The Vagus Nerve is the longest nerve in your body.
Vagus means “Wandering” and this nerve connects your brain to many organs throughout the body including the gut, heart and lungs. Studies have shown that it plays a key part in your Parasympathetic nervous system which is the sub-system that controls our relaxation, digestion and resting heart rate. An active Vagus Nerve can help us to relax faster after stressful situations and has a huge impact on our mental health and ability to switch off.
Here are a number of ways in which you can easily stimulate your Vagus Nerve and improve your overall health:
Expose yourself to the cold – Not always pleasant, but regular exposure to low temperatures through a cold shower or going outside with minimal clothing on, can lower your “Fight or Flight” response and increase Parasympathetic activity. Ease yourself in gently by sticking your face in cold water and building up to finishing your shower with a cold blast.
Deep and Slow breathing – Deliberate deep and slow breathing activates the Vagus Nerve. Reducing your breathing rate to about 6 per minute is a great way to relieve stress. Breathe in deeply from your Diaphragm and exhale long and slow.
Singing, Humming or Chanting – The Vagus Nerve is connected to your vocal cords and the muscles at the back of your throat. Singing, Humming, Chanting and Gargling activate these muscles and, therefore, stimulate the nerve.
Healthy Diet – A diet that contains Omega – 3 Fatty acids and promotes good gut bacteria has been shown to improve brain functionality by affecting the Vagus Nerve. Good dietary sources are Fish, Yoghurt and some Fermented foods.
Exercise – Many brain health experts recommend exercise to improve cognitive function and mental health. It’s also been shown to stimulate the Vagus Nerve. Choose a sport or activity that you enjoy so that you will stick with it. Activities with friends are particularly beneficial.
Massage – Massage is known for its’ ability to get us to relax and to help ease our aches and pains. It has been used for thousands of years as a health and wellness tool. Although all touch taps into our nervous system, feet and neck massages have been shown to be particularly beneficial at stimulating the Vagus Nerve.
If you need any help or advice about how Exercise and/or Massage can help you to lead a healthier and more relaxing life, please get in touch.