You are stressed, anxious, tense and want to feel peaceful, at ease and relaxed?
All you have to do is to switch from the “GAS PEDAL ALWAYS ON” state of your Nervous System to the “SAFE & RELAXED” mode.
How do you do this?
Stimulate the Vagus Nerve!
- It runs from our brain, into our vocal cords, heart, lungs and into the digestive system (and all internal organs)
- It’s like a muscle - you can train it to become stronger
- It is the link between contemplative practises and health, mental health and cognition
- Has relaxing and anti-inflammatory effects when activated
- It regulates HEART RATE, RESPIRATION & DIGESTION. It’s stimulation activates our SAFE & RELAXED nervous system.
How do we stimulate the Vagus Nerve?
Breathing Techniques - affect the lungs and diaphragm which communicate with our Vagus nerve that all is well
- Meditation - relaxes our body telling our Vagus nerve that we are safe (relaxed heart rate, lower blood pressure and cortisol levels)
- Yoga - brings our whole system into a state of peace & balance, working through the organs and endocrine systems, which in turn stimulates the Vagus nerve
- Chanting (singing) - as the vocal cords also have direct communication with the Vagus nerve via the heart (reduced heart rate)
How does the switch in Nervous Systems happen?
The signals work both ways - either the brain tells the Vagus nerve to activate our relaxation or the organs tell our Vagus nerve to send relaxation signals to the brain. Either way the SAFE & RELAXED state gets activated.
Studies have shown that by reducing stress & anxiety we increase mental health, brain function & memory and focus.
Mental Health - Reduces stress and anxiety
Meta-analysis using different meditation interventions showed that they reduce multiple physiological stress markers across styles: heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol levels and inflammatory bodies (Pascoe et al., 2017). They have also shown that the areas which process fear and anxiety in the brain shrink when practising yoga & meditation.
Cognitive Control - A fit brain
Studies show meditation and yoga enhance executive functioning and working memory or act as a buffer against age-related decline of executive functions and working memory.
Attentional Control - Focus hard
Studies show that meditation and yoga create better sustained attention and flexibility in allocation of attentional resources in the brain.