We like to think that we have complete control over our thoughts and behaviors, but are we? The human mind is extremely complicated, relies on a complicated nervous system and takes into account both the “nature” and “care” factors to make us what we are. While we may think we’re feeling sad or angry for a reason, the real motivation may be somewhere else.
Enter the vagus nerve
Consider the complexity of the human vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the largest nerve in your body and arguably the most important. Its starting point is the brain stem – the area of the brain that is responsible for the unconscious control of our most important bodily functions – and from there it travels through the esophagus, chest, heart and stomach organs.
The vagus nerve connects the brain to the stomach and coordinates the signals between the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which work in opposite directions in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). It also plays a role in digestion and your feelings before, during and after eating – how often do you often feel tired after a big meal. Its functionality is extensive and complex, and scientists still don’t understand everything he does.
However, we do know that the vagus nerve plays a role in creating the “gut feeling” that you sometimes have in response to new situations or new information. It can also play a role in creating your “fight or flight” response. When you experience a sudden increase in stress, your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes faster, and your blood pressure increases. These changes are fantastic if you are in a really life-threatening situation and you are providing the physical changes you need to fight or flee more effectively. But in everyday life, these elevated values can actually be problematic.
Accordingly, positive stimulation of the vagus nerve with a number of positive effects for diseases such as:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
If you suffer from any of these mental and physical conditions, adequate stimulation of your vagus nerve can bring some relief.
How to stimulate the vagus nerve
How do you stimulate your vagus nerve? For starters, your vagus nerve is naturally unconsciously stimulated by a variety of variables in your environment. However, it is entirely in your control to intentionally stimulate the vagus nerve.
There are several ways to do this:
- Deep breathing. One of the best ways to stimulate your vagus nerve positively is to breathe deeply and focus on your diaphragm. Try to breathe in slowly through your nose and mouth. This breathing exercise at the stomach level increases blood flow to your intestines, activates the parasympathetic nervous system and stimulates the vague nerve through a proxy. It’s also a great way to center your thoughts, slow down your heart rate, and take control of your mind. Consider breathing deeply in moments of high stress and occasionally throughout the day.
- Physical exercise, especially cardiovascular training and strength training, is ideal for stimulating the vagus nerve in a healthy way. Of course, the benefits of exercise are well documented and at least a little understood by the public. If you exercise vigorously every day or almost every day, you maintain a healthier weight, you are less likely to face mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and you are less prone to physical illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
- Yoga is an effective combination of exercise and deep breathing, making it an exceptional choice for stimulating the vagus nerve. During your yoga routine, you will involve your body in physical stretching and strength-based training while breathing deeply and focusing your thoughts.
- Healthy social interactions. Healthy social interactions are good for you, especially given their effects on the vagus nerve. Work to improve your relationships with loved ones, and consider reaching out to old friends and family you haven’t spoken to in a while. Most importantly, let go and have fun with others as often as possible.
- Direct stimulation. It is also possible to stimulate the vagus nerve with gentle electrical impulses. Some patients have received vagus nerve stimulation in the form of surgically implanted electronic devices, but nowadays people are more likely to use specially designed earphones to gently stimulate the vagus nerve.
Stimulating the vagus nerve may not completely solve the medial problems you are facing. However, in a difficult situation, you may be able to take control or alleviate your symptoms. If you continue to have difficulty with your medical problems, or if you experience a massive deterioration in your quality of life because of these problems, it is important that you talk to a doctor about your problems.
Do you wanna tell your strange story Tell us about it and it could be featured on Oddee. You can remain completely anonymous.