Want to Calm Down? Activate the Vagus Nerve – Here’s How

With such hectic and fast-paced lives, we all tend to try to reach for moments of inner peace and calm. However, trying to de-stress is harder than ever. If you really want to do something to calm down, all you have to do is to try and activate the vagus nerve.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this cranial nerve, including its function, what it does, and more. Find out how to activate the vagus nerve to increase inner peace, de-stress, and calm down today.

What is the Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve, carrying signals from the brain to the heart, lungs, and digestive system. It is responsible for a variety of processes in the body, including heart rate and other cardiovascular activities like blood pressure, breathing, digestion, and reflex action. It is also a part of immune response, coughing, sneezing, and swallowing.

Not only does it control unconscious actions, like breathing, heart rate, and digestion, but it is also a part of the switch between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The parasympathetic nervous system is also called the rest and digest system. It is responsible for starting up smooth digestion, lowering blood pressure, reducing heart rate, and reducing adrenaline in the bloodstream. The vagus nerve contains a large portion of the system. In other words, it can help move you from fight or flight to a relaxed state. 

When we deal with chronic stress, the vagus nerve is less able to return you to rest, and the parasympathetic nervous system is not utilized. That is why it is so important to manage stress successfully. Here are some ways to manage stress, and keep reading to find out exactly how you can activate the vagus nerve in order to further calm down.

How to Activate the Vagus Nerve

Here is how to activate the vagus nerve. These are simple techniques, backed by science, and can greatly impact your mental wellbeing. Activating the vagus nerve is important as it can help contribute to physical health as well. This nerve is responsible for involuntary processes such as digestion, respiration, and cardiovascular activity. Learning how you can activate this nerve can help you boost the efficiency of these involuntary processes that are vital for life.

1. Cold Water Plunge

Cold water has gotten a lot of attention on social media, what with ice baths and dips in frozen lakes. There is actual, research-based information that supports the use of cold water immersion. It can help with stress, lowering heart rate and boosting the flow of blood to the brain. In fact, the cold may even help activate the vagus nerve. 

Luckily, there’s no need for an icy pond or bath. Next time you are feeling stressed and need to calm down, try to place a cold compass or ice cube on the back of your neck or chest for a couple of seconds.

2. Exercise

As stated in this article here, exercise is not just a way to gain muscle or change your body. It has amazing physical and mental benefits. Not only will exercise improve cardiovascular health, but it can also improve heart rate variability. 

Exercise can lower the sympathetic nervous system and will help your parasympathetic response improve. This means you will have a good balance between the two, which can improve cardiovascular and respiratory function in the long run.

3. Music

Music can activate emotion. Research has found that listening to sad music can promote a sadness response in the body. On the other hand, listening to more upbeat and happy music can invoke joy. This, in and of itself, can help us calm down in trying times, but it’s not just about listening to music though.

When you use your vocal cords, even for normal speech, you’re activating muscles that connect to the vagus nerve. Whenever you sing or hum, those vibrations can help physically stimulate and activate the vagus nerve. Even listening to music will help activate the vagus nerve as well, since some of the nerve passes through the inner ear.

4. Meditate

When you meditate, you are activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the body responsible for relaxing you. This is essential in activating the vagus nerve. Furthermore, you can have a vocalized hum or mantra which can also help activate this nerve. Regular meditators even have physical differences in the brain which indicate that the more you meditate, the more cognitive function you have and the better you are able to regulate your emotions.

Meditation is a way to calm down and relax the body and mind. It involves breathing deeply and turning your attention to something specific, such as your own body. There are many ways to meditate, some of which can be found here. Not sure where to begin? Here is a simple beginner’s guide to meditation!

5. Breathe

Saving the best, and easiest, for last, if you want to activate the vagus nerve, you just need to breathe. Deep breaths, including those used during meditation and yoga, are extremely powerful and relaxing. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve. 

When you breathe deeply, you send signals to the brain that it is time to rest and relax. This reduces stress and starts to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is connected to the vagus nerve.

The Takeaway

If you want to calm down, a great method is to purposefully activate the vagus nerve. This nerve is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, along with a lot of involuntary functions such as breathing, heart rate, and digestion. The health and activation of this nerve impactful body wellness. Learning daily habits you can use to activate this nerve is vital.

Remember that health comes from within. Eat healthy, nutritious meals, exercise when you can, and take care of your mental health. Daily habits become the building blocks for emotional, mental, and physical health. Take care of your gut health too! Learn everything you need to know about gut microbiota today for free here.

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