Larissa Joyce

VAGUS NERVE: What is it? How to activate it.

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The Vagus Nerve is a nerve that is part of the parasympathetic nervous system. Vagus in Latin means wandering. The Vagus Nerve is a wandering nerve that wanders all the way from the brain to the heart into the gut. This nerve when activated helps the body to rest and digest.

I have been really stressed out lately and dealing with anxiety and depression. I have noticed that I was having this weird head thing going on. I also had an upset stomach every morning and having a few heart palpitations and I know my diet has been perfect in that I haven’t eaten any foods to trigger these palpitations. It wasn’t until I had an anxiety attack that I realized all of these symptoms were connected. It has been smokey here in Washington so I thought these symptoms were related to the smoke. I hadn’t had anxiety in years so it wasn’t really on my mind that these were anxiety symptoms.

I began researching how to activate the Vagus Nerve besides the usual slow controlled breathing technique that I learned several years ago in EMDR therapy. More on EMDR in another post to come. I called on Dr. Google and his wisdom and saw many other ways to activate the Vagus Nerve.

  • Cold water splashed on the face.
  • Drinking an ice cold drink.
  • Laughing
  • Compassion
  • Singing, chanting
  • Yoga, meditation
  • Females Orgasm…sorry guys
  • Bearing down like you are pooping
  • Slow controlled breathing
  • Positive thoughts
  • Healthy Omega Fats
  • Probiotics

Why would we want to activate our Vagus Nerve? When you are feeling anxious or in a panic, the Sympathetic Nervous System is activated and this is better known as “fight or flight”. This would be the perfect time to activate the Vagus Nerve by doing one of the above actions for activation. What happens then is that the Parasympathetic System kicks in slowing digestion, heart rate, and calms the body and the mood. It calms the brain, heart, and gut and tells it that there is nothing to fear and to just rest and digest. During the day when we do these activations by rote, it puts us in a good positive mood. Think about how you feel after driving the car and singing along to the radio. You feel good when you arrive at your destination because you have been at rest and relaxed while you sang.

Next time you feel anxious find a quiet place and breath. Here is the technique that I use.

Inhale until you can’t inhale any more air and hold it for 8 seconds.

Exhale slowly until its all gone.

Take a normal inhale and exhale.

Inhale and repeat the exercise. I like to do anywhere from a minimum of ten times to a maximum of 20. Instead of counting I just make a fist and at each inhale I pop a finger up and count on my fingers, my hands resting comfortably in my lap.

Hopefully, this helps you and if not that you have learned something new. Watch for a future post where I talk about how attending church activates the Vagus Nerve and why we attribute this to a religious experience.


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