10 Ways to Reduce Stress With the Power of the Vagus Nerve

It is incredible how much information our body transmits every moment. By activating our vagus nerve, we allow our body to communicate properly, and therefore constantly heal itself.

Sep 26, 2018
Special Collections: MINDFUL LIVING

Many of us have experienced having a “gut feeling” about something. Research about the microbiome has begun to reveal the incredible extent to which the brain receives significant information from the gut region via bacteria. Another lesser discussed circuit called the vagus nerve is also a major part of how our bodies and brains function. Without it, our bodies wouldn’t be able to do basic tasks, and by stimulating it we can receive powerful health benefits. Keep reading to learn 10 easy ways to tap into the power of this critical nerve.

What is the vagus nerve?

The vagus nerve is the longest and most complex of the 12 cranial nerves that extend from the brain. It is made up of fibers that primarily link the brain stem to the lungs, heart, and gut, but also reaches and strongly interacts with the liver, kidneys, spleen, gallbladder, ureter, female fertility organs, neck, ears, and tongue.

Because it is so long and wandering (vagus literally means wandering in Latin) it controls and affects many parts of our conscious and unconscious bodily functions, such as maintaining a constant heart rate, digesting food, and breathing, as well as the parts that process and manage emotions.

Therefore, dysfunction of the nerve can lead to mood swings, and other ills such as seizures, b12 deficiencies, and obesity.

Strengthening the function of the vagus nerve, on the other hand, can improve conditions such as anxiety, migraines, alcohol addiction, leaky gut, Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, and more.

Below are several techniques that stimulate the healthy function of the vagus nerve:

1. Gargling

Gargling stimulates the same muscles that the vagus nerve interacts with. This can also improve memory function.

2. Cultivating Positive Relationships

  1. Research shows that just by thinking of our loved ones we can tone and strengthen the vagus nerve, thereby reaping the many benefits that the nerve provides.

3. Exposure to the Cold

By drinking cold water or taking a cold shower, we strengthen our body’s calming system (the parasympathetic system) which happens through the vagus nerve.

4. Singing and Chanting

Singing at the top of your lungs increases heart rate variability and works the muscles in the back of your throat that connect to the vagus nerve.

5. Massages

Appart from feeling amazing, a good massage of the feet and neck actives the vagus nerve and can reduce seizures.

6. Happiness and Laughter

Having a good laugh lifts your mood, boosts the immune system and stimulates the vagus nerve.

7. Yoga and Tai Chi

Both Yoga and Tai Chi provide a host of health benefits and are particularly helpful for those struggling with depression and anxiety.

8. Deep Breathing

Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve to lower blood pressure and heart rate.

9. Exercise

Physical exercise is powerful both for gut flow and mental health benefits, which both happen via the vagus nerve.

10. Relaxation

Almost any relaxing activity strengthens the vegas nerve’s ability to provide healing to the body.

HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.

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