Picture source: Fine Art America.
Welcome to Vagus! And I’m not talking about the bright light city that sets your soul on fire. I’m talking about the fascinating 10th cranial nerve that connects our brain and body. This nerve goes from the bottom of the brain stem down to our intestines, isn’t that wild! The vagus nerve affects our senses, motor skills, and parasympathetic nervous system. It is responsible for digestion, respiration, and heart rate functioning. The vagus nerve is also heavily involved in communication between the gut and brain, relaxation, regulation of mood, and decreasing or preventing inflammatory bodily responses. Regular stimulation of the vagus nerve or increasing our “vagal tone” (the internal biological process that represents the activity of the vagus nerve J. Fallis 2017) can improve mental health by helping the body relax faster after stressful situations. Today we’re going to discuss how to work on the vagus nerve and strengthen our connection between mind and body!
Here are a few ways to stimulate the vagus nerve:
- Cold Exposure
Cold temperatures activate the natural “fight or flight” response within the body and brain. By exposing oneself to an acute cold temperature such as through a cold rinse at the end of a shower or rinsing the face with ice-cold water, the vagus nerve is activated to lower the fight or flight response using the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Deep and Slow Breathing / Breath work
There are plenty of methods and different types of breath that can be used to activate the vagus nerve. A simple and easy one to remember is to inhale deep down to the belly, up to the heart, and exhale out from the throat. This helps lower blood pressure, increase mental awareness and clarity, and improve the ability to release and relax.
Researchers have been going nuts (in the best possible way) over all the new development and studies about how gut bacteria is linked to improved brain function. Studies show that certain strains of probiotics, such as lactobacillus rhamnosus (which is found in most if not all probiotics) were able to improve anxiety-like behavior, lessen depression, and stress.
Another few methods to stimulate the vagus nerve include singing, humming, exercising, meditation, and socializing! By working on the vagus nerve and actively conditioning the special connection between our mind and body we will increase our self-awareness, power, love all while achieving optimal mental and physical health.