You may not be aware, but you carry a relaxation button in your back pocket. It is known as the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the body, has the primary function of activating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The sympathetic nervous system, associated with the "fight and flight" response, and the parasympathetic nervous system, associated with "rest and digest," are the two branches of the nervous system.
The vagus nerve, which originates in the brainstem and travels through the neck and down to the abdomen, is not, of course, physically positioned in your back pocket. Its primary job is to control your heart and breathing rates as well as digestion. When it's active, it will reduce your body's physiological reaction to stress, helping you to feel calmer. The good news, then? You can perform particular exercises to stimulate your vagus nerve.
The game of trying to escape stress is hopeless. Since stress is so every day, how you handle it has the greatest impact on your well-being. Vagus nerve stimulation can therefore be a technique you use whenever you need to unwind.
Om chanting and 4 Other Vagus Nerve Exercises That Will Rewire Your Brain
There are many ways to stimulate this nerve, and they can be fun, relaxing, or integrated into your daily routines. You can select the activities that you enjoy and make yourself feel good rather than having to engage in them all. You can choose the ones that you now require or that resonate with you. The vagus nerve exercises shown below should be done for a total of five minutes per day:
1) Cold Exposure
Exposure to acute cold has been demonstrated to stimulate the vagus nerve, which in turn stimulates cholinergic neurons via vagus nerve pathways. Additionally, studies have shown that routine exposure to cold can reduce your sympathetic "fight or flight" response and boost parasympathetic activity via the vagus nerve. Take chilly showers and dress minimally when going outside in the cold. However, the idea is not to fall ill, but rather just experience the cold to stimulate the nerve.
See how you feel after taking your next shower with at least 30 seconds of cold water. Then progress to greater intervals of time. Alternatively, you can ease into it by simply submerging your face in ice water.
2) Deep and Slow Breathing
Stimulating the vagus nerve has been demonstrated to lower anxiety and boost the parasympathetic nervous system.
The average person breathes 10 to 14 times per minute. One of the best ways to reduce stress is to take six breaths in a minute. Diaphragmatic breathing is something you can really try. Your stomach should enlarge while you do this. Exhale slowly and for a long time. This is essential for activating the vagus nerve and achieving relaxation.
Exercise boosts growth hormones in the brain, maintains brain mitochondria, and slows cognitive decline. But it has also been demonstrated to stimulate the vagus nerve, which may account for its advantageous effects on the brain and mental health.
For optimum brain health, exercise is frequently cited as the best piece of advice by professionals in the field. The finest exercises are sprinting, lifting weights, and walking, but you should pick a sport or workout regimen that you enjoy in order to continue with it regularly.
4) Om chanting
Chant a lengthy "om," the same Om that is used during yoga practice, while seated in a peaceful area. Around your ears, there should be a vibration that originates from the vagus nerve. Chanting "om" has been shown to deactivate specific limbic brain regions involved in stress and emotional responses, including the amygdala.
5) Engaging in things that you love
Exposing yourself to beautiful things, such as sunsets, time spent in nature, lovely images, or playing with your pets can have a positive impact on your mood.
Randomized controlled research published emphasizes that everything that elicits positive emotions—and this is different for everyone—increases vagal tone and has been demonstrated to be a factor in maintaining good physical health.
An excellent method for enhancing your health is using relaxation techniques that activate your vagus nerve. Your body and mind do not have to control you. You have the authority to direct them. When you experience bouts of stress or pain, the focus is on survival (which is great for the short-term). Once this stressor is gone, our vagus nerve acts as a brake and switches us back to a state of rest, relaxation & safety.
By performing certain daily techniques to train & tone the vagus nerve, it allows this brake to be engaged more efficiently to build a resilient and flexible nervous system! Overall, you must incorporate some of the aforementioned exercises into your routine so that you can live a more fulfilling life and rewire your brain.
Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.
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