If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath. – Amit Ray
Proper activation of vagus Nerve can make you free from stress and anxiety. Vagus nerve branches out to your throat, lungs, heart and abdominal organs in your body. This nerve is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest and digest’ part. Sympathetic nervous system is the ‘fight of flight’ part.
When your mind perceives something dangerous or stressful it activates the sympathetic nervous system which dumps adrenalin and other stress hormones into your body and your body responds – the blood pulls toward large skeletal muscles, you begin to breathe faster and so on. So your body is now ready to “fight or flight” and sends a signal of readiness to your brain.
Sympathetic response leads to short fast breathing bordering on hyperventilation, because your airways open up wide and you are basically gulping the air in. Parasympathetic activation leads to deep relaxed breathing. Since your airways constrict and you will need to take time to breathe in and out to get the same amount of air in. And it works the other way around, too – if you gulp the air in your brain will perceive it as an invitation to fight or flight, and if you seep the air in and let it out slowly your brain will take it as an invitation to rest and digest.
Vagal tone refers to activity of the vagus nerve. High vagal tone improves the function of many body systems, causing better blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, improved digestion via better production of stomach basic and digestive enzymes, and reduced migraines. Higher vagal tone is also associated with better mood, less anxiety and more stress resilience. One of the most interesting roles of the vagus nerve is that it essentially reads the gut microbiome and initiates a response to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. In this way, the gut microbiome can have an affect on your mood, stress levels and overall inflammation.
Six Proven ways to activate Vagus Nerve
- Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the
lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve.
- Humming Om Chanting. Since the vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, humming mechanically stimulates it. You can hum a song, or even better repeat the sound ‘OM’.
- Speaking. Similarly speaking is helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords.
- Washing your face with cold water. The mechanism her is not known, but cold water on your face stimulates the vagus nerve.
- Meditation, especially loving kindness meditation which promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself and others.
- Balancing the gut microbiome. The presence of healthy bacteria in the gut creates a positive feedback loop through the vagus nerve, increasing its tone.