What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!
But when it comes to your vagus nerve (pronounced like Las Vegas), it carries signals to your brain, heart, lungs and digestive system. It’s the longest cranial nerve in your body, running from your brain all the way to your large intestine.
Your vagus nerve helps control involuntary sensory and motor functions like your heart rate, speech, mood and urine output. It helps your body switch back and forth between your flight-or-fight response and your parasympathetic mode, where you’re more relaxed.
But your vagus nerve can lose its ability to switch back to your parasympathetic mode due to factors like stress or age. Known as vagal dysfunction, it can put you at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety.
It’s no wonder then that a lot of attention has been on the vagus nerve and ways to improve how well it functions. If you’re looking to improve your overall health, you can naturally strengthen your vagus nerve in these easy ways.
Turn to this practice to help calm your mind and focus on deep breathing. While doing meditation, try extending your exhales, making them longer than your inhales. This will help slow your heart rate.
Yoga can also be helpful for the same reasons. Just make sure you pay attention to your breathing.
Most people take about 10 to 14 breaths each minute. Taking about 6 breaths over the course of a minute is a great way to relieve stress. You should breathe in deeply from your diaphragm. When you do this, your stomach should expand outward. Your exhale should be long and slow. This is key to stimulating the vagus nerve and reaching a state of relaxation.
Many brain health experts recommend exercise as their number one piece of advice for optimal brain health. Working out and getting your body moving can affect your vagus nerve. Interval training and endurance training can increase your vagus nerve activity and improve your heart rate variability. Walking, weightlifting and sprinting are the best forms of exercise, but you should choose a sport or exercise routine that you enjoy, so that you will stick with it consistently.
Research shows that reflexology can increase vagal tone and even decrease blood pressure.
Try giving yourself a foot massage by rotating your ankle, rubbing your sole in short strokes and gently stretching your toes back and forth.
Music can help motivate us, bring us joy and tap into our emotions. When it comes to the vagus nerve, the research is mixed on how music affects it. Your vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords, the muscles at the back of your throat and passes through your inner ear.
Try humming or singing or just listening to calm, soothing music. Those sounds and vibrations may stimulate your vagus nerve.
You may have seen well-known personalities recently testing this idea on Instagram Live by dunking their head in a bowl of ice water to help destress. And plenty of professional athletes use cold-water immersion to improve short-term feelings of relaxation.
Research shows that cold-water immersion may help with stress by slowing your heart rate and directing blood flow to your brain. Try placing an ice pack on your face or neck or taking a cold shower. Try finishing your next shower with at least 30 seconds of cold water and see how you feel. Then work your way up to longer periods of time.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to researchers that gut bacteria such as Lactobacillus Rhamnosus improve brain function by affecting the vagus nerve.
Benefits of stimulating your vagus nerve
Your vagus nerve affects your mental and physical health in a variety of ways. Using these simple ways to stimulate your vagus nerve can help with the following:
Regulate your emotions.
Reduce blood pressure.
Lower your heart rate.
Treat migraines and cluster headaches.
Your vagus nerve plays a powerful role in your body. Keeping your vagus nerve strong and balanced can help you respond more effectively to a variety of emotional and physiological symptoms.
You don’t have to be controlled by your body and mind. You have the power to tell them what to do!By stimulating the vagus nerve, you can send a message to your body that it’s time to relax and de-stress, which leads to long-term improvements in mood, wellbeing and resilience.