What happens in Vagus?

The vagus nerve has many functions, but the two main ones are to regulate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. So basically, the vagus nerve sends and receives messages to the brain and organs that help regulate your health and physical and emotional well-being. When your vagus nerve functions optimally, you have improved sensory, motor, and parasympathetic functions.

One cool thing about the vagus nerve is that it plays a vital role in regulating stress levels. If the vagus nerve functions well, our brains can process stress more efficiently and promote a sense of calm. The more irritated the vagus nerve, the more likely we are to be irritated, less productive and suffer from poor concentration.

So below are a few simple vagus nerve exercises to promote a sense of calm in your day. Why not try a few and find the best approach for you and your daily rituals?

21 Ways to Reset & Activate Your Vagus Nerve

1. Laugh. Laughing expands and relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system by improving the cardiac vagal tone.

2. Splash your face with cold water. We’re not suggesting you follow the Wim Hof Method and do a total body ice immersion—aka an ice bath! But we suggest a daily splash with cold water or a short cold shower, which can help stimulate your nervous system. Putting your face in cold water can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and prompt the body to relax, feel calm, and reduce inflammation. Give it a go—it takes a little getting used to!

3. Get adjusted. Your body has a natural level of adaptability. This means that when exposed to any type of stress, your body reacts by going into ‘fight or flight mode’ and adapting to survive and heal. Subluxations lower your adaptive potential, meaning you will eventually be unable to stay optimally healthy and fight off pain, disease, and degeneration. A chiropractic adjustment of the spine and correction of spinal subluxations can remove any interference from the nervous system. This will improve your local nerve flow, optimise your brain-to-body functions and improve your overall health and well-being.

4. Breathe deeply. Deep breathing helps slow the heart rate, reduce anxiety, and lower blood pressure. It informs the body that it’s safe, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and returns it to a relaxed state.
a. Find a comfortable position to sit and concentrate on your breathing
b. Breathe in deeply for 4 seconds through your nose
c. Breathe out for 6 seconds, expending all air from your lungs
d. Repeat and continue for a few minutes

5. Meditate. Meditation teaches the body and mind to relax. In this relaxed state, you can prolong the reaction times of the fight, flight, and freeze response (sympathetic nervous response) and be less reactive to external stimuli in both work and personal life.

6. Go for a massage. Massage helps to engage the Parasympathetic nervous system to calm your body. Regular massage therapy enables your body to restore balance and flush out toxins. It can help you sleep better, increase concentration levels, improve your mental alertness, and improve your mood.

7. Walk barefoot on grass. Walking barefoot on grass has the power to heal. Grounding or earthing refers to direct skin contact with the earth’s surface, such as being barefoot. A recent study1 indicates that connecting with the Earth’s electrons can promote increased well-being by improving sleep, reducing pain, reducing stress, and increasing heart rate variability. Plus, it’s summer—there’s no perfect time to unleash your toes on the world!

8. Gargle with water. Another home remedy for an under-stimulated vagus nerve is to gargle with water. Gargling stimulates the muscles of the pallet, which are fired by the vagus nerve. So, get out your breath freshener and give it a go at gargling. Your dentist might thank you as well!

9. Roar. The Lion’s Breath is a yogic breath regulation. It is a great way to relax your throat, jaw, and face. It’s an empowering exercise that can help to reduce stress and increase confidence. It also has a positive effect on your respiratory system.
a. Place your hands on your knees to imitate a lion’s claws.
b. Then, inhale deeply through your nose, filling your lungs, and exhale deeply through your mouth.
c. Concentrate on the air moving in and out of your body, stick out your tongue to imitate a lion, and embrace your inhibitions.

10. Eat more Omega 3’s. Researchers suggest that eating omega 3’s and fatty acids helps the body combat stress’s damaging effects. Omega 3’s are effective at reducing inflammation and helping to disrupt the connection between repeated stress and depressive symptoms. Wow – that’s a superfood – I might order a poke bowl with fresh salmon for lunch today!

11. Go for a brisk walk. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. Physical activity releases endorphins, which relieve pain and stimulate relaxation and a greater sense of calm and well-being.

12. Detox from tech. Goes without technology for a day…or maybe just an hour! Sustained tech use can lead to neck pain and, in extreme circumstances, can lead to forward head posture. Link to article on the blog (to be created). It’s a hard habit to break, but try replacing your tech time with some stretching or a conversation with a colleague or friend.

13. Practice Yoga. Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical positions, controlled breathing, meditation, and relaxation. It may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and increase HRV.

14. Connect with colleagues. Positive human connections can lower perceived stress and stress hormone levels. Connecting with the right people can improve your mood, help you feel safer, and reduce stress. Connecting with co-workers is also a great way to step away from your technology, stretch your legs, and boost your mood through positive interactions.

15. Do your exercises. Dr Adam McKenzie shows you how to use the posture pole at home. You may be given spinal orthotics such as a posture pole or a Denneroll as part of your Chiropractic Life program. These are designed to correct postural and structural issues through simple exercises. Both are effective tools that enable you to continue your treatment whenever and wherever you need it —at home, on holiday, and at work. Speak to your Chiropractor about how to start using the posture pole at home.

16. Stretch the SCM muscle. Ironically, SCM syndrome, or a swollen or pained SCM muscle, is often caused by stress and anxiety! Relaxation of the muscle through stretching can alleviate the pain and help you relax and manage your stress more effectively. Stretch your neck by flexing it, moving your ear towards your shoulder. Try the left side and then the right.

17. Cultivate gratitude. People who practice gratitude tend to be happier and report lower stress levels. Gratitude can be as simple as expressing thanks to someone for their service. It is a powerful tool to detach from stress and negative thoughts, allowing you to focus on positive experiences and gain perspective. This shift in focus can significantly enhance your well-being. So, why not express your gratitude to your barista today? After all, that morning coffee can often be the perfect start to your day!

18. Play with a puppy or kitten. Nothing is more relaxing than playing with a puppy or kitten. They provide the perfect combination of laughter, affection and sheer joy. Additionally, this type of joyful activity helps to release endorphins and stimulate calm and relaxation. Don’t let them near your favourite pair of shoes; you’ll stay safely in the laughter zone!

19. Get some sun. Moderate sun exposure increases serotonin levels, which can help stave off anxiety and depression. It also helps to increase vitamin D, improve mood, improve sleep, and lower blood pressure by releasing nitric oxide into the blood. So, increase your sunny disposition today with a little mood-enhancing basking!

20. Massage your ear. This massage technique is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that an ear massage increases the levels of endorphins in both the blood and cerebrospinal fluid. This helps boost the body’s immune cells, reduce stress and anxiety, reduce toxins, improve circulation and create a general sense of well-being and relaxation.
a. Softly massage your earlobe in small circles
b. After a few minutes, move your fingers to the centre, outer part of the ears
c. Lightly rotate the entire ear in small circles

21. Express self-affirmation. We already know that expressing gratitude makes us happier and less stressed. So, how about giving yourself a pat on the back? You’ve taken on 21 challenges and succeeded, and no doubt you’ve found one that works for you.


1. Oschman JL, Chevalier G, Brown R.  2015, ‘The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. J Inflamm Res. 2015 Mar 24;8:83-96.