Do you know what your vagus nerve is? Do you know how to use it to be your best self? You can learn to use the vagus nerve as a powerful ally when life is hurling it’s stressors at you.
What is the vagus nerve?
The vagus nerve has multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem that wander to the lowest viscera of your abdomen touching your heart and most major organs along the way.
The vagus nerve is continuously sending sensory information about the state of the body’s organs to your brain. Eighty to ninety percent of the nerve fibers in the vagus nerve are devoted to communicating the state of your viscera up to your brain.
When you trust your gut, you are trusting your vagus nerve. Visceral feelings and gut-instincts are emotional intuitions that the vagus nerve is transferring to your brain.
Your conscious mind also sends messages through the vagus nerve signaling your organs to create an inner-calm so that during times of safety you can rest and digest your food. And in times of danger, your conscious mind alerts the organs of your body through the vagus nerve to prepare for fight-or-flight.
Your vagus nerve is in operational command when you respond to life’s stressors. As the commander, the vagus nerve can keep you calm and relaxed when are under pressure. The vagus nerve can also sabotage you with anxiety causing racing heart, upset stomach, dry mouth, sweaty palms and nervousness.
Your autonomic nervous system is made up of two systems that work opposite of each other. The sympathetic nervous system is designed to kick into gear with fight or flight in times of danger. Your parasympathetic nervous system’s job is to calm and relax you by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure signaling all of your organs to relax. When working these two systems create inner stability.
In situations at work, at home or even at play when you feel apprehensive, overwhelmed or insecure your vagus nerve believes that you are in real danger. You want to show up and be your best for the speech you are about to give, or to ask someone out on a date or the song you are about to preform, but you are anxious. The fight or flight response kicks in leaving you feeling anxious and unable to be your best self and do your best job in the situation.
You can be in control and change your response.
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Longer Exhalations Are an Easy Way to Hack Your Vagus Nerve
I found a post in Psychology Today, from May 9, 2019, by Christopher Bergland. He wrote that “Dad kept his neuroscience lessons on the tennis court simple. He’d say, “If you want to maintain grace under pressure, visualize squirting some vagusstoff into your nervous system by taking a deep breath—with a big inhale and a long, slow exhale—as you bounce the ball four times before every serve.”
Without going into too much detail, my father taught me that by increasing the duration of my exhale after taking a deep breath, I could trigger my vagus nerve to squirt out some stress-busting “vagusstoff” on demand. This “stuff” was like a self-made tranquilizer that would relax my nerves and help me avoid choking or double-faulting during match points.”
“Another recent study (De Couck et al., 2019) published this month, “How Breathing Can Help You Make Better Decisions: Two Studies on the Effects of Breathing Patterns on Heart Rate Variability and Decision-Making in Business Cases,” reports that just two minutes of deep breathing with longer exhalation engages the vagus nerve, increases HRV, and improves decision-making. These findings were published in the May issue of the International Journal of Psychophysiology.”
“One gadget-free way to track the timing of your inhalation-to-exhalation breathing cycles per minute is to use a 4:8 ratio of four-second inhalations and eight-second exhalations. This breathing cycle takes 12 seconds which equates to five inhalation/exhalation cycles per minute. Based on road-tested outcomes, I really like the 4:8 ratio because it’s easy to use my right hand to count up to five with each digit and use the fingers on my left hand like an abacus to keep track of each one-minute cycle.
Anytime you want to hack your vagus nerve to reduce stress or improve decision-making, a simple self-talk script could be: “I’m stressing out. In order to calm down so I can perform better on this decision-making task, I’m going to take two minutes (right now!) to do 10 rounds of vagus nerve breathing based on a 4:8 inhalation-to-exhalation ratio.”
During the four-second inhalation phase, I’d recommend breathing in through your nose—as you relax the back of your eyes and visualize filling up your lower diaphragm with oxygen—and slowly count to four. Then, I’d recommend exhaling through pursed lips (as if you’re blowing out lots of candles on a birthday cake) as you slowly count to eight.
Remember: If you’re feeling especially stressed out, you can increase your rVNS breathing time to five minutes or a total of 25 twelve-second 4:8 breathing cycles. Repeat as needed.”
Your Hypnosis Health Info Hypnotic Suggestion for today:
I breathe in deeply. I slowly exhale.
Use the incredible power of your vagus nerve
You can learn to harness and use the incredible power of your vagus nerve to keep you calm and relaxed in times of distress.
A healthy vagal tone is indicated by a slight increase of heart rate when you inhale, and a decrease of heart rate when you exhale. Deep breathing with a long, slow exhale is key to stimulating the vagus nerve and slowing heart rate and blood pressure, especially in times of anxiety.
A higher vagal tone index is associated to physical and psychological well-being. A low vagal tone index is related to inflammation, negative moods, depression, loneliness and heart attacks.
Using my Greatest Expression of You process, is instrumental to using the power of your vagus nerve to maintain your inner stability. As part of your self-hypnosis throughout the day, talk to your vagus nerve. Imagine your vagus nerve as a source of neurobiological ingredients that create mental and physical calmness. Ask it to work with you and support you. Mentally Rehearse the situation being calm, relaxed, focused, energized, successful and being your best self.
Your vagus nerve can be an incredibly powerful ally. When you are feeling anxious and fearful, acknowledge what you are feeling. Acknowledge the situation and then be your best self and create the outcome that you want.
Control your vagus nerve. Breathe in deeply with a long slow exhale.
Vagus nerve in yellow
Becoming the Greatest Expression of You
Since March 20, 2016, I have dedicated most of my Sunday posts to Becoming the Greatest Expression of You. This is post 41 on this topic. These posts are about using neuroplasticity and self-hypnosis to be your best self.
I’ve been blessed to witness the power of this process in recent years. Clients who use it tell me remarkable stories of improved health and wellness, weight loss, addictions that have been overcome and overall mental and emotional well-being.
About two years ago I began thinking about writing a book on this topic. But I just never seemed to dedicate the time. As I considered solutions, I realized that I could make each Sunday post a draft portion of this book. One day when it feels complete, I will send it all off to my editor.
I so appreciate your comments, your feedback and the stories you share with me how how this Becoming the Greatest Expression of You process has benefited you. Your feedback and questions are deeply appreciated and very much wanted. I also want your stories of success and with your permission, I hope to include them in these posts and in my book.
Thank you for your support!
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