How Do I Tone My Vagus Nerve?

Medically Reviewed on 11/16/2022
Vagus Nerve
A toned vagus nerve can promote emotion control, social awareness, and prosocial behavior.

If you have been experiencing stress or anxiety, toning your vagus nerve may help you switch your brain's messages from being nervous to being relaxed.

There are several techniques to tone the vagus nerve, including:

  • Gargling
  • Humming
  • Meditating
  • Laughing
  • Undertaking cardio activities
  • Getting massages
  • Interacting with others

The vagus nerve, the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system, may promote serenity. It controls the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which communicate feelings of anxiety or calm to the brain. It is also called the “nerve of compassion” because when it is toned, it transmits feelings of warmth, love, and gratitude.

10 ways to tone your vagus nerve

Here are a few quick and simple methods for activating the vagus nerve. These little movements can cause significant changes in your body and mind. You can perform these at home while seated or lying on a yoga mat.

  1. Yoga and meditation: A toned vagus nerve promotes social awareness, prosocial behavior, and emotion control. It alleviates hostility, hopelessness, anxiety, and aggression in a person. Yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation help tone the vagus nerve.
  2. Music: Could be uplifting, make you happy, and stimulate emotions. Research on the effects of music on the vagus nerve is conflicting. The vagus nerve connects the vocal cords (the muscles in the back of your throat) and the inner ear. Humming, singing, or simply relaxing with some soothing music may stimulate the vagus nerve.
  3. Laughing: When people laugh, the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) tends to suppress, whereas the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity softens, expands, and relaxes. Laughter induces diaphragmatic movements that improve cardiac vagal tone. This could be one explanation for increased PNS activity. By relieving emotional stress, laughter helps avoid SNS activity and release aggressive, negative energy that has built up in the body due to previous SNS overactivity.
  4. Exercise: According to a study, exercising and moving your body can impact your vagus nerve. You can improve your heart rate variability and vagus nerve activity by engaging in interval and endurance training. Exercise reduces sympathetic nervous system activity and regulates the parasympathetic response to help you maintain a healthy balance between your respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
  5. Massage: According to studies, reflexology (a type of massage) can boost vagal tone and even lower blood pressure. Some of the increased vagus nerve activity can be reduced by massage. You can stimulate the vagus nerve by massaging your ears, scalp, or feet. The most effective approach to massage the ear is to do both sides at once.
    • Place your index finger behind the lower back of your ear. Your fingertips will land behind your ear, in front of the circular bone (mastoid process), where it joins your skull.
    • Massage the area surrounding your ear's curve, where it joins your head, from bottom to top.
    • Repeat the massage from bottom to top around the curve using your fingertips on the back of your ears and your thumbs in front to massage the rest of the back of your ear.
    • Now concentrate on massaging the front side of the ear from top to bottom, heading to the center.
    • Gently massage the external ear canal.
    • Apply light pressure to the skin flap that covers the ear canal. Use a slight popping motion to force the tragus (skin flap) to cover the ear canal.
  6. Deep and slow breathing: Activates the vagus nerve. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is recommended.
    • Your stomach should expand outward as you do this.
    • Your exhalation should be slow and long. Achieving a state of relaxation and activating the vagus nerve both depend on this.
  7. Cold exposure: Taking a cold shower or putting your face in ice water are two examples of this. The cold stimulates certain neurons through the vagus nerve, which communicates directly with the parasympathetic nervous system. This mechanism helps relax and regenerate and reduces heart rate. It may calm you by reducing stress and inflammation. You can avoid emotional dysregulation or panic attacks by applying a cold washcloth to your face or holding ice in your hands. Exposure to cold stimulates the vagus nerve, which promotes relaxation internally rather than shocking the system.
  8. Talking: Expressing honestly and having someone listen to you promotes the vagal tone and helps you understand your feelings. Humans are social and benefit from the connection, which fundamentally reduces anxiety and stress in the mind and the body.
  9. Probiotics: Researchers are increasingly suggesting that gut bacteria improve brain function by influencing the vagus nerve. Brain function is enhanced by having a balanced gut flora. Most messages transmitted in the brain and nervous system are controlled by specific receptors that are positively altered by this process, which lowers your stress hormones.
  10. Sleep on your right side: The vagus nerve extends down the right side of the neck in a sizable portion. According to research, sleeping on that side can activate it. By resting on it, you can reap the full benefits of its stimulation.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/16/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

7 Ways to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve | Health tips. https://www.artofliving.org/in-en/lifestyle/happiness/7-natural-ways-to-strengthen-and-stimulate-your-vagus-nerve-today

5 Ways To Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/vagus-nerve-stimulation/

Contentment Connection: Easy Ways To Nourish Your Vagus Nerve To Become More Content. https://www.stress.org/contentment-connection-easy-ways-to-nourish-your-vagus-nerve-to-become-more-content

The vagus nerve - our biological antidote to anxiety and stress. https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/memberarticles/the-vagus-nerve-our-biological-antidote-to-anxiety-and-stress

How to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve for Better Mental Health. https://sass.uottawa.ca/sites/sass.uottawa.ca/files/how_to_stimulate_your_vagus_nerve_for_better_mental_health_1.pdf