The vagus nerve begins at the top of the spinal column, it is a long bundle of nerves and collects and sends information all around the body. It activates the heart, lungs, liver and digestive organs as well as controlling the parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous systems is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ activities that happen in the body when it is resting, particularly after eating. It works with the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the ‘fight and flight’ reactions within the body.
Simply put, if you are constantly stressed your body will be in ‘fight and flight’ mode most of the time, which will inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system from activating the digestive process, from bringing feelings of calm and peace, and the ‘feel-good factor’ that is so lacking in our lives nowadays.
The Vagus Nerve
Neuroscientist Stephen W. Porges of the University of Illinois at Chicago, first argued the vagus nerve was ‘the nerve of compassion’, although it does many other things as well. When activated, it is likely to bring feelings of warmth and expansion in the chest. Eg. When we are moved by somebody’s selfless act, or when we appreciate wonderful art or music.
Very new science suggests that it plays a role in trust and maternal bonding. People that have high vagus nerve activation on resting, it has been found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism, compassion, gratitude, love and happiness.
The vagus nerve uses a neurotransmitter – acetylcholine – with which to communicate with the body. This particular neurotransmitter is responsible for learning and memory, feelings of calm, peace and relaxation throughout the body and is a major brake on inflammation in the body.
In other words, stimulating the vagus nerve sends feelings of contentment and calm throughout the body and turns down the fires of inflammation related to pain and the negative effects of stress. Further still, it encourages altruistic behaviour and feelings of love. Sounds like a ‘win, win’ !
How do we activate the Nerve of compassion?
Meditation and midline breathing, that’s how!!
The Midline of an individual runs from the brain within the skull down the spinal column within the spine all the way to the coccyx, encompassing the whole of the primary nervous systems and the seven main energetic sites, the Chakras. It is the deepest central part of a human, not only physically but spiritually too. This is the strength of a person, their safety net and ‘home’. When the outside world is frantic find your way here. Breathe into your midline, find your centre, listen to your body and calm your mind.
Bring peace into your everyday life and reconnect with your ‘Self’.Anon
The clearest route to self-compassion is in finding happiness in everything you do.
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