old for the new. I have to add though, that NLP can yield even greater results when used in correlation with other techniques such as progressive relaxation and EFT. I know where you are coming from but evolution of technique is not always a bad thing.

  7. GrahamJ on 20th July 2010 at 5:32 PM

    Maybe you will pass by these comments again.
    Perhaps what you are looking for is something called ‘anchoring’. You can check it out here:

  8. Ameet on 21st July 2010 at 12:28 AM

    Hi All,

    I just wanted to add that the deepest realxations practices have recently say within the last 40 years or so and have now been researched. You can practice ‘yoga nidra’ (as devised by swami satyananda) via a cd or satyananda yoga teacher.

    here’s a link to some research

    and heres a cd I would recommend yoga nidra and deep relaxation by swami pragyamurti

    hope that helps