Considered the parasympathetic nerve, the vagus nerve is essential to relaxation. But, how do we strengthen it? Learn effective techniques here…
The Vagus Nerve
Considered the parasympathetic nerve, the vagus nerve is essential to relaxation. It reaches many organs, but some of its key roles involve the digestive system, heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammation. These are all important to calming you down after an event; that’s why the parasympathetic nervous system is called the “rest & digest” part of your autonomic nervous system (as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” part). Often, our vagus nerve is not stimulated enough, which tells our brain to remain stressed and active in case an emergency arises.
How can you strengthen your vagus nerve so you can feel calmer?
Deep Breathing Exercises:
Sit somewhere nice, like outside, and be comfortable as you are.
Begin with simple deep breathing, by holding your hand on your belly and feeling it rise and fall as you breathe, as you fill your lower lungs. Your vagus nerve is stimulated as you move your diaphragm in this slow and rhythmic way.
Move onto more advanced exercises then, such as the 4-7-8 technique! Breathe in for 4 seconds through your nose, hold for 7, and exhale for 8 out through your mouth.
Or, there is another technique! The Valsalva maneuver, which involves holding your nose and mouth closed while attempting to exhale, for 10-15s at a time. This is meant to increase pressure in your chest which stimulates the vagus nerve. This technique is often used by doctors with patients whose heart rate is dangerously high, but it’s also a great technique for the rest of the population in general.
Controlling your physiological mechanisms in this way strengthen your vagus nerve greatly. With more and more practice, it gets easier as you build up your ability.
Try finishing off your shower with cold water for 30 seconds! While maybe not the most pleasant method, it will surely wake you up. While this may seem to create a “fight or flight” reaction, activating it more will decrease its response in your body and actually increase the “rest and digest” response in the long term.
If a cold shower is too daring right now, splashing cold water on your face is a good start, and is manageable at school, work, and home.
Be Noisy / Socialize:
Talking, singing, or humming is a great thing for your vagus nerve as it’s connected to your vocal cords! Humming especially fits the calming effect that you’re looking for. Incorporate it into your daily commute, bedtime routine, or wherever you see fit. Don’t be shy!
This one may be unsurprising. Meditation often features deep breathing and humming, which we’ve already acknowledged. Uniquely, though, is the positivity in meditation. This is uplifting and calming, and the positivity also stimulates the vagus nerve! Everyone should meditate; it does wonders for your mindfulness and health.
Incorporate some of these techniques into your life daily. They’re simple, easy, and can be done wherever you may be. You’ll feel calmer. Your ability will grow. You’ll strengthen your vagus nerve! Relaxation is only a few deep breaths away!
At Quiet Mind Co. we help you dial down your default speed, so no matter how crazy life gets, you can switch off and bliss out whenever you want. A slower mind and body helps you boost health and energy, and beat stress and anxiety, naturally. Click here to schedule a free 10 min telephone consult to find out how we can help you sleep better and change your response to stress and anxiety.