3 Ways to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve
When it comes to fighting stress and remaining calm, there’s no better way to do it than vagus nerve stimulation. If you’ve never heard this term, it’s time to find out what it is and how to stimulate it.
74 per cent Indians reported feeling stressed, according to a 2020 study (after the first wave of COVID-19) undertaken by The Centre of Healing. While it’s natural to feel stressed or anxious at some point in your life, it can become overwhelming and exhausting for both body and mind when it goes on for too long.
Understanding how your vagus nerve works is crucial to feel more relaxed and calmer in your daily life. Here’s what you should know about the vagus nerve and how to stimulate it.
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What Is The Vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve is also known as vagal nerves and refers to the main nerves in the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system controls bodily functions like your immune system, heart rate, and digestion. Since these functions are involuntary, your mind cannot control how they function.
The information relayed between your brain, heart, and digestive system is done through the vagal nerves. The vagus nerve is also known as the cranial nerve X (Roman numeral for 10). It is the longest cranial nerve. The sympathetic nervous system controls your ‘fight or flight’ responses, whereas the parasympathetic system looks over the ‘rest and digest’ functions.
How Does It Work?
The vagal nerves play a crucial role in involuntary functions and are a part of your body’s nervous system. According to Cleveland Clinic (USA), some bodily functions that it controls besides the ones mentioned above are:
- Blood pressure and respiration
- Skin and muscle sensations
- Immune system responses
- Urine output
Why Does It Need Stimulation?
While the vagus nerve plays an important role in your body, you might wonder why it requires external stimulation. There are many conditions that can arise when your vagus nerve is not adequately stimulated, like gastroparesis and vasovagal syncope. You may have acid reflux, abdominal pain, and even nausea due to an improperly functioning vagus nerve.
According to Cleveland Clinic, vagus nerve stimulation can aid in calming down any irregular activity in your brain. A 2018 study in Frontiers of Psychiatry also shows that vagus nerve stimulation can affect mood and anxiety disorders. It can also affect an individual’s capacity to regulate stress responses.
Physical Vagus Nerve Exercises
there are several ways to stimulate your vagus nerve naturally,. According to Allied Services (USA), here are some physical exercises you can try to stimulate your vagus nerve:
- Breathing slowly (six breaths per minute) while also deeply. Your breathing should start from the stomach, expanding your abdomen and widening your ribcage as you inhale. It is similar to breathing exercises done during yoga. Exhale longer than you inhale, as the exhale can trigger relaxation.
- Opting for a foot massage or even a firm touch can stimulate the vagus nerve
- Having a laughing session can also do wonders in stimulating your vagus nerve. It can also boost your immune system and lift your mood.
If you’ve seen many people on social media dousing their faces in cold water or ice cubes every morning, it’s not just for the beauty benefits. Cold water face immersion can also stimulate the vagus nerve, decrease heart rate and stimulate your intestines and the immune system.
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Psychological Vagus Nerve Exercises
How you feel and what you’re thinking can also help in activating or stimulating your vagus nerve. When your mind is calm, and your thoughts are positive, your vagus nerve will generally be more stimulated. Here are some exercises you can try to improve your mood and stimulate your vagus nerve:
- Journalling: Writing five things you are grateful for every day can help uplift your mood and activate your parasympathetic nervous system. When you become accustomed to this, it will help in stimulating your vagus nerve first thing every morning.
- Meditating: When you’re having trouble focusing and getting into a ‘zen’ mode, meditating can be a great solution. You don’t have to meditate for hours; a simple 10-15 minutes can do. A 2018 study in the National Library of Medicine shows that breathing exercises can do wonders in stimulating the vagus nerve.
Related story: De-Stress In Four Minutes With Box Breathing
If you’re suffering from a medical condition involving your vagus nerve or require added stimulation, opting for a device may be required. A vagus nerve stimulation device is placed within your body and sends electric impulses to your parasympathetic nervous system. It has been used in cases of depression and epilepsy that don’t respond to other treatments.
A 2015 study in the National Library of Medicine shows that there may be a link between depression, heart disease, and metabolic disease. Utilising a VNS device can have a positive effect on these conditions, according to the research.
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