The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. It starts in the brain, circles around our digestive system, and connects to every organ. The vagus nerve is a part of the parasympathetic nervous system and is one of the most important nerves because of the effects it can have on the human body. Nowadays, doctors track the vagal tone of patients who have had a heart attack because of the risk of recurring episodes. Vagal tone is the tone of the vagus nerve and is measured by tracking the heart-rate along with the breathing rate. Higher the vagal tone is, faster the body relaxes after an episode of stress. Lower vagal tone is risky and can cause inflammation, resulting the nerve in underperforming.
When our vagus nerve faces a problem, it can cause brain fog, neurotransmitter imbalance, digestive disorders, and more. Let us see how we can activate our vagus nerve and increase the vagal tone.
People who meditate have been found to have significantly higher vagal tone as it is associated with increase in positivity. Positive emotions let people increase their social connection. It has also been noted that the chanting of “Om” stimulates the vagus nerve. This is because the term “Om” creates an internal vibration in our throat and stimulates other organs too. This indicates that meditation can help a lot in improving the functioning of our vagus nerve.
2. Body Massage
Massaging several areas in our body can stimulate the vagus nerve effectively. For example, a foot massage or a neck massage stimulates the activities of the vagus nerve. It has been found that a neck massage along the carotid sinus (towards the right of your throat where pulse is checked) can activate the functioning of the vagus nerve to a great extent.
3. Singing, Speaking, And Chanting
Singing makes you feel good, but it does more than that. When you sing loud, at the top of your lungs, the oxytocin secretion increases and the muscles at the back of our throat gets worked out more. This, in turn, activates the vagus nerve. When you sing in unison in a choir group or in an open concert, the HRV and vagus function also increase significantly, thereby activating our vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve also gets stimulated and the vagal tone increases when you engage yourself in humming, chanting, hymn singing, and upbeat energy singing. Speaking too makes it possible for increasing our vagal tone as the vocal cords get connected when we speak.
4. Yoga And Deep Breathing
Yoga has always proved have amazing effects on the human body. When you practice yoga, the vagus nerve’s activity and your parasympathetic system gets stimulated to a great extent. This is because of the increase in the thalamic GABA levels. An increase in the GABA levels improves your mood and decreases your anxiety.
Deep breathing is a great way to relax your body and improve your mood. Deep breathing in certain techniques also helps in activating the vagus nerve in a great way. You can practice yogic breathing or alternate nostril breathing. It can also be done by inhaling deeply, closing the airway while pushing the breath against the inside of your chest, and bearing down with your abdominal muscles, in a way that you are trying to pass the gas. This helps in applying internal pressure from the lungs to the surrounding organs, thereby stimulating the vagus nerve as it is connected to the digestive system, heart, and lungs.
5. Fasting Or Reducing Calorie Intake Therapeutically
As we have seen that the vagus nerve is responsible for digestion, it is important to keep our digestive system healthy. If stress in the body increases, the digestive system may shut itself down and our vagal tone will decrease, resulting in many health problems. So, it is necessary to keep fasting from time to time. In that way, we will help our empty stomach send signals back to the brain that digestion is not necessary and the energy stored in the body can be used for relaxation. Periodic fasting or reduction in calorie intake results in an increase in the high-frequency heart rate variability, and thus increases the vagal tone.
We can see that a healthy life full of happiness can be achieved through yoga, deep breathing, meditation, singing, laughing more often, and also, reducing calorie intake, so that our digestive system stays happy. This, in turn, proves that a healthy and happy lifestyle helps us activate our vagus nerve and in also helps it work effectively.