Vagus nerve, mindfulness and mental health with Amy Little

Vagus Nerve & Mindfulness

Did you know our Vagus nerve, our mental health and our state of mindfulness are all related?
Having over 16 experience as a bodywork therapist and vocational teacher in natural therapies, I am a geek and LOVE any amazing facts about our incredible bodies! Our vagus nerve is one of the body’s superpowers, along with many others including our self-belief and our innate gifts! 
The Vagus nerve is used within our body to counteract your fight/flight system and supports our mental health by regulating our body to remain in a mindfulness state. It’s how you develop a healthy stress response and become resilient. When stimulated, you feel calmer, more compassionate, and clearer. Stimulating the vagus benefits your autonomic nervous system and mental health. Healthy vagal tone means emotional regulation, greater connection, and better physical health as well. You are more resilient and able to pull yourself through trauma and troubles. A healthy vagal tone means you are more likely to be successful in life. 

So what is the vagus nerve?

The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body. It comes from the Latin word, vagus, for “wandering.” That’s because it wanders throughout your body, with wide distribution connecting the brainstem to the body. Only mammals have this nerve. It helps the immune system and inflammation response to disease. It has four main functions: sensory, special sensory, motor and parasympathetic. The vagus nerve helps you to remain calm when you are stressed and to know when you are no longer in danger. It helps you to “rest and digest.” and is activated when you are feeling compassion, empathy and loving.

Gives You Gut Feelings

The vagus nerve also manages fears and sends information from the gut to the brain, which is linked to dealing with stress, anxiety, and fear–hence the saying, ‘gut feeling.’ These signals help a person to recover from stressful and scary situations.”

Emotional Regulation

Any time your brain perceives a threat, due to the sympathetic nervous system, it triggers the fight or flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system does the opposite–it calms you. The parasympathetic nervous system is activated when a danger is over, such as being pulled out of harm’s way from ongoing traffic while crossing the street. You are no longer distressed, you are at rest. However, sometimes, the brain remains in panic mode, as if you are still in danger.

How to Self-Regulate the Vagus Nerve

Restore self-regulating vagal function through grounding and mindfulness as well self biofeedback such as breathwork, mediation and yoga.

❤️ BREATHE – Whenever you feel your heart racing, the anxiety creeping in, the self-doubt taking over your mindset – just STOP and BREATHE love and self-compassion into your body.

❤️YOGI 4 PART BREATH Do this for 5-10 counts depending on how long it takes for you to feel calm and heart rate reduced. This exercise takes you out of your head and into your body – connect into your intuition and heart while doing this by placing one hand on your belly, and one on your heart. 

  1. Begin with an exhale for the count of four.
  2. Hold on the exhale for the count of four.
  3. Inhale for the count of four.
  4. Hold on the inhale for the count of four.
  5. Repeat
  1. Tell yourself better things. In conjunction with the pranayama breathing exercise above, use a Self-Belief Mantra with the inhale as you release the negative thoughts with the exhale – example ‘I can do hard things’. ‘It’s safe for me to trust’ ‘I can do this’ ‘I am loved, I am supported’ ‘Life supports me’. 

Or working with releasing undesired emotions this way.

  1. Inhale – LET – Exhale GO
  2. Inhale – TRUST – Exhale WORRY
  3. Inhale – LOVE Exhale – FEAR
  4. Inhale – I AM CALM  Exhale – I RELEASE ALL ANGER

❤️ Avoid screen time before sleep – Sleep deprivation is one of the major causes of PND, depression, anxiety and chronic fatique. Good sleep is essential for functioning and our body repairing and replenishing it’s vital energy.

Ways to support good sleep

❤️Fall asleep by 10pm and ensure you have water next to your bed if you wake thirsty. Hydration is so important, especially if you have enjoyed a cheeky glass of wine while unwinding (-:

❤️ Have an epsom salt bath or warm shower before bed. Use essential oils such a lavender, sandalwood, jasmine, rose, neroli or any oil that makes you feel RELAXED. To use in bath mix with milk to avoid it irritating your skin. In the shower consciously wash of the day and energy of everyone who has depleted you.

❤️Breathe in bed before you sleep. Come back to breathing exercise above as you lay and rest. Breath out of the DOING, THE GIVING, THE COOKING, THE CLEANING, BREATHE IT ALL OUT! This is your time to rest now.

❤️Self-love with body lotion and hand cream – Nurture you and your beautiful body.

❤️Take magnesium before bed (I have mine next to my bed) and read a good book to take your mind off the day and escape. I always love romantic fiction!

❤️Do restorative or yin Yoga! If getting to a face to face yoga class is not possible, do an online class or simply sit in stillness for 5-10 after your shower or before you sleep in your fav stretch or yoga pose for a good release in your muscles. This is time for you to release and simply to just BE and self-love after a busy day. Your nervous system and Vagus nerve loves these kind of activities and it will support you in falling into a deep sleep quicker.

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Love Amy xoxo

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