Calming Your Nervous System Using These Vagus Nerve Practices

Are you feeling a little out of control or unable to calm yourself? Most of us do, at one time or another.

Here are a few tips for learning how to self-soothe when it feels like your thoughts or body have taken over. That out of control feeling is usually associated with the sympathetic nervous system.

Our sympathetic nervous system is the part of our nervous system that mobilizes us into action. If our nervous system detects a threat, real or perceived, it will trigger our fight/flight/freeze response. If there isn’t a real threat, and we do not need the mobilization of our protective mechanisms, then we need to recruit our parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part that calms us down.

The vagus nerve is the most influential nerve in our parasympathetic nervous system. It functions like your body’s natural reset button. Learning how to stimulate your vagus nerve allows you to bring about the calm, collected feeling we all desire.

Vagal Tone

Higher vagal tone is associated with better general health. It leads to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, better blood sugar regulation, improved digestion and a reduction in migraines. Most importantly, it is associated with increased emotional stability, resiliency and longevity.

Lower vagal tone is associated with mood instability, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, chronic inflammation, memory issues, and cardiovascular disease.

How To Activate Your Vagus Nerve

  • Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Splashing cold water on your face, or taking a cold shower.
  • Holding a bag of ice against your face or chest, with slow breathing. Or submerge your tongue in cold liquid.
  • Meditating.
  • Do yoga.
  • Humming, or making a “vooooooo” or “om” sound stimulates the vocal cords and facilitates long, slow, exhalation.
  • Valsalva Maneuver: Exhale against a closed airway by keeping your mouth closed and pinching your nose while trying to breathe out. It increases the pressure inside of your chest cavity thereby stimulating your vagus nerve.
  • Prosody, the act of speaking slowly, rhythmically and melodically as if you’re soothing a young child. 
  • SPEND TIME IN NATURE. (not yelling, just stressing the point)
  • Engage in positive healthy relationships.
  • Laugh loudly. A full belly laugh stimulates the vagus nerve and is contagious!
  • Engage in gratitude or prayer.
  • Mild exercise stimulates gut flow and the vagus nerve.
  • Massages, even gently massaging around the carotid sinus (sides of your neck) can stimulate the vagus nerve.
  • Gargling activates the vagus nerve by activating the muscles in the back of the throat while exhaling slowly.
  • Cultivate healthy intestinal bacteria.

Stimulating the vagus nerve stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turns reduces our experience of stress. It reduces our heart rate and blood pressure. It also influences the limbic system in our brain, where emotions are processed. It stimulates digestion and creates an increased feeling of well-being.

Yes, all that from the vagus nerve!

Thanks to the Innis Integrative for sharing their passion for healing.

I invite you to start a daily practice of stimulating your vagus nerve. Small changes can have a big impact!

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