Meet the Vagus Nerve
The word “vagus” means wandering in Latin, which makes sense as the vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body. It runs from the brain stem to part of the colon.
We should give this nerve a little extra love because it is responsible for:
- heart rate
- cardiovascular activity
- reflex actions, such as coughing, sneezing, swallowing, and vomiting
It plays a role in the autonomic nervous system, which controls actions people do unconsciously, such as breathing and digestion. And is a part of our fight or flight response.
That’s a lot, right?
To go even further, it may also form a link between the gut and the brain, playing a role in what scientists call the gut-brain axis.
Experts have been studying the gut-brain axis to look for links between conditions like depression.
So how can you support/stimulate/and tone your vagus nerve for peaceful living?
We have some ideas…
One of the main ways that you can stimulate the healthy function of the vagus nerve is through deep, slow belly breathing. A Breathwork class like one offered by Karen Kelly is an easy way to (re)learn full breathing to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, and turn the dial down on cortisol. This breathing exercise is goof everyone, even children:
- Lie on your back, place one hand on your chest, and the other on your belly.
- Close your eyes and relax the weight of your whole body onto the ground.
- When ready, breathe in slowly through the nose. The hand on your belly should rise, the one on your chest should not. Repeat breathing slowly, without judgement. (You’ll get there!)
- When you’ve found your belly breathing, on inhale, take a deep breath on a count of 4, and then slowly breathe out on the same count of 4. After a handful of rounds doing 4:4, extend the exhale to 6 or 8.
- Continue for as long as feels good. Gently transition into your day.
Working with herbs can help to tone the nervous system, including the vagus nerve. Lemon balm makes for an excellent natural sedative.
Along with passionflower, chamomile and mallow, lemon balm is a relaxant par excellence. Fantastic against anxiety and all sorts of worries, lemon balm also stands out for its sedative properties which are really useful against flu symptoms. A little warning: be careful not to overdose: lemon balm can have an exciting effect if taken in large quantities.
In the form of herbal tea, it helps lower your temperature and eliminate extra toxins. However, this healthy and good mood infusion also alleviates menstrual syndrome symptoms like nausea and cramps. Lemon balm’s essential oil is a natural analgesic and helps treat headaches and relax the nervous system and muscles.
We love this Calm by Masha Tea.
Every individual has different reasons for meditating, from relieving job stress and reducing anxiety of all kinds and minimizing physical pain to improving relationships and determining life's direction.
Meditation can provide immediate relief. Longterm, meditation can be used to get to the heart of anxious feelings and make deeper changes. There are plenty of places for you to begin, or so Mr Google says... No matter where you start, our pal Nate Martinez makes music that helps you connect with your breath, to explore deep listening and to unplug from your busy life for a moment.
Have a good laugh! Laughter and smiling is a great way to destress. In fact, research shows you can reverse engineer happiness by smiling alone! Go for a walk with a friend who makes you grin, or call someone who never fails to make you giggle (stop by the shop and say hello!). What does it for you is subjective, and… we’re all for going down a yuk yuk rabbit hole on Tik Tok, a SNL comedy compilation or this Bugs Bunny classic.
All of us at Boketto wishes you ease, all ways.