Great Mental Health and Wellbeing is not simply about hitting the gym and eating well. Have you heard of your vagus nerve and how important it is? And forget Facebook friends who you never speak to, did you know the quality of your relationships can make you live longer? Happylocal is an organisation that encourages individuals to holistically support their Mental Wellbeing, paying particular attention to experiences that improve vagal tone and deepen their community connections.
So what is the Vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, referred to as the rest-and-digest system. It’s not the only nerve in the parasympathetic system, but it’s by far the most important one because it has the most far-reaching effects. The vagus nerve reaches the brain, gut (intestines, stomach), heart, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney, ureter, spleen, lungs, reproductive organs (female), neck (pharynx, larynx, and oesophagus), ears, and tongue. The vagus nerve is largely responsible for the mind-body connection since it goes to all the major organs (except the adrenal and thyroid glands). It’s intimately tied to how we connect with one another — it links directly to nerves that tune our ears to human speech, coordinate eye contact, and regulate emotional expressions. It influences the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is important in social bonding (source Self Hacked).
Activities to improve Vagal Tone
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