The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body- it begins in the brain and continues to every major organ, connecting heart, digestive system and lungs. (This is the gut-brain connection.) It helps regulate our breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, hormones and digestion.
The vagus nerve is the main part of the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for our body’s “rest and digest.” This regulates how we cope with emotional stress and anxiety. It wanders to so many parts of our body and is involved in almost all of our bodies processes.
Vagal tone refers to how well the vagus nerve is working. Research shows that higher vagal tone has been associated with improvement of gastrointestinal illnesses, mental health, anxiety, cardiovascular function, and autoimmune conditions.
Low vagal tone is associated with cardiovascular conditions, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, and higher rates of inflammatory conditions.
Ways to increase your vagal tone:
- Yoga and breath-work
- Cold Water
- Singing or humming
By stimulating the vagus nerve we are telling our body it is safe. We are letting our physical body know it can relax. When our body calms our mind follows. This can lead to long-term improvements in mood, wellbeing and resilience.
Increased vagal tone keeps your vagus nerve strong. This can help you respond positively to outside stressors, BIG emotions and physiological symptoms.