I’m very excited to introduce a psychological “hack” that can help with many struggles that my clients and most others in our society struggle with.
Many people come to therapy with their survival response (fight/flight/freeze/shame/attach) on full force.
Being in survival mode because of life and past traumas makes sense and supports… survival but at a tremendous cost when we lack the choice and resources to relax and be any other way.
It takes energy to be in survival mode. We survive but do not thrive. Our ability to engage with others in our lives is severely hampered as well. It takes relaxation and trust in others to switch on this “social-engagement system” which is where true change happens in life.
We also are able to connect with ourselves. Survival mode is extremely externally oriented and internal emotional experience does not get seen and thus not processed and thus builds creating a cycle of more stress in the body-mind system.
This is where the vague nerve comes in.
The vagus nerve is better explained by this video but I’ll say that the vagus nerve is important to “tone” because it is the main means by which the body and the mind communicate.
The vagus nerve runs from the brain to the gut and has many nerve branches that run through the core of the body, especially the front of the body, regulating most of our organs and bodily tissues.
When they do, there’s much more of an ability to relax and turn off (and on) the stress/survival mode of being and to engage with others, the environment and the world.
Vagal “toning” is about stimulating the vagus nerve so that the brain and body can begin to “recalibrate” and get back into sync.
Here are four main ways to safely tone the vagus nerve:
(You can look up “toning the vagus nerve” and will find many other ways of doing so, but these are three effective ways of doing so that I can safely recommend to the public and my clients).
- Gargling with Water
- Singing out loud (yes, truly singing or belting out songs or chanting something and letting it come from your core)
- The Ujjayi Breath. (This is a yoga breathing technique that stimulates the back of the throat and is very effective to stimulate the vagus nerve.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing. (The well known breathing from the middle of the body deeply as taught by many a mental health professional)
These videos are not the final say on these techniques. I urge the reader to keep looking around for sites and videos that are more helpful for the individual.
Think of this as a practice. To do these techniques everyday as a maintenance. They can be powerful supplements to psychotherapy and other change methods.