It’s a big topic of conversation in the media and in social circles. So, what exactly is the vagus nerve and how can you tap into all the benefits it has to offer?
Our bodies are complicated machines made up of various systems – for example, digestive, nervous, respiratory, skeletal and other systems – that enable us to move, eat, breathe and perform other important bodily functions.
According to www.webmd.com, the vagus nerve is “an integral part of your autonomic nervous system. This part of your nervous system controls the things your body does without your conscious input, such as breathing, digesting food, sweating, and making your heart beat. Specifically, the vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms your body down after you’ve been in a stressful situation”.
Considering how stressful modern living is, it’s not surprising that many people often find themselves in fight or flight mode. This affects how your body works and leaves most people feeling unwell and unable to perform at their best.
The vagus nerve is responsible for:
- heart rate
- cardiovascular (heart) activity
- reflex actions, such as coughing, sneezing, swallowing and vomiting
How to stimulate your vagus nerve
Many studies are still being done on the vagus nerve, but the main excitement in the media has been about helping people understand that there are small things we can do to activate the vagus nerve to help our bodies rest better so we’re ultimately able to perform.
Some of the things you can do include:
- Breathing deeply – breathing exercises are often recommended when it comes to stress and anxiety. Here is an article we produced on breathing exercises.
- Humming or chanting – the vibration that is created when you hum sends a signal that you’re not in danger and helps calm your body down even further. Here’s an example.
- Cold water immersion – it doesn’t sound like fun, but doing it regularly works wonders for your vagus nerve. See our article on cold water immersion for more information.
- Listen to ASR (autonomous sensory meridian response) and binaural beats – these relaxing sounds help your vagus nerve get into action and calm your body. Learn more about it here.
The idea is to get your body in relaxation mode because this is where true rest and healing can occur. Try some of these ideas often, especially after a busy day at work. They’ll work wonders to reduce your stress and to help you improve your energy and productivity at home and at work.