When you think of your daily exercise routine, it might include things like jogging, lifting weights, or swimming laps. But what about exercises for your vagus nerve? Today, we'll explore the vagus nerve and why daily vagus nerve exercises can significantly improve your health and overall well-being.
The vagus nerve is an extensive cranial nerve that starts in your brainstem and extends down to your abdomen. It's responsible for many vital functions, including controlling the muscles of your digestive system, heart rate, and breathing.
For example, when you eat a meal, the vagus nerve signals your stomach to start digesting food. It also plays a role in the fight-or-flight response, helping to regulate your heart rate and blood pressure in times of stress.
Research shows that the vagus nerve is also involved in social and emotional processing. This may explain why some people find activities like meditation and yoga to help reduce anxiety and improve mood.
One of the ways that daily vagus nerve exercises can help reduce stress is by stimulating the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter has calming and relaxing effects on the body, which can help counteract the stress response.
In addition, daily vagus nerve exercises can help increase heart rate variability (HRV). This is a measure of the time between each heartbeat, and it's thought to be a marker of autonomic nervous system function.
Studies have found that people with higher levels of HRV are better able to handle stress and recover from stressful situations. Thus, daily vagus nerve exercises that increase HRV may help you become more resilient to stress.
Finally, daily vagus nerve exercises may help you feel more connected to others. This is because the vagus nerve is involved in social and emotional processing.
Research shows that people who stimulate their vagus nerve with daily exercises aremore likely to report feeling more empathy and compassion for others. They're also more likely to experience positive emotions like happiness, love, and gratitude. Yes—really!
Now that you know how daily vagus nerve exercises can help reduce stress, let's talk about some exercises you can try to achieve this goal!
There are many ways to stimulate the vagus nerve. But the five daily vagus nerve exercises we'll tell you next involve breath work, meditation, cold water face immersion, meditation/chanting, and tapping.
One relaxing way to stimulate the vagus nerve is by doing breathing exercises. These exercises involve deep breathing and can be done anywhere, at any time.
To do an essential breathwork exercise:
You can also try alternate nostril breathing. Again, this breathwork exercise is specifically designed to stimulate the vagus nerve.
To give it a try:
Meditation is another excellent way to stimulate the vagus nerve. This practice involves focusing your attention on a particular object or sound and letting go of all other thoughts.
You can also try guided meditation, which is a type of meditation that involves following along with a recorded voice or music. Guided meditation can be a great way to get started with meditation if you're new to the practice.
Cold water face immersion, also known as the "dip," is an effective way to stimulate the vagus nerve. This exercise involves splashing cold water on your face or a cold shower.
To do the dip, fill a bowl with cold water and splash your face several times. You can also take a cold shower, letting the water run over your face for at least 30 seconds.
You can also try full-body cold water immersion if you have the chance. This involves taking a dip in cold water, such as a lake, river, or ocean. You can even use your bathtub or have a cold shower! If you're new to cold water immersion, start with just a few minutes and work your way up to longer periods.
Another effective way to exercise the vagus nerve is through meditation or chanting. This exercise involves focusing your attention on a particular sound or mantra and letting go of all other thoughts.
To meditate or chant:
You can also try guided meditation or chanting, which is a good way to get started if you're new to the practice.
Tapping is an effective way to bring a sense of calm and relaxation over you. This exercise involves tapping on specific points on your body, such as your temples, forehead, chin, or even behind the ear, where you might reach the vagus nerve.
To do this exercise, sit or stand comfortably and gently tap on the points listed above. Tap for five to 10 minutes per day or any time you have a moment to spare.
Start by tapping on your temples with your index fingers. Then, tap on your forehead with your middle fingers. Next, tap on your chin with your ring fingers. Finally, tap on your chest with your pinkies.
The vagus nerve is a vital part of the nervous system, and daily exercises can help keep it healthy and functioning properly. Including some or all of the exercises above in your daily routine can help reduce stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. You may even find that your overall mood and energy levels improve!
Many potential health benefits come with daily vagus nerve exercises. For example, research has shown that stimulating the vagus nerve can help:
Interestingly, the vagus nerve has been shown to play a role in reducing inflammation. This is because the vagus nerve signals the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals like cytokines and interleukins.
One study found that people with arthritis who underwent vagus nerve stimulation therapy had reduced inflammation and pain levels.Another study found that people with inflammatory bowel disease who underwent daily vagus nerve exercises had less inflammation and a better quality of life.
Daily vagus nerve exercises may also help improve heart health because the vagus nerve helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
Studies have found that daily vagus nerve exercises can help lower blood pressure and heart rate in people with hypertension. In addition, daily exercises may help improve heart function in people with heart failure.
A daily vagus nerve exercise routine can also help prevent heart disease by reducing inflammation and improving heart health.
Because the vagus nerve is connected to the limbic system, which is responsible for regulating emotion, daily exercises can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Studies have found that daily vagus nerve exercises can help reduce anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. In addition, daily activities may help improve mood and quality of life in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Now you have several exercises in your pocket to try at any time. But making them part of your regular routine can be a challenge. So here are some tips to help you get started:
Start by setting a daily or weekly goal for how many times you'll do each exercise. For example, try to do the tapping exercise three times per day or the meditation exercise once daily.
You can increase the frequency or duration as you become more comfortable with the exercises.
If you're new to daily vagus nerve exercises, start slowly and build up gradually. For example, try one of the exercises for a few days in a row and then add another exercise to your routine. Or, start with shorter sessions and then increase the length of time as you become more comfortable with the exercise.
You can also try different exercises on different days to mix things up and keep your routine interesting.
Some people prefer to do daily vagus nerve exercises first thing in the morning, while others find it helpful to do them right before bedtime. Choose a time that works for you and is likely to stick.
You can also break up your daily exercises into smaller sessions throughout the day. For example, you might do one activity in the morning and another in the evening.
One of the best ways to make sure you stick with daily vagus nerve exercises is to make them part of your daily routine. For example, try doing them at the same time each day or after you brush your teeth.
You can also try incorporating daily exercises into activities you already do, such as taking a break from work to do some stretches or doing deep breathing exercises while you're in the shower.
Daily vagus nerve exercises are a simple and effective way to improve your health. They can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve heart health, and even boost your immune system.
If you're new to daily exercises, start slowly and build up gradually. And be sure to find a time that works for you, so you're more likely to stick with it. Daily vagus nerve exercises can become part of your healthy daily routine with little effort.