The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues


Other men live to eat, while I eat to live. --Socrates

Relaxation response1. A pleasant feeling of calmness and well-being experienced as a. heart rate slows, b. smooth muscles contract, and c.glands secrete while the body digests food. 2. Physiologically, a rudimentary model for the sensation of happiness.

Usage: Many involuntary nonverbal signs (e.g., contracted pupils, moistened eyes (i.e., glistening, brought on by stimulation of the lacrimal glands), slowed breathing rate, and mouth-watering (due to watery secretions of the salivary glands [accompanied by increased swallowing])--along with signs of relaxation (e.g., warm, dry palms; lean-forward; lean-back) and satiation (e.g., supinated fists) are visible in the visceral feelings and involuntary movements of our rest-and-digest response.

U.S. politics. "He [Frank Meeks, owner of 59 Domino's pizza franchises in the Washington, D.C. area] recalls that Nov. 17, 1995, during the government shutdown, was 'pizza night' for Monica L. Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton, according to Lewinsky's day book" (Schafer 1998:A5; see BIG MAC).

Observations1. Rest-and-digest-related cues (such positive signals as body alignmenteye contact, vocal satisfaction [e.g., "hmm," "ooh," and "um"], head-nods, and smiling) are often visible in luncheon meetings around a conference table2. In courtship, couples eat together to relax, to relate, and to respond in the rest-and-digest mode to offset feelings of stranger anxiety. (N.B.: Genital swelling is a rest-and-digest [i.e., a parasympathetic, response; see LOVE SIGNALS V].) 3. In a restaurant, rest-and-digest paleocircuits contract the urinary bladder, thus prompting visits to the restroom.

Evolution. Rest-and-digest is an ancient parasympathetic response pattern which, in the aquatic brain, slowed heart beat rate (and ventricular force) to conserve bodily energy, e.g., to prepare a fish to digest its meal.

Neuro-notes1. The hypothalamus controls our rest-and-digest response. 2. "The actions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions are mediated by different neurotransmitters and are largely antagonic, e.g., where one promotes contraction of smooth muscle, the other promotes dilation" (Damasio 1994:206).