Meet Your Well-Being Nerve
Is it possible that the health of a single nerve, the vagus nerve, holds the secret to overall well-being? As a result of this concept, a school of thought known as polyvagal theory was developed. According to the theory, resilience is shaped throughout our lives by how we perceive the external world (as friend or foe?) and how well our autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is a largely unconscious mechanism that controls heart rate, digestion, and respiration rate, responds to those perceptions.
The incessant buzzing of our phones, honking of horns, and push alerts can put our nervous systems on high alert, prompting them to release a flood of fear chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol.
The good news is that It is believed by scientists in the field of mind-body medicine that we may influence our nervous system’s responses to stress by toning the vagus nerve, one of the most complicated neural highways in the human body.
What is the Vagus Nerve?
It is the vagus nerve that extends from the brainstem to the colon, passing through practically every physiological system on its journey. It contributes significantly to our perception and response to the environment around us, and it does so in two ways. One of them, the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus, is responsible for transmitting information about the external environment from your brain to your internal organs, allowing them to control activities such as breathing and digestive function.
If you get a large amount of shock, your blood pressure may drop abruptly, depriving your brain of oxygen and leading you to pass out.
It is in charge of our speech, voice, and facial expressions, as well as how we portray ourselves to the rest of the world via social cues.
When it comes to stress management, Chris Streeter, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, has recently published a study in which he argues that practices like yoga and meditation, as well as breathing exercises, increase vagal tone, which allows people to shift from an excited to a relaxed state more easily.
Yoga Practices for Vagal Toning
Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath): Practicing Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath) after a stressful day might help to quickly shift the nervous system’s state from reactive to calm. Breathing slowly and rhythmically might help to quiet an overstimulated mind. Try to complete 10 rounds while concentrating on lengthening the duration of your exhale. Meditation: According to research conducted on those who practice loving-kindness meditation, their vagal tone has increased. We experience the world differently when we make ethical intentions, and this helps us create a compassionate, nonjudgmental reaction to the events of our lives.
- Restorative Yoga: This practice allows us to gain mastery over the parasympathetic nervous system by slowing down our reflexive response to stressful situations.
- Acknowledge and accept whatever you are experiencing, including any worry, heaviness, or restriction.
- In the Cat-Cow Pose, the motions are designed to massage the region where the vagus nerve joins the stomach.
- Throat Chakra Opening: By performing yoga poses that open the chest and throat chakras, you can activate the vagus nerve.
As you exhale, contract your elbows in front of your heart and tuck your chin, your body will become lighter. During this flowing meditation, take several deep breaths to relax. Refer to the following:
- How Yoga Aided Me in Coping with Childhood Trauma and Loss
- What Yoga Did for Me
- Better Mental Well-Being Can Be Achieved by Understanding the Five Kleshas. How Yoga Can Assist You in Recovering From Trauma
- Yoga for Healing with a Trauma-Informed Approach Breathing is a liberating act
- It is a source of empowerment.
I Now Suspect the Vagus Nerve Is the Key to Well-being
Are there any books that you’ve read 100 times and then one day, for no apparent reason, say to yourself: “Wait, what was that?” Something like this happened to me the other day in regards to “the vagus nerve.” It kept coming up in conversations on deep breathing and mental serenity, so I wrote it down: When you take a deep breath, says Katie Brindle in her new bookYang Sheng: The Art of Chinese Self-Healing, “the body begins to relax immediately.” She explains that this is due to the stimulation of the vagus nerve, which runs from the neck to the abdomen and is in charge of turning off the “fight or flight” response.
Additionally, according to a recent Harvard Health blog article, “stimulating the vagus nerve stimulates your relaxation response, resulting in a reduction in your heart rate and blood pressure.” Furthermore, according to an integrative medicine expert who spoke to the Cut last year, deep breathing “turns on the vagus nerve enough that it works as a brake on the stress response.” That we have something like a secret piano key under our skin that we may press inwardly to relax ourselves was an interesting concept.
- Alternatively, think of it as a musical string to be plucked.
- Instead, the vagus nerve looks like an intricate network of roots or cables linking most of the major organs between the brain and colon, and it is shaped like a squiggly, shaggy nerve with several branching branches.
- It is referred to as the “vagus” because it wanders throughout the body like a stray cat among the organs.
- Also, as one Psychology Today writer put it some years ago, “when people say ‘follow your gut,’ they really mean ‘trust your vagus nerve.'” I was more fascinated by this nerve as time went on, despite the fact that I thought I was understanding it less and less.
- What is it about stimulating a neuron that makes us feel calmer?
- Lucy Norcliffe-Kaufmann, associate professor of neurology at New York University Langone Medical Center, explained that stimulating the vagus nerve to the heart had a “very profound impact” on decreasing the heart rate.
- The vagus nerve is like a microphone that listens to the way we breathe and communicates whatever message our breath signals to the brain and the heart.
As a result, the more we engage in activities that “stimulate” or activate the parasympathetic nervous system — also known as the “rest and digest” or “chill out” system — the more we are able to counteract the effects of the sympathetic nervous system — also known as the “fight or flight” or “do something!” stress-releasing adrenaline/cortisol one.
To put it another way, Norcliffe-Kaufmann explained to me that “your body perceives your breathing and adjusts its heart rate in response.” According to her, when we breathe in, the sensory nodes on our lungs (“lung stretch receptors”) convey information up up the vagus nerve and into the brain, and when we breathe out, the brain sends information back down through the vagus nerve, causing the heart rate to slow down or accelerate up.
- As a result, when we breathe gently, the pulse rate decreases and we become more relaxed.
- I was astonished to learn that it is the exhale that prompts the relaxation response, but Norcliffe-Kaufmann verified that this is the case: “Vagal activity is at its maximum and heart rate is at its lowest while you are exhaling,” she said.
- She also mentioned that researchers discovered that this kind of slow breathing is also what practitioners naturally fall into during meditation with mantras and during the Ave Maria prayer with rosaries, according to the study that determined this pace.
- (“Wow, that’s very interesting,” I remarked.) “It’s true!” she exclaimed.) Norcliffe-Kaufmann defined the vagus nerve as having “vagal tone,” which prompted me to ask if there are any methods of testing the quality of the vagus nerve.
- Her suggestion is to assess heart rate variability (HRV), which she describes as a “surrogate” for evaluating genuine vagal tone in a patient (barring open chest surgery).
- In other words, the heart rate increases on the inhale and decreases on the exhale, and the difference between the two rates is basically a measure of vagal tone (or sympathetic tone).
- (It is also an excellent indicator of vagal tone how rapidly your heart rate drops after exercising.) Stimulation of the vagus nerve has also been advocated as a method of treating addiction (some heavy drinkers, for instance, havelow vagal tone).
I personally tried a chest strap and a wristband, but I was perplexed on what to do with the data.
Another method of improving vagal tone (besides from deep, slow breathing) is to laugh, sing or hum, practice yoga or acupuncture, or spray cold water on one’s face or body—or to do a full-body cold rinse.
As I was writing this tale and spoke with Norcliffe-Kaufmann, I noticed that my breathing was becoming more deliberate and that I was becoming more relaxed.
Even while slow breathing is tedious, the benefits it provides are almost too great to ignore.
For example, “if you’re in a difficult scenario and you’re thinking, ‘How do I respond, how do I respond?,'” Norcliffe-Kaufmann explained.
It is possible to put oneself in a calmer mood by deliberately slowing down your breathing for one minute or simply a few seconds. This will allow you to communicate more effectively.” I’m beginning to believe that the Vagus Nerve is the key to good health.
7 Ways the Vagus Nerve Effects Your Health & Well Being
Are there any books that you’ve read 100 times and then one day, for no apparent reason, you stop and wonder “Wait, what is that?” “The vagus nerve” was the source of my discomfort the other day. When it came to deep breathing and mental serenity, I kept running across this phrase: The author of Yang Sheng: The Art of Chinese Self-Healing, Katie Brindle, explains that deep breathing “immediately relaxes the body” because it activates the vagus nerve, which travels from the neck down to the belly and is responsible for shutting off the “fight or flight” response.
- It may also be compared to the plucking of a musical string.
- Instead, the vagus nerve seems like an intricate network of roots or cables linking most of the main organs between the brain and colon, and it is shaped like a squiggly, shaggy, branching nerve in reality.
- It is the longest nerve in the body.
- In recognition of its position as a mediator between thinking and emotion, the vagus nerve has been described as “primarily responsible for the mind-body link,” and I’m inclined to think of it as something along the lines of a physical manifestation of the soul.
- What is the mechanism through which this is accomplished?
- Is this the reason why I get so agitated about things when they don’t deserve to be upset over?
- And it is just this that allows us to feel at ease: The vagus nerve is like a microphone that listens to our breathing patterns and communicates whatever message our breath signals to the brain and the heart.
As a result, the more we engage in activities that “stimulate” or activate the parasympathetic nervous system — also known as the “rest and digest” or “chill out” system — the more we are able to counteract the effects of the sympathetic nervous system — also known as the “fight or flight” or “do something!” stress-releasing adrenaline/cortisol system.
Alternatively, Norcliffe-Kaufmann explained that “your body perceives your breathing and adjusts its heart rate in response.” Her explanation of how breathing works was that when we breathe in, the sensory nodes on our lungs (known as lung stretch receptors) send information up through our vagus nerve to the brain; when we breathe out, the brain sends information back down through the vagus nerve to slow down or speed up the heart.
- When we take deep breaths, the heart rate slows and we become more relaxed.
- I was astonished to learn that it is the exhale that prompts the relaxation response, but Norcliffe-Kaufmann verified that this is the case: “Vagal activity is at its maximum and heart rate is at its lowest while you are exhaling,” she explained.
- She also mentioned that in the study that identified this pace, researchers discovered that this kind of slow breathing is also what practitioners naturally slide into while meditation with mantras and during the Ave Maria prayer with rosaries, among other activities.
- (“Wow, that’s very interesting,” I responded.
- Norcliffe-Kaufmann defined the vagus nerve as having “vagal tone,” which prompted me to ask if there are any methods of determining the quality of the vagus nerve.
- Her suggestion is to measure heart rate variability (HRV), which she describes as a “surrogate” for genuine vagal tone measurement (barring open chest surgery).
- In other words, the heart rate increases on the inhale and decreases on the exhale, and the difference between the two rates is basically a measure of vagal tone (or sympathetic activity).
A strong indicator of vagal tone is how soon your heart rate returns to normal after exercising.
However, Norcliffe-Kaufmann is suspicious about the dependability of HRV devices, and I’ve personally experimented with them (I tried a chest strap and a wristband, but couldn’t figure out what to do with the data).
Another method of improving vagal tone (apart from deep, slow breathing) is to laugh, sing or hum, practice yoga or acupuncture, or splash cold water on one’s face or body (or to have a full-body cold rinse).
Following my conversation with Norcliffe-Kaufmann and the completion of this account, I noticed that my breathing was slower and that I was feeling more relaxed.
Even while slow breathing is tedious, its effectiveness is almost tragic.
For example, “if you’re in a difficult circumstance and you’re wondering, ‘How do I respond, how do I respond?,'” Norcliffe-Kaufmann explained.
It is possible to put yourself in a calmer mood by deliberately slowing down your breathing for one minute or simply a few seconds. This will allow you to communicate more effectively. As a result, I believe that the Vagus Nerve is the key to good health.
What is the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is the tenth of the twelve cranial nerves in the human body. This means that it physically emerges from the brainstem, rather than from the spinal cord, as do our other nerves. The vagus nerve is complicated because it delivers input to the brain in the form of sensory, motor, special sensory, and parasympathetic (the relaxing component of the nervous system) signals. The vagus nerve connects the brainstem to several organs throughout the body. To be more specific, it gives sensory feedback from the throat and heart, as well as the lungs and belly, which means it informs the brain about the state of these organs.
7 Impacts of the Vagus Nerve on Well-Being
Increased inflammation is well-known to be harmful to one’s health when it occurs in excess. Certain pro-inflammatory substances are released into the circulation as a result of an inflammatory response (1). The vagus nerve detects the presence of these chemical markers in the body, and when they are in excess, it sends signals to the brain, instructing it to produce more ANTI-inflammatory chemicals, so alleviating the effects of inflammatory stress on the body. Furthermore, studies have discovered that implants that artificially activate the vagus nerve can significantly decrease inflammation, to the point where rheumatoid arthritis can be placed into remission.
Vital for breathing
When it comes to instructing the brain what sorts of chemicals to release into the body, the vagus nerve has a significant impact on the process. It is critical in the process of breathing because it promotes the production of acetylcholine in the brain, which is a chemical that basically instructs your lungs to perform their job and breathe for you. While deep abdominal breathing or box breathing (holding the breath for four to eight seconds) might assist activate the vagus nerve, the importance of belly breathing cannot be overstated.
It is possible to transition from an overworking and high-stressed nervous system response (sympathetic) to a calm and relaxed nervous system response (parasympathetic) by placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth and breathing in through the nose for a count of four, then matching that with an exhalation for a count of four (parasympathetic).
Effects your heart
You remember that chemical signal called acetylcholine, which the vagus nerve sends to the brain, telling it to release it?
This critical molecule, on the other hand, decreases the heart rate. Acetylcholine is essentially the heart’s natural pacemaker in its most basic form.
Why do we want a slower heart rate?
What do you remember about the chemical signal acetylcholine, which the vagus nerve sends to the brain in order to release it? Heart rate is slowed by this critical molecule. To put it simply, acetylcholine is the heart’s natural pacemaker.
Controls Gut-Brain connection
The vagus nerve is responsible for a significant portion of the regulation of the link between the brain and the gut. It is in charge of transmitting signals from the gut to the brain, among other things. You’ve probably heard the expressions “gut sensation” and “gut response.” The reason for this is because the stomach has its own neurological system, which is known as the Enteric Nervous System, which communicates with the brain through the vagus nerve. As a result, vagus nerve stimulation may have implications in the treatment of gastrointestinal ailments such as IBS, as well as mental problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mood and anxiety disorders.
Helps make memories
According to research, activating one’s vagus nerve can improve one’s memory. It accomplishes this by increasing the release of a neurotransmitter from the brain known as norepinephrine, which integrates and compartmentalizes memories in the process of learning. (2)Consider this: when you’re flustered or anxious, it’s likely that you’ll have a tougher time thinking clearly or finding your keys. The ability to think clearly and compartmentalize thoughts, as well as emotions and memory, is enhanced when the nervous system is quiet.
“Chill out” Response
We’ve all heard of the “fight or flight reaction,” as it’s known in the military. In this instance, the body’s Sympathetic nervous system is responding to stress by producing the stress hormone cortisol and the adrenaline hormone adrenaline. This approach is important, for example, if a lion walks into your room at the same moment you are reading this and you need to prepare to either fight it (which is unlikely) or run for your life (probably so). The vagus nerve, in reaction to this sort of heightened response, instructs your body to calm down by producing a substance that causes your heart rate to decrease down significantly.
Overstimulation can cause fainting
This makes perfect sense. When stress is overactivated, the body responds by overstimulating the vagus nerve, which causes the vagus nerve to become overstimulated. More of a good thing, such as too many hormones that slow down the heart rate and reduce blood pressure, results in less blood reaching the brain, causing us to pass out. When the vagus nerve isn’t operating well or at all, what happens to all of the things that it governs? And there are a lot of things that the vagus nerve controls.
The vagus nerve can become dysfunctional, resulting in.
- Mood disorders/anxiety
- Chronic inflammation
- B12 deficiency
- Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Gastrointestinal diseases
Stimulation can be used to treat.
- Obesity, heart disease, anxiety/depression problems, migraine, Alzheimer’s disease, leaky gut, tinnitus, cancer, and poor circulation are all risks.
How to stimulate the vagus nerve
Take it in gently and deeply! Belly breathing, in which the inhalation and exhalation times are the same, helps to activate receptors in the heart and neck, which in turn stimulates the vagus nerve, resulting in reduced blood pressure. We frequently use a Core 350 Breathing Belt to treat and coach patients in order to make this sort of breathing more comfortable. Besides stimulating the vagus nerve, it also has the added benefit of strengthening our deep core muscles, which are responsible for the general stability of the body and spine.
This should be added to the long list of advantages of physical activity. Exercise has been demonstrated to stimulate the vagus nerve, which may explain in part why it is so beneficial to one’s mental well-being. As we all know, the vagus nerve helps to regulate gut flow, and exercise helps to improve this as well, resulting in better digestion. Strength training is an excellent approach to improve muscular stability while also stimulating the vagus nerve.
Active Release Technique
Massage, particularly of the neck and feet, has been shown to activate the vagus nerve. Acupressure sites in the foot are noted in Chinese medicine to activate and promote vagal activity, according to the tradition. It can also cause the release of oxytocin, which aids in the sensation of relaxation.
Cold Immersion Therapy
Vagus nerve stimulation may be achieved by massaging the neck and feet, especially. Vagal activity is activated and increased by acupressure sites on the foot, according to Chinese medicine. The release of oxytocin, which promotes a sense of calm, is another benefit of this practice.
Vagus nerve stimulation may be achieved by massaging the neck and feet. Acupressure sites in the foot are noted in Chinese medicine to stimulate and augment vagal activity. It can also cause the release of oxytocin, which helps to promote a sensation of relaxation.
Laughter/Positive Social Relationships
They say that happiness generates happiness, and they are correct. Because it causes the production of endorphins, laughter has been shown to improve immune system function in humans. Additionally, it has been discovered to activate the vagus nerve. Researchers have shown that spending time alone with happy thoughts about friends and family enhances positive emotions and activates the vagus nerve more than simply sitting in solitude and meditating. (4)To summarize, the nervous system is in charge of everything!
- As New Yorkers, however, the situation is inverted!
- If you’re seeking for further methods to improve your general well-being, we can assist you!
- Best, Dr.
- Chen L, Deng H, Cui H, and colleagues Organ-specific inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated illnesses are discussed.
- Doi:10.18632/oncotarget.23208 (last updated on December 14, 2017).
- Peräkylä J, Holm K, Haapasalo J, Lehtimäki K, Hartikainen KM.
- Epub 2017 Feb 19.
Published online 2017 Feb 19.
Van Ryckeghem, and Christian Vögele) have published a paper in which they discuss their findings.
Published online on October 9, 2018 at doi:10.2196/10257.
2015;2(1):13–19; doi:10.14259/as.v2i1.171 (4) B.
In Psychological Science, 2013, volume 24, issue 7, page(s) 1123-1132 (doi:10.1177/0956797612470827), there are 1123-1132. Published on May 6th, 2013.
Dr. Adriana Lazare, DC
Originally from Connecticut, Dr. Lazare received her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic, located in Bridgeport. She has been taught to look at the body as a whole in order to provide thorough and holistic treatment rather than symptom-focused treatment. The integrative approaches she has learned in her training combine soft tissue therapy with chiropractic manipulation as well as rehabilitation to identify and address the underlying cause of pain.
Doctor Lazare approaches patient care from a functional perspective, placing a major emphasis on the patient’s postural and movement-based patterns.
At Neuvana, we think that improved wellbeing, balance, and rejuvenation should be a right that everyone should have (and that it should not be relegated to the bottom of your to-do list). Enhanced wellness, balance, and rejuvenation are just a few of the benefits of a Neuvana membership. It was for this reason that veteran inventor Richard Cartledge, MD formed a team to explore and construct a means to replicate the therapeutic benefits of vagus nerve stimulation in a user-friendly device in 2014.
With solutions that are meant to boost relaxation and general well-being, our team’s objective is to continuously improve people’s lives via neuroscience.
When you link in, you’re joining a community of wellness enthusiasts, conscientious entrepreneurs, and science enthusiasts.
Enhanced wellness, balance, and rejuvenation are just a few of the benefits of a Neuvana membership.
The Vagus Nerve: Our Hacks To Better Mental Health
Describe your understanding of the vagus nerve if you were asked what you knew about the structure of the nerve. Perhaps it is merely a “nerve in your body,” or perhaps you simply don’t know what it is! There is no need to be embarrassed if this response sounds similar to your own. The vagus nerve may not be a nerve that most people are familiar with, yet it is one of the most crucial portions of your body in terms of function. Learn more about the vagus nerve, which may have a significant influence on both your physical and mental health, and why it is so essential to understand it!
What is the Vagus Nerve?
What would you answer if someone came up to you and inquired about your knowledge of the vagus nerve? Could be a simple “nerve in your body,” or you could be completely clueless! If this reaction resembles anything you might say, you are not alone!
The vagus nerve may not be a nerve that most people are familiar with, yet it is one of the most crucial portions of your body in terms of health. In addition to having a significant influence on your physical and mental health, the vagus nerve plays a vital role in your overall well-being.
The Importance of the Vagus Nerve for Mental Health
So, what is the connection between the vagus nerve and mental health, and how can it enhance it? To put it another way, in order to enhance vagal tone, the vagus nerve must first be activated. As previously said, you want to boost vagal tone in order to assist your body in relaxing and returning to a more normal condition after it has been agitated. We gain psychological benefits from feeling calmer and more relaxed, as well as from being able to deal with stress more efficiently. Ultimately, this will lead to improved mental health in general.
How to Hack the Vagus Nerve for Better Mental Health
According to the research, our mental health and our potential to enhance it might be significantly influenced by the vagus nerve. We’ve put together this compilation of simple, yet powerful, mental health hacks to help you feel better. Breathing deeply and slowly When you slow down your breathing, you are really able to activate the vagus nerve, which is beneficial. Instead of taking the customary 10+ breaths per minute that most people take unconsciously, consider slowing your breathing down to around six breaths per minute.
Exhale slowly and deeply when you have completed this.
Despite the fact that it may not always feel good to be exposed to the cold at first, it turns out to be a fantastic approach to stimulate the vagus nerve! For example, it may be as simple as dumping your head into a sink full of ice water or putting yourself into an intensely cold shower. You’ll be certain to activate the vagus nerve, which will also benefit your mental health as a result of the exercise.
Yoga and Meditation
Anyone who has tried yoga or meditation will most likely tell you that it is beneficial in achieving a level of relaxation. Yoga has been shown to enhance GABA, a neurotransmitter that has been shown to affect the brain into a peaceful condition. In a similar vein, meditation enhances the vagal tone as well as the pleasant feelings that make you feel good about yourself. Find out about our nine favorite styles of meditation, as well as which one is best for you, right here.
Your physical health is, without a doubt, a significant factor in your overall mental well-being. Physical activity is also a fantastic technique to activate the vagus nerve! In addition to providing you with the stimulation you require, regular exercise may also help to produce endorphins into your body, which can help you feel better. The better you feel physically, the more likely it is that you will feel better emotionally as well.
The health of your gut can have a significant impact on your overall well-being. The probiotics included in foods such as yogurt, for example, can assist to activate your vagus nerve, raise GABA levels, and lower stress hormone levels. The vagus nerve is a very strong nerve!
Learning more about the vagus nerve may be fascinating as you learn more about how it works and how it can be “hacked” using technology. Xen by Neuvana is an electronic gadget that provides mild micro pulses straight to the vagus nerve, which is situated in your ear, using headphones. Nothing more than pairing it wirelessly with your Neuvana app and customizing your sessions is required. The vagus nerve is stimulated as a result of this procedure, which aids in improving your concentration and maintaining your calm.
Many people will utilize Xen on a daily basis in order to increase their energy levels and experience a restored sense of well-being on a consistent basis. You may find out more about utilizing Xen by Neuvana and its numerous perks by visiting this page.
Your Journey Towards Better Mental Health
Now that you have a better understanding of the vagus nerve, why it is so crucial to your mental health, and some strategies for hacking it, it is time to begin your trip! Each of our hacks has the potential to activate the vagus nerve, resulting in improved mental health in the long run. Interested in learning more about how Xen by Neuvana works as a mental health technology? Check out our collection of frequently asked questions, or visit our online store to purchase Xen by Neuvana products.
What The Vagus Nerve Is And How To Stimulate It For Better Mental Health
Make use of these suggestions to live a better life. Unsplash courtesy of Kristina V. Submitted by Sarah Jeanne Browne Vagus nerve is the body’s superpower, and it is utilized to combat the body’s fight or flight response system. It is via this process that you may learn to have a healthy stress response and become more robust. When you are aroused, you experience feelings of calmness, compassion, and clarity. Stimulating the vagus nerve has positive effects on your autonomic nervous system as well as your mental wellness.
You have increased resilience and are better equipped to recover from trauma and difficulties.
So, what exactly is the vagus nerve, exactly?
What The Vagus Nerve Is
The vagus nerve is the longest of the body’s cranial nerves and is responsible for digestion. It is derived from the Latin word vagus, which means “wandering.” This is due to the fact that it travels throughout your body, with a wide dispersion linking the brainstem to the rest of the body. This nerve is only found in mammals. It aids in the function of the immune system and the response to disease inflammation. It is responsible for four primary functions: sensory, special sensory, motor, and parasympathetic responses.
The dorsal is located at the rear of the body, while the ventral is located in the front.
The ventral is activated by safety cues, whereas the dorsal is activated by danger cues.
A healthy vagal nerve encourages you to respond with awareness.
The Love Nerve
In response to feelings of compassion and empathy, the vagus nerve becomes engaged. When the vagal nerve profile is strong, a person tends to be more altruistic. Dacher Kelter believes that it is the child who is most likely to intervene with a bully or to give up recess time to assist a friend with their schoolwork. Kelter claims that in a lab setting, individuals were shown pictures of pain, which caused their vagus nerve to be engaged. When people were given images of pride, their level of pride decreased.
When you feel compassion for different groups of people, no matter how diverse or distinct they are, it creates a sense of shared humanity. Stephen Porges refers to it as the “love nerve” since it is active when you are in a loving state. It is a form of environmental stewardship.
Gives You Gut Feelings
The vagus nerve is also responsible for managing anxieties. According to Medical News Today, “The vagus nerve transmits signals from the stomach to the brain, and it is associated with the management of stress, anxiety, and fear–hence the expression “gut feeling.” These signals aid in the recovery of a person from stressful and frightening experiences.”
The fight or flight reaction is triggered whenever your brain detects a threat, as a result of the sympathetic nervous system’s activity. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, has the opposite effect: it calms you down. When a threat has passed, the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged, such as when one is pushed out of harm’s way by oncoming vehicles when crossing the street. The anguish has passed and you have returned to peace and tranquillity. However, there are occasions when the brain continues to operate in panic mode, as if you are still in imminent danger.
It assists you in “resting and digesting.” This is dorsal activity with a low tone.
Typically, if you aren’t feeling well emotionally, you are either in sympathetic (fight or flight mode, becoming hypervigilant) or parasympathetic (rest and digest mode, becoming relaxed) (freeze).
According to Irene Lyon, the ventral vagal permits you to be less guarded than the anterior vagal.
In a study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, researchers discovered that “the vagal tone is correlated with the capacity to regulate stress responses and can be influenced by breathing.” Increasing vagal tone through meditation or yoga may help people build resilience and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
In most cases, this is done in conjunction with other therapies such as antidepressants and counseling.
This is how clinical psychologistDr.
Any time our facial expressions accurately represent what we are truly feeling or experiencing, the vagus nerve is at work.
Because the vagus nerve lights up like a Christmas tree when we talk, yell, or sing, these activities may be quite cathartic and emotional for many of us.” “When we speak, shout, or sing, the vagus nerve lights up like a Christmas tree.” Here are a few suggestions for stimulating your vagus nerve:
Reset Ventral Vagus Nerve
Several exercises are recommended in Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerveby Stanley Rosenberg to help you reset your ventral vagus nerve, according to the book. They are the Basic Exercise, the Half Salamander Exercise, and the Full Salamander Exercise, among others:
The Basic Exercise
- Lie down on your back
- Fingers on both hands should be intertwined and placed behind the head. Consider looking to the right, but without rotating your head. Continue to sit in this position until you yawn or swallow on your own. With your head and eyes straight, return to the neutral position. Repeat the process on the opposite side.
“There is a neurological link between the eight suboccipital muscles and the muscles that move our eyeballs,” says Rosenberg, explaining why you move your eyes.
The Half-Salamander Exercise
- Tilt the head to the right towards the shoulder and hold for thirty to sixty seconds
- Then bring the eyes and head back to the neutral position. The eyes are looking to the left without rotating the head
- To begin, tilt your head to your left, toward your shoulder. Hold this position for thirty to sixty seconds. After that, revert to the neutral state
Alternatively, the eyes can be directed in the opposing direction to the head tilt, so that the head tilts left and the eyes gaze right, or vice versa. For thirty to sixty seconds, both of them hold their necks still.
Full Salamander Exercise
- Get down on your hands and knees
- The position of the head is down
- Look to the left without moving your head
- Turn your head to the left. Allow your left spine to twist in conjunction with your head tilting to the left
- Maintain the position for thirty to sixty seconds
- Straighten up your posture by bringing your head and spine to the center. Repeat on the other side
Other Ways to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve
1) Diaphragmatic breathing is the first step. Placing one hand on your tummy and the other on your chest can help you to relax. On your inhalation, you should feel your stomach expand, and during your exhalation, your stomach should contract. This is referred to as “belly breathing” in some circles. This has the effect of lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. 2) Establishing a connection Feeling safe and secure is aided by a sense of belonging and community. Having a strong connection makes you feel calmer and more optimistic.
- You may either splash cold water on your face or place ice cubes in a ziploc bag against your face to relieve the discomfort.
- Arielle Schwartz, “lowers your heart rate, boosts blood flow to your brain, lessens aggression, and relaxes your entire body.” 4) Humming, singing, or gargling are all acceptable.
- A song has the ability to take your problems away.
- Simply singing can help you feel better, or you can gargle if you like.
- 7) Mindfulness and meditation are important.
- Participants had a healthy vagal tone as a result of the meditation.
- Being present brings you back to your center.
- 9) ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)With the use of triggers or instruments, ASMR sends “tingles” from your scalp down your spine, which helps to relax your nervous system and relieve stress.
- There are a plethora of them on YouTube.
- Yoga, mantras, and many religious practices, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, make frequent use of this term.
- It has been demonstrated in studies that this results in increased relaxation.
Christopher Berglands claims that he employs Cora Harris’s mantra to activate his vagus nerve: “The bravest thing you can do when you are not courageous is to declare courage and behave in accordance with your professed courage.” Even when you are fearful, you may use this technique to generate positive self-talk.
Conclusion There are several things you may do to stimulate your vagus nerve, as well as numerous advantages to maintaining a good vagal tone.
It is your hidden weapon in becoming a better version of yourself. Sarah Jeanne Browne is a motivational speaker, author, and activist whose work has appeared on sites such as Lifehack, Tiny Buddha, Thrive Global, and others. [email protected]
Why Your Out-Breath is Connected to Your Well-Being
It’s probable that you’ve heard something like this at the end of a yoga session or during a guided meditation: “Let’s take a few calm, deep breaths, allowing the body to relax as you softly exhale.” These are basic guidelines that are meant to lower your heart rate as quickly as possible. However, you may not be aware that these slow, deep breaths—and, in particular, exhalations—are activating your vagus nerve, which sends messages to the body to indicate that it is in a state of relaxation and calm.
The name “vagus” in Latin means “wandering,” which is an apt description for this meandering nerve that runs from the brain stem all the way down to the colon, connecting along the way to the middle ear, voice cords, heart, lungs, and intestines.
It affects our emotional moods, heart rate, inflammation levels, blood pressure, and digestion.
It is a strong supporter of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the branch of the autonomic nervous system that urges the body to “rest and digest.” As a result, the vagus nerve has a significant influence on our feelings of safety and connectedness.
What’s the Message?
In the words of Dr. Brendan Kelley, professor and clinical vice-chair in the Department of Neurology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, “the vagus nerve is like a superhighway for information for the parasympathetic nervous system.” The vagus nerve is responsible for transmitting signals—neurotransmitters—between the emotional center of the brain and other organs such as the heart, lungs, and digestive system.
These signals direct certain organs to respond and operate in accordance with one of three states: safe and social, fight and flight, or freeze and immobilize.
In the same way that deep breaths may help you relax and reduce your heart rate, your nervous system can identify signals of safety and transmit them to various sections of the body, allowing them to shut down defensive mechanisms such as those that come from a sensation of fear or threat.
“The body will not work efficiently,” he continues, “until it receives signs of safety from the environment.” Working with mind–body skills, particularly the breath, can assist in regulating communication between the sympathetic (another branch of the autonomic nervous system that activates the fight-or-flight response) and parasympathetic nervous systems, which can help to reduce stress.
Arielle Schwartz, PhD, a clinical psychologist and qualified yoga instructor, explains that “the breath may be utilized as both a gas pedal and a brake.” I may bring in some breath of fire when I’m feeling shut down and need greater awareness, or I can concentrate long, slow exhales and deep belly breathing when I’m feeling nervous and frantic and need to put the brakes on.
Safe and Social
When we’re in social situations, we tend to pay attention to behavior—both our own and that of the individual with whom we’re dealing. Porges’ view, on the other hand, proposes that sociability is not just a function of voluntary action, but is rather a function of neurobiology. Kelly explains that the vagus nerve is engaged in our responses to the people in our immediate environment, whether it’s a loving, caring encounter or one that is fraught with fear or worry. What determines how the vagus nerve responds—whether it is activated or deactivated—is dependent on the circumstances of each individual case.
This allows the body to deal with difficulties on a neurophysiological level.” Stephen Porges, Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, is a professor of physics.
According to Porges, “when you get rid of the danger reaction, you become tranquil and more present.” According to the authors, “the body may then fix issues on a neurophysiological level, improving the way the visceral organs work.” Your vagus nerve may need to be deactivated in order for you to access your threat (fight-or-flight) response in certain situations.
“When we become nervous, we are unable to breathe properly, and as a result, we disable the process through which the vagus nerve helps us to relax,” explains Porges.
Consider the following soccer players: When the body need blood to run quickly, it is unable to divert resources to other tasks, such as digesting our last meal.
A Signal for Compassion
A physiological condition known as “compassionate witness” is encouraged in social situations by the vagus nerve, according to Porges. This is a state in which a person is not sending out indications of anger, danger, or pain, but is instead present as a tranquil and helpful spectator. Co-regulation, according to Porges, “allows the nervous system of the person who has been injured to feel safe enough without becoming defensive, to feel calm, and to feel validated.” Further research is needed to understand how specific emotions are associated with changes in vagal tone.
The individuals’ RSA was higher while they were feeling compassionate than when they were feeling either pride or inspiration, according to the findings.
Can You “Improve” Vagal Tone?
While the tone of the vagus nerve has a direct impact on our well-being—specifically, our ability to self-regulate and connect with others—Kelley adds an essential nuance: the tone of the vagus nerve is also influenced by our social interactions. Although we can measure vagal tone, it is not a reliable indication of a person’s ability to cope with stress in general. It is natural for our vagal tone to be greater during times of relaxation; but, when we are active or under pressure, the nerve is no longer required and essentially “shuts down.” It is our brain and emotional environment that determines our ability to cope under stress.” According to Kelley, “Vagal tone is just a representation of the current moment in time.”
4 Ways to Calm Your Whole Body
- Take few deep breaths. A deep, slow breath helps to activate the vagus nerve, which in turn helps to reduce the heart rate. The rhythmic rising and falling of the abdomen during abdominal breathing can help to amplify this effect even more. Exhale for a longer period of time than you inhale
- Smile and be nice to others. According to Kelley, the vagus nerve functions like a two-way street: “Emotions can have an impact on vagal tone, but there is also communication that is returning.” Being pleasant, caring, and thankful are all examples of prosocial activities that might help to improve the vagal tone. Massage your face and neck in a gentle manner. In Schwartz’s opinion, “all of the vagal circuits in the face are related to how we connect with others—our eyes, smile, and voice.” To activate the vagus nerve, gently massage vulnerable regions around the eyes, ears, jaw, and neck for a few minutes. If you decide to practice self-massage, proceed with caution— In Kelly’s words, it may cause your blood pressure to plummet, which might result in you passing out
- Just laugh it off. A hearty chuckle activates the vagus nerve, which in turn encourages diaphragmatic breathing. To reap the rewards, you don’t even have to wait for a fantastic joke to occur: According to a 2016 research, “simulated laughter” is a thing (going through the motion of laughing, without a humorous cause for it) improvements in the health of elderly persons
The Brain Science of Attention and Overwhelm
We are living in a moment that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. A neuroscience expert outlines 10 different ways your brain reacts—and how mindfulness may help you survive and even thrive in the face of adversity. More information can be found at
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It takes some effort to get back to sleep in the middle of the night. Michelle Maldonado, in this little video, provides four suggestions for making going to bed—and staying asleep—a little bit simpler. More information can be found at
Is the vagus nerve really the key to our mental health and well-being?
The vagus nerve is responsible for two-way communication between the brain and several organs, including the heart, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. Epilepsy and depression symptoms can be alleviated by electrical stimulation delivered through an implant. We spoke to the specialists about the great potential that exist in this area of medicine, and they respond positively. As the ‘key to well-being,’ the vagula nerve (pronounced vaa-gus, as in Las Vegas) is now prominent in popular health culture as the ‘key to well-being.’ Clinical evidence and scientific study on vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), which may be achieved with a minimally invasive, subcutaneous (under the skin) implant, are both extensive.
Further study shows that it may be beneficial in the treatment of intractable depression.
A broader interest in whether activating the vagus nerve by other mechanisms, such as diaphragmatic breathing techniques, cold water immersion, and external devices (transcutaneous VNS), can potentially have health advantages has been sparked by this current research.
Why is the vagus nerve so important to well-being?
This nerve, which arises from the brain and communicates with various areas of the body, modulates a number of vital processes. It is the longest of the nerves that come from the brain and connect with diverse sections of the body. Dr. Steffen Fetzer works as a senior medical affairs manager at LivaNova PLC, a medical device business that specializes in a variety of treatments, including neuromodulation and virtual reality stimulation (VNS). His explanation of the vagus nerve is that it is a member of the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for biological operations over which we have no conscious control, such as breathing, digestion, heart rate, sneezing, and so on.” The ANS is divided into two sections, which are “he continues.
The parasympathetic nerve system, on the other hand, slows respiration and heart rate while speeding up the digestive process.
In addition to receiving information from the body (e.g., from the lungs, liver, intestines, and heart), the vagus nerve also transmits information to the brain for processing and interpretation.
Vagal tone (vagus nerve activity) is a measure of the balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic impulses in the body, and hence of how well the vagus nerve is operating. This information can be obtained through the use of an electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures heartbeat rhythms. When you take a deep breath, your heart beats quicker in order to circulate oxygenated blood throughout your body. As you exhale, your heart rate begins to calm down as well. It is believed that the vagus nerve is responsible for managing the heart’s capacity to adapt to different settings, which is referred to as heart rate variability (HRV).
- As we grow older, our vagal response diminishes, and some people have a stronger vagal tone than others.
- Having a strong vagal tone has been shown to improve blood glucose regulation, which means you may be at lower risk for strokes, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, according to one research.
- This may result in a chronically heightened stress response, which may manifest itself as sadness, anxiety, gastrointestinal troubles, and inflammation, among other things.
- ” “The vagus nerve plays an important role in this process.
The frequent bouts of’sympathetic overdrive’ in individuals with epilepsy are regarded to be a contributing factor to the elevated risk of sudden cardiac mortality in these patients.”
Clinical VNS for epilepsy
Because around one-third of epilepsy patients do not react adequately to anti-seizure drugs, researchers have been on the lookout for a viable therapy for this population. The discovery that stimulating the vagus nerve is an effective and elegant means of activating critical brain areas without undergoing direct brain surgery was made by Fetzer and his team, according to the journal Neuron. “However, it must be stressed that epilepsy surgery is the first line of defense in individuals who are treatment resistant.” During VNS surgery, which takes approximately an hour, a tiny pulse generator is inserted into the left upper chest by a neurosurgeon who is trained in this procedure.
- The treating physician can then alter the stimulation to ensure that each patient receives the most benefit from the therapy.
- In children and adults with drug-resistant epilepsy, studies have shown that VNS can reduce the number of seizures they have.
- “Doctors noticed that epileptic patients who participated in these research began to feel happier and less sad as a result of their participation.
- The use of VNS for the treatment of drug-resistant depression was finally approved by the FDA.
Clinical VNS for depression
Dr. Girish Kunigiriis a consultant psychiatrist at the Bradgate Mental Health Unit in Leicester, where he works as a consultant psychiatrist. Patients with resistant depression have benefited from VNS, according to him. As he explains, “the response rate to any antidepressant drug in primary care is normally approximately 50%.” “There are situations when we are unable to determine why people do not respond. “Resistant depression” refers to a tiny number of people who do not respond to various therapies.
- That indicates that they have attempted at least four different antidepressants, two mood stabilizers, two sets of psychological therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), and a course of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) (ECT).
- So far, the findings of the study indicate that improvement occurs about 6 to 12 months after the VNS implant is turned on.
- In addition, he says that the favorable reaction after five years has reached around 70%, which is quite encouraging.
- Prior to being ill, he was a high-functioning individual who was successful at his job and enjoyed a happy family life.
- He had tried everything, including electroconvulsive therapy, and had had no response.
- The negative effects of VNS, according to Kunigiri, are typically short-lived and rarely life-threatening.
- Last year, a critical assessment of VNS and the issues it presents for clinical practice was conducted.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s guidance on VNS was revised in August 2020, and it indicates that further study is needed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of the procedure.
Stimulating the vagus nerve by other means
Numerous biofeedback therapies and yoga techniques are focused on the rhythm of one’s breathing, which activates the autonomic nervous system in general, but the vagus nerve specifically. As a result, exhaling for a longer period of time than inhaling can aid to create a relaxation response. Studies conducted in 2018 and 2019 on respiratory vagal stimulation verify this and also reveal that breathing longer, slower out breaths enhances heart rate variability (see Figure 1). “It has been proposed that some yoga activities that are accompanied by deep, diaphragmatic, slow breathing may indirectly stimulate particular branches of the vagus nerve,” adds Fetzer.
VNS is necessary for the treatment of persistent epilepsy and depression, but it must be targeted and precise, rather than merely providing modest vagal stimulation on a regular basis.
One research from 2006 found that submerging your face in ice-cold water had a favorable effect on vagal tone as well as other factors.
Transcutaneous stimulation of the vagus nerve is another method that can be used (through the skin). Some commercially available devices claim to be able to generate an electro-magnetic field via the skin, which is then used to activate the vagus nerve by stimulating it. Cluster headaches and migraines are among the pain conditions for which these devices are used to treat. NICE has found that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of VNS in these situations, despite the fact that there are no significant safety issues.
One possible explanation is that it may be difficult to adequately target the vagus nerve, therefore extreme caution should be exercised.
“”Clinical VNS is a promising new treatment,” continues Kunigiri, “but there are some requirements that must be met before a patient can be admitted for the operation.” Speaking with a professional is recommended if you are suffering from refractory epilepsy or depression that has not responded to existing treatment options. Always remember that whether or not a doctor has the requisite training and equipment, as well as whether or not NHS money is available in your area, can all affect whether or not you can receive VNS.
It still has a long way to go before it is available to the vast majority of individuals who suffer from persistent epilepsy and depression, though. VNS information may be found on the websitesepilepsy.org.uk and mind.org.uk, among other places.