The vagus nerve is one of the most important in the nervous system, as it is involved in a wide variety of motor and sensory functions, some of which are particularly essential, such as the contraction of the heart and the reduction of heart rate.
It is one of the cranial nerves, in particular the longest pair that we have in this area and its course in the nervous system goes from the spinal cord to the thorax, hence the large number of functions it has and its importance in the proper functioning of the body
But the functions of this nerve are not limited to the execution of certain “mechanical” and automatic tasks that take place inside our body without our being aware of it; it is also involved in processes that influence our emotional state.
Over the past few decades, scientific research and medical professionals have managed to find evidence of certain benefits that may have vagus nerve stimulation both to treat stress and anxiety issues as well as other impairments and psychological pathologies.
Next, we will see what the main functions of the vagus nerve are, as well as briefly highlight the main advantages of its stimulation.
Main functions of the vagus nerve
As stated, the vagus nerve has a wide variety of functions in the body, which is why it is considered one of the most important components of the human nervous system.
It is an example that the division between body and mind is a fiction that we have invented to better understand ourselves from a simplifying point of view: in reality, the two things are identical, and the functions of our nervous system and our experiences and ways of consciously interacting with the world, combine to form a whole.
In addition to reducing the heart rate and controlling the contractions of the heart, the vagus nerve is responsible for controlling the motor functions of the larynx, diaphragm and stomach, with all the implications for the digestive and gastrointestinal system that this entails. involved.
Finally, the vagus nerve produces the reflex to cough, swallow or vomit and is also responsible for controlling the visceral organs and the sense of taste, which allows us to identify flavors.
How does the vagus nerve affect relaxation processes?
Vagus nerve stimulation also has a direct effect on irregular brain activity and allows us to achieve more relaxed states throughout the bodya phenomenon of great utility in both psychology and medicine.
As the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, the vagus nerve is essential for influencing or improving all of these involuntary functions of the human body: from breathing and gastrointestinal movements to heart rate.
This is why its stimulation our puede ayudar to achieve states of greater tranquility, calm and relaxation that allow us to live more serenely and better perform a wide variety of healthy habits.
This stimulation of the vagus nerve allows us, in conclusion, to be more relaxed, to overcome symptoms of anxiety or depression, agitation, hyperactivity or stress; it even helps us sleep better at night.
How to stimulate the vagus nerve?
Due to its organic importance and the organization that the vagus nerve exerts in various functions of the nervous, digestive and gastrointestinal system, it has become a nerve of great interest for decades in scientific research, medicine and psychology.
On the one hand, the technique of electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve is an innovative technique used for a few decades and which consists in implanting a small generator of electrical impulses in the upper thorax, more precisely in the afferent fibers of the left vagus nerve. This electrical stimulation has proven to be effective in reducing stress, in people who may have anxious or depressive symptoms and also in people over 4 years of age who may have cases of epilepsy.
On the other hand, there are several exercises and activities that favor the activation of the vagus nerve, among which we suggest the following:
- Practice diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing.
- Practice Mindfulness. Attentional meditation centered mainly on the breath contributes to the feeling of calm.
- Practice yoga, qi gong or pilates, disciplines that combine movement and conscious breathing.
- End the shower with cold water on your head and neck while breathing deeply to regulate your breathing rate.
- Sleep on your side (preferably on your right side), making it easier to open your airways.
- Maintain social relationships in safe and trusting environments.
- Sing, alone or, even better, in a group.
- Take care of the physiological needs of your body: drink, eat, rest, maintain good postural hygiene.
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