You may be asking yourself – “Vagal tone? What the heck is that? Does it involve Kegel exercises?”
Actually, it has nothing to do with toning your amazing lady parts – I’ll save that topic for a future LoveLetter (ha!).
HOLIDAY TIP #3: Improve Your Vagal Tone
Vagal tone is the activity of the vagal nerve, which is one of the longest nerves in your body and makes up 80% of your parasympathetic nervous system!
Your parasympathetic nervous system oversees many important functions of your body, such as your mood, immune response, digestion and heart rate.
Low vagal tone can be caused by post-traumatic stress, emotional distress, severe fatigue, or chronic or acute medical conditions.
High vagal tone is associated with improved physical and mental well-being, and sends messages to our body to help us stay regulated and calm. It strengthens our brain-heart connection and improves our empathy and ability to connect with others.
There are many great ways to improve your vagal tone, and I’ve listed several of my favorites for you below:
1. Slow, Deep Breathing
If you’re new to this exercise, I would recommend starting with inhaling for 2-3 seconds through your nose, then exhaling 2-3 seconds through your mouth. As you feel comfortable, you can lengthen your inhales and exhales.
The longer you can exhale, the more you will stimulate the vagus nerve and create a relaxation response.
Have you ever taken a few deep breaths before entering a social gathering?
Do you ever exhale a big sigh after experiencing something stressful?
This is your intuition leading you into breathing exercises to help you feel calmer. During times of stress and anxiety, this is an easy go-to tool to help you reset and re-regulate.
2. Singing, Humming, Chanting (or Scream Singing in the Car!)
I LOVE scream singing in the car. I do it a lot when I’m feeling super stressed, anxious, or angry. But any kind of singing, humming or chanting will work too.
Why? Because your vagal nerve is connected to the muscles in your vocal cords. So the next time you’re getting ready at home or driving to that holiday party, turn the volume up on your favorite songs and sing as loud as you want!
I recognize that this is pretty much the exact opposite of scream singing in the car, but meditation also improves your vagal tone because it decreases your stress response and increases your mindfulness.
One of my favorite meditations is the Five Senses Meditation – a short and simple process of connecting with each of your senses in order to reconnect you with your body and the present moment.
As if you needed another excuse to want a massage, right?
Whether it’s a full body massage, self-massage, or getting your honey to massage your feet after a long day, it will improve your vagal tone. So add it to your holiday wish list or go treat yourself!
Movement is such a powerful way to improve your vagal tone, feel more connected, and enhance your sense of happiness.
Whether your preferred flavor of exercise is dancing, running, yoga, pilates, or simply a walk around the block… go get your groove on and find your happy place.
6. Be In Nature
What is it about a walk in the sunshine, forest bathing or a picnic in the park that makes us feel so dang good?? Being in nature where there’s lots of green around you helps you discharge and regulate your nervous system.
So get outside and soak up that sun if you can!
7. Take a Bath
Salt baths at the end of the day will detox your body, mind and spirit.
My favorite formula is adding a cup of Epsom salt and a few drops of my favorite essential oils (e.g. lavender, Frankincense) into bath water as hot as I can stand it, then spending at least 20 minutes in there.
8. Positive Social Interactions + Laughter
There’s nothing better than laughing your ass off with your favorite people, am I right? Feeling connected and happy helps improve not only our vagal tone, but our lives in general.
So choose your company and your social outings wisely this season. Ensure that you’re around people who enhance your physical and mental well-being, and go live your life to the fullest.