Home Health Harnessing the Power of Your Vagus Nerve to Improve Mental Health
Vagus Nerve to Improve Mental Health

Harnessing the Power of Your Vagus Nerve to Improve Mental Health

by Robin Smith

Our bodies have several nervous systems. You are likely familiar with the nerves that facilitate the movement of arms for throwing a ball or your legs for jumping. You are aware of the fight-or-flight response activated by fear. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for that. Many of us tend to overlook the importance of the parasympathetic nervous system. Activation of it leads to the promotion of a “rest and digest” reaction. The vagus nerve is the largest nerve associated with this.

Vagus Nerve

The length of the vagus nerve is unexpectedly extensive. Despite being the tenth cranial nerve. It has a wide-reaching path beyond the head and face, connecting various organs such as the lungs, throat, inner ear, diaphragm, and digestive tract. This particular component of the brain’s parasympathetic nervous system impacts various bodily functions such as memory, relaxation, breathing, and inflammation. Thus, harnessing its power can easily improve your mental health.

Vagus Nerve and Mental Health

Stimulating or harnessing your vagus nerve can assist you in transitioning out of a state of stress and anxiety and improve your mental health.

Several devices and techniques can be used to perform vagus nerve stimulation. An implantable vagus nerve stimulator has been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for treating depression and epilepsy. The device provides stimulation to particular areas of the brain that activate seizures and affect the emotional state.

Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) is a further technique that can briefly raise the levels of GABA and noradrenaline in the brain. It is safe and does not involve surgery. You may buy tvns devices from reputable online sites if you need one.

Some other methods you may follow yourself to harness your vagus nerve are as follows.

1. Breathe deep

Breathing exercises are commonly suggested for managing stress and anxiety. Additionally, there is another compelling reason to give them a shot. Deep and slow breathing from the abdomen stimulates the vagus nerve. To activate our relaxation response, breathing out for longer than breathing in is helpful. Some specific meditation can stimulate the vagus nerve. It is resulting in increased feelings of relaxation and connection.

2. Massaging

Applying pressure to any part of your body can be beneficial for relaxation. But it is believed that massaging the feet specifically is beneficial for stimulating the vagus nerve. Consider trying self-massage, asking a partner for assistance, or treating yourself to a reflex therapy session to gauge the effects on your well-being. For a more direct stimulation of the vagus nerve, you may gently massage the areas around your neck, shoulders, and behind your ears.

3. Singing

The vagus nerve travels up the neck, and by engaging your vocal cords, you can stimulate it with a gentle nudge. Singing has the ability to enhance our overall well-being. Therefore, creating a playlist of your favorite sing-along songs would be a great idea. If you are not a singer, consider gargling water humming as an alternative.

4. Cold Water Immersion

Although exposure to the cold may not seem relaxing, it is believed to trigger the relaxation response and reduce inflammation in your body. Consider immersing your face in chilly water or taking a cold shower if you are feeling daring. It may be beneficial for you to begin with brief exposures and gradually increase their duration if you find them to be effective.

5. Listening to ASMR

Have you ever experienced a sensation of tingling in your brain when you encounter certain sounds? ASMR, also known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a phenomenon that can induce a soothing and tranquil sensation.

According to psychotherapist Nicola Vanlint, our brains are naturally programmed to trigger our survival instincts in response to specific sounds such as loud voices, crashes, and bangs. ASMR may be able to calm the nervous system, thus facilitating the opposite effect. It can be a great way to relax your mind and give you a sense of calmness.

6. Connecting with Others

The feeling of being alone in our struggles can be intensified by isolation, which can worsen your stress levels and, thus, your mental health. Building connections with others and experiencing a sense of belonging can be an excellent approach to gaining perspective and soothing your nervous system. Reconnect with your loved ones by calling a friend, organizing a family get-together, or contacting your colleagues to revive that feeling of closeness and maintain good mental health.

7. Exercising

Many know that exercise triggers the release of “feel good” hormones, but recent research has shown that it also activates the vagus nerve. The key is to discover a physical activity that you find enjoyable so that it becomes a source of pleasure rather than a tedious task. Try out various exercises to find what suits you best. Dancing to the songs you love in your living room can be a great way to uplift your mood and nurture your mental health.

8. Laughing

In addition to its ability to stimulate the vagus nerve, laughter has been shown to have the potential to reduce blood pressure and enhance mood. To experience the wonderful benefits, you must embrace your silly side, determine joy in the little things, and often laugh with loved ones.

Final Words

Stimulating the vagus nerve can positively affect your mental health and the autonomic nervous system. It helps harness the power of your vagus nerve. Having a healthy vagus nerve can lead to emotional regulation, improved social connections, and better physical health. You will possess a greater degree of resilience and will be capable of overcoming trauma and adversity. A strong vagus nerve is associated with a higher likelihood of success. So, follow the tips mentioned above and harness the power of your vagus nerve and lead a life with sound mental health.

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