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6 Ways to Heal Your Vagus Nerve

inner-healing:

6 Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More

Source: http://healthycures.org/6-ways-to-instantly-stimulate-your-vagus-nerve-to-relieve-inflammation-depression-migraines-and-more/

I read an article yesterday that has me extremely excited about the implications. The article is called “Hacking the Nervous System” by Gaia Vince (http://mosaicscience.com/story/hacking-nervous-system). In the article, the author describes the experience of a woman who suffered from severe, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and her eventual treatment with a device which minimized inflammation by simply stimulating the vagus nerve. What this means, is that by activating the vagus nerve which works through the parasympathetic nervous system, we can greatly influence inflammation and the immune system. The role of the brain on body inflammation can be profound. If you suffer from digestive complaints, high blood pressure, depression or any inflammatory condition, please read on. Let me explain the possible implications step by step.
What is the vagus nerve?
Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More 6 Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More vagus nerveFirst of all, the vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body which originates in the brain as cranial nerve ten, travels down the from go the neck and then passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and lungs. This nerve is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest and digest’ part (opposite to the sympathetic nervous system which is ‘fight of flight’).

Vagal tone
The tone of the vagus nerve is key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Vagal tone is measured by tracking your heart-rate alongside your breathing rate. Your heart-rate speeds up a little when your breathe in, and slows down a little when you breathe out. The bigger the difference between your inhalation heart-rate and your exhalation heart-rate, the higher your vagal tone. Higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress.

What is high vagal tone associated with?
High vagal tone improves the function of many body systems, causing better blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, improved digestion via better production of stomach basic and digestive enzymes, and reduced migraines. Higher vagal tone is also associated with better mood, less anxiety and more stress resilience. One of the most interesting roles of the vagus nerve is that it essentially reads the gut microbiome and initiates a response to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. In this way, the gut microbiome can have an affect on your mood, stress levels and overall inflammation.

What is low vagal tone associated with?
Low vagal tone is associated with cardiovascular conditions and strokes, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, and much higher rates of inflammatory conditions. Inflammatory conditions include all autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, autoimmune thyroid conditions, lupus and more).

How do we increase vagal tone?
In the article above, vagal tone was increased through a device that stimulated the vagus nerve. The good news is that you have access to this on your own, but it does require regular practice. To some degree, you are genetically predisposed to varying levels of vagal tone, but this still doesn’t mean that you can’t change it. Here are some ways to tone the vagus nerve:

Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve.
Humming. Since the vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, humming mechanically stimulates it. You can hum a song, or even better repeat the sound ‘OM’.
Speaking. Similarly speaking is helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords.
Washing your face with cold water. The mechanism her is not known, but cold water on your face stimulates the vagus nerve.
Meditation, especially loving kindness meditation which promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself and others. A 2010 study by Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kik found that increasing positive emotions led to increased social closeness, and an improvement in vagal tone.
Balancing the gut microbiome. The presence of healthy bacteria in the gut creates a positive feedback loop through the vagus nerve, increasing its tone.
The implications of such simple and basic practices on your overall health, and in particular on inflammation are far-reaching. If you suffer from an inflammatory condition, digestive upset, high blood pressure or depression, a closer look at vagal tone is highly recommended. We’ve known for years that breathing exercises and meditation are helpful for our health, but it is so fascinating to learn the mechanism by which they work. I hope this short article has inspired you to begin a meditation practice, as it has for me, and also to look for other means to manage the body’s inflammatory response.

References:

Forsythe P, Bienenstock J, Kunze WA.Vagal pathways for microbiome-brain-gut axis communication. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:115-33.

Kok, B, Fredrickson, B, Coffey, K, et al. How Positive Emotions Build Physical Health: Perceived Positive Social Connections Account for the Upward Spiral Between Positive Emotions and Vagal Tone. Psychological Science 2013 24: 1123

Loving Yourself to Overcome Anxiety

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Anxiety is a common problem in American society, perhaps globally. I have dealt with anxiety over the years and while I have learned to master it most of the time, there are occasions still, where it rears it’s ugly head. Like many people, it leaves an ugly after taste of shame and sadness.

What I have learned as an anxiety sufferer and a Family Therapist is that every feeling and bodily reaction has a corresponding thought behind it. It happens so subtly that we don’t recognize the mind-brain-connection. It takes practice to follow the train of thought and to take back control of your thoughts.

This is part of the spiritual nature of who we are. God created us to be powerful thinking, creative people. Dumbing us down is not the answer. Most of us use medicines and entertaining distractions to avoid thinking as the only tool to self-mastery. This is really body slavery. The appetites rule us instead of ruling our appetites. This results in a vicious cycle of addiction and destructive patterns.

The Truth of the Matter

The truth will set you free! You have to BEGIN to look in the direction of who were designed to be in order to be the architect of your life. ACCEPT the truth that our souls (defined as your mind/will/emotions) are part of our original design and when subject to our spiritual-ness we can put things in right order. When we are in right ORDER, we are in our right minds. Our right minds allow us to rightly control our emotions and bodily reactions.

The bible says it this way: “For God did not give us a Spirit of Fear but of a Power and Love and of a Sound Mind”. 2 Timothy 1:7 (New Heart English Bible)

Wouldn’t you like to stop emotional mood swings? Aren’t you tired of panic attacks and living a fear-induced life? It’s time to get to the truth of the matter.

What You Say About Yourself is Who You Are?

The biggest hang up in anxious thinking is believing that this is our fate. This negative reality is our only reality and others just don’t understand. That latter part might be true, however…Your belief of being stuck in this reality can create the very problem you are wanting to manage. Start catching your anxious thoughts even if you have to stop and re-trace your anxious thoughts. Where, what, who, how, when, why did that anxious feeling first start? Just notice what the situation was that got it rolling. Over time you will discover a pattern of negative thinking that triggers you. There is usually a major root thought that if pulled out of the ground of your mind will give you a sound mind.

If you can’t identify these thoughts, ask someone you feel safe with to help you. It is easier for others to spot them when they are not in the middle of them. Just the act of noticing will begin to give you power over them.

Learning to Love Yourself

God gave us a power to control our thoughts and he gives us Love. Do you love yourself? It’s a missing commandment in the Word of God. Not because it isn’t in the book but because it is missing in our lives. We are ready to love others. We can love things. We are not as good at loving ourselves.

If we are willing to practice what we preach, we must commit to trying without self-judgement. what happens when we practice a new skill, make a new resolution, decide to change, we get discouraged because we don’t get it perfect. Perfectionism is a major root of anxiety thinking!

Choose today, without judgement, to love yourself, your body, your life, your finances (yes, those too), your future with these simply daily practices:

  1. Use kind words when talking about yourself to others. This is different that learning to talk about yourself when no one is around. That might be a bigger discipline to take on but for now, start referencing yourself with positive comments in social situations. Don’t self-depreciate. If you find this difficult, remember your mothers words: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.
  2. Notice beautiful things. The bible recommends that we spend time contemplating “whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable…praiseworthy. Think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (New International Version)
  3. Take care of your body. Your body is a nasty ruler if we let it control our thoughts and emotions. It takes over our will and demands toxic products and doesn’t want to get off the couch. Start eating right, exercising even it is walking around the block, and getting a good nights sleep. No staying up all night and sleeping till noon. This perpetuates the toxic hunger cravings.
  4. Smile. Research shows that the act of smiling is hormonally equal to a good nights rest but don’t substitute one for the other! Smiling is a known stress buster. Children naturally smile over 400 times a day. How many times do you smile per day. It can even lengthen your life span. Really!
  5. Say “Yes!”. We have a negative root in our thinking that says its all about saying “no” to bad things. Start saying yes to healthy, wise thinking. Take 40 days to eliminate the work “no” from your vocabulary. Say it now. See, not hard.
  6. Give yourself a hug. This isn’t creepy. Just hug yourself and lightly stroke the sides of your arms and you picture a place, real or imaginary that, makes you feel safe. This is part of my NeuroResilience Program called “The Safe Place” technique.
  7. Read inspirational and positive stuff. Turn off the news, cancel the news paper, stop focusing on negative headlines. Take 10 minutes every day to read something that is inspirational and positive. It can be a daily reading book. There are thousands out there. Find an app for your phone that has positive quotes. Listen to positive podcasts. We live in a informationally flooded world. You can control what stress of thought you want to focus on. The old adage: “Garbage in, garbage out” is still true today.

Did you notice that there are 7 ways to love yourself and also 7 days of the week? Coincidence? Maybe, but try a new loving yourself practice each day and then rinse, repeat.

The poet Rumi wrote that “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers without yourself that you have build against it.” Let’s eliminate the barriers to getting back control of your thoughts and living the truth of having a sound mind.

NOTE: Be on the look out for our my new video training series: “Freedom From Anxiety”. Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss out. Click here now. 

inner-healing:

How To Stop Emotional Eating Habits

Alternatives to emotional eating

  • If you’re depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favorite photo or cherished memento.
  • If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.
  • If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
  • If you’re bored, read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy (woodworking, playing the guitar, shooting hoops, scrapbooking, etc.).

Most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings. When the urge to eat hits, it’s all you can think about. You feel an almost unbearable tension that demands to be fed, right now! Because you’ve tried to resist in the past and failed, you believe that your willpower just isn’t up to snuff. But the truth is that you have more power over your cravings than you think.

Take 5 before you give in to a craving

Emotional eating tends to be automatic and virtually mindless. Before you even realize what you’re doing, you’ve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it. But if you can take a moment to pause and reflect when you’re hit with a craving, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.

Can you put off eating for five minutes, or just start with one minute. Don’t tell yourself you can’t give in to the craving; remember, the forbidden is extremely tempting. Just tell yourself to wait. While you’re waiting, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What’s going on emotionally? Even if you end up eating, you’ll have a better understanding of why you did it. This can help you set yourself up for a different response next time.

Learn to accept your feelings—even the bad ones

While it may seem that the core problem is that you’re powerless over food, emotional eating actually stems from feeling powerless over your emotions. You don’t feel capable of dealing with your feelings head on, so you avoid them with food.

Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions can be scary. You may fear that, like Pandora’s box, once you open the door you won’t be able to shut it. But the truth is that when we don’t obsess over or suppress our emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings subside relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention. To do this you need to become mindful and learn how to stay connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience. This can enable you to rein in stress and repair emotional problems that often trigger emotional eating.

8 steps to mindful eating

This ancient practice can transform the way you think about food and set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.

Like most of us, you’ve probably eaten something in the past few hours. And, like many of us, you may not be able to recall everything you ate, let alone the sensation of eating it. Because we’re working, driving, reading, watching television, or fiddling with an electronic device, we’re not fully aware of what we’re eating.

By truly paying attention to the food you eat, you may indulge in foods like a cheeseburger and fries less often. In essence, mindful eating means being fully attentive to your food—as you buy, prepare, serve, and consume it. In the book Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, Dr. Lillian Cheung and her co-author, Buddhist spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh, suggest several practices that can help you get there, including those listed below.

1. Begin with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the center aisles—which are heavy with processed foods—and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.

2. Come to the table with an appetite—but not when ravenously hungry. If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food.

3. Start with a small portion. It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less.

4. Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.

5. Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.

6. Take small bites. It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full. Put down your utensil between bites.

7. Chew thoroughly. Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.) You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.

8. Eat slowly. If you follow the advice above, you won’t bolt your food down. Devote at least five minutes to mindful eating before you chat with your tablemates.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/diet-weight-loss/emotional-eating.htm

The Six Best Ways to Manage Anxiety – From Psychology Today

(1) Reevaluating the probability of the threatening event actually happening

Anxiety makes us feel threat is imminent yet most of the time what we worry about never happens. By recording our worries and how many came true, we can notice how much we overestimate the prospect of negative events.

(2) Decatastrophizing

Even if a bad event happened, we may still be able to handle it by using our coping skills and problem-solving abilities or by enlisting others to help. Although not pleasant, we could still survive encountering a spider, having a panic attack, or losing money. It’s important to realize that very few things are the end of the world.

(3) Using deep breathing and relaxation to calm down

By deliberately relaxing our muscles we begin to calm down so we can think clearly. If you practice this without a threat present at first, it can start to become automic and will be easier to use in the moment when you face a threat. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system to put the brakes on sympathetic arousal.

(4) Becoming mindful of our own physical and mental reactions

The skill of mindfulness involves calmly observing our own reactions, including fear, without panic or feeling compelled to act. It is something that can be taught in therapy and improves with practice.

(5) Accepting the Fear and Committing to Living a Life Based on Core Values

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach that encourages people to accept the inevitability of negative thoughts and feelings and not try to repress or control them. By directing attention away from the fear and back onto life tasks and valued goals, we can live a full life despite the fear.

healing anxiety

Soothing & healing strategies for your mind

(6) Exposure

Exposure is the most powerful technique for anxiety and it involves facing what we fear and staying in the situation long enough for the fear to habituate or go down, as it naturally does. Fear makes us avoid or run away, so our minds and bodies never learn that much of what we fear is not truly dangerous.

Parenting a child with anxiety

Mrs. Roosth was tall and gaunt, uncomfortably quiet, with small eyes and angry hands.

I leaned back too far in my chair and landed with a thump on the classroom floor. She wrapped her bony fingers around my arm, yanked me up to my feet and just about threw me into the nearest corner to stand for the rest of the day. A few hours. I was in the first grade.

My stomach hurt. My muscles spasmed in my back. My chest grew tight. I thought I might die. But I didn’t say a word.

That’s my earliest memory of serious anxiety. But not my last. Or worst.

I missed a Homecoming dance in high school because anxiety so debilitated me that I couldn’t stand and walk.

I was so heavily medicated on my wedding day that I slept through the first night of the honeymoon!

I turned down my first offer of a record deal because I fear traveling. And just the worrying about it doubled me over in pain and sent me to bed for the better part of a day.

But since eventually signing that record deal, I’ve traveled to around 100 cities every year for twelve years. As a musician and speaker I’ve stood on stage and done my thing in front of tens of thousands of people. Sometimes all at once. As a spokesperson for Compassion International, I’ve traveled to ten developing countries with questionable airplanes, eaten grub worms and guinea pig, and lunched with posh dignitaries and mobs of slum children.

No more debilitating anxiety. How’d that happen? And how can we as parents stave off the anxiety of our children?

My mother is as close to a perfect parent as there is. But even she made mistakes. Just two.

When I became anxious she made it worse by doing two things:

Telling Me To Stop It

I couldn’t stop being anxious any more than I could stop being a boy. It didn’t feel like a choice. Telling me to stop being anxious made me feel defective, abnormal, like I couldn’t do something everyone else could. Telling me to stop worrying gave me more things to worry about! Does my mom think I’m a weirdo? Will everyone else think I’m a weirdo? What’s wrong with me?

Telling Me What Would Happen If I Didn’t Stop

My mother is a worrier too. And when I worried to the point of dysfunction, she worried out loud. On my wedding day: What if you don’t get better…people are already at the church…we can’t move a wedding…you don’t want that do you? And of course I didn’t want that and I didn’t want my mother to worry either so I tried to reassure her, which is quite the opposite of relaxing.


Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Today I have four children and one of them is anxious. Here’s what I do when her anxiety prevents her from fully living:

Don’t Push

I don’t push her to play in the piano recital that has her in knots. Making her feel like a lot is riding on her getting over her anxiety will only make it worse.

Listen

I ask her what she’s feeling and listen. When she takes a breath I hand her a tissue and listen some more. The feelings are the effect. I want to listen until I hear the cause.

Interrupt

People with chronic debilitating anxiety are often ruminators. They are people whose thoughts get stuck in a groove like a needle on a record, going round and round playing the same anxious thoughts again and again until it’s all they can hear. So it’s important to interrupt my daughter once I think I understand her feelings and what’s causing them. I tell her what I think she’s said to me and ask her if I’m right. If she says I am but then tries to restate it all again – ruminating some more – I cut her off.

Imagine The Worst

This is counterintuitive but I ask her to imagine the worst thing that could happen at the piano recital. I’ll freak out and forget my music and everyone will stare at me and I’ll be embarrassed.

Prevention

I ask her if there’s anything she could do to prevent this from happening. In the case of the piano recital, does she have to play the music from memory or would the teacher let her have sheet music nearby just in case?

Plan

We figure out together what we’ll both do if the worst actually happens. I promise I won’t laugh or be embarrassed or love her any less or think she’s any less talented. Recitals are bad measures of talent. And talent isn’t why I or anyone else in that concert hall loves her.

But what will she do is the worst happens? She may decide that she’ll take the sheet music with her and use it if she forgets the notes. She may come up with a self-depreicating joke she can make to ease the tension and get the audience on her side (I still do this all the time). If she can’t come up with a plan, thenI help out but I really want this to be her idea, because I want her to be able to do this for herself when I’m not around.

Celebrate Success

When the piano recital ended without disaster we talked about how brave she was, how proud I was of her for facing her fears, and we had dessert. We celebrated the success. For me, successes, even the smallest ones, give me confidence that the worst rarely – if ever – happens.

Parenting myself this way over many years has destroyed anxiety. There are still things I’m afraid of, worried about – especially when bills are due. That’s normal. But I’m no longer disabled, half-living because of severe anxiety.

The next time your child is too afraid to live fully, please don’t push. Instead, help them understand their fears, make a plan and move forward. Who knows what kind of life is waiting on the other side of their anxiety? Help them get there.

Do you struggle with anxiety? What has helped you break free?

SHARE: Do you struggle with anxiety? What has helped you break free?

Eating Disorders in Children and Teens

Eating disorders can cause serious health problems for children and teens. Here is what to watch for.
By

WebMD Feature

Eating disorders in children and teens cause serious changes in eating
habits that can lead to major, even life threatening health problems. The three
main types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia, a condition in which a child refuses to eat adequate
    calories out of an intense and irrational fear of becoming fat
  • Bulimia, a condition in which a child grossly overeats (binging) and
    then purges the food by vomiting or using laxatives to prevent weight gain
  • Binge eating, a condition in which a child may gorge rapidly on
    food, but without purging

In children and teens, eating disorders can overlap. For example, some
children alternate between periods of anorexia and bulimia.

Eating disorders typically develop during adolescence or early adulthood.
However, they can start in childhood, too. Females are much more vulnerable.
Only an estimated 5% to 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. With
binge eating, the number rises to 35% male.

What causes eating disorders?

Doctors aren’t certain what cause eating disorders. They suspect a
combination of biological, behavioral, and social factors. For instance, young
people may be influenced by cultural images that favor bodies too underweight
to be healthy. Also, many children and teens with eating disorders struggle
with one or more of the following problems:

  • distress
  • fear of becoming overweight
  • feelings of helplessness
  • low self-esteem

To cope with these issues, children and teens may adopt harmful eating
habits. In fact, eating disorders often go hand-in-hand with other psychiatric
problems such as the following:

  • anxiety disorders
  • depression
  • substance abuse

The dangers of eating disorders

Eating disorders in children and teens can lead to a host of serious
physical problems and even death. If you spot any of the signs of the eating
disorders listed below, call your child’s doctor right away. Eating disorders
are not overcome through sheer willpower. Your child will need treatment to
help restore normal weight and eating habits. Treatment also addresses
underlying psychological issues. Remember that the best results occur when
eating disorders are treated at the earliest stages.

Anorexia in children and teens

Children and teens with anorexia have a distorted body image. People with
anorexia view themselves as heavy, even when they are dangerously skinny. They
are obsessed with being thin and refuse to maintain even a minimally normal
weight.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly one out of
every 25 girls and women will have anorexia in their lifetime. Most will deny
that they have an eating disorder.

Symptoms of anorexia include:

  • anxiety, depression, perfectionism, or being highly self-critical
  • dieting even when one is thin or emaciated
  • excessive or compulsive exercising
  • intense fear of becoming fat, even though one is underweight
  • menstruation that becomes infrequent or stops
  • rapid weight loss, which the person may try to conceal with loose
    clothing
  • strange eating habits, such as avoiding meals, eating in secret, monitoring
    every bite of food, or eating only certain foods in small amounts
  • unusual interest in food
Get more helpful info on this disorder via children.webmd.com

Ron Huxley’s remarks: Eating disorders are very difficult things to treat, in my experience, as they tend to be so self-reinforcing and have such strong social reactions. This blog post by WebMd is an excellent overview. What it doesn’t address is the feeling of “control” it gives individuals who feel so out of control in life. One’s body can be one area that no one can tell you how to live or act. Finding a substitute that allows for control in a less dangerous way is very important. Ongoing treatment with a specialist and group therapies are also beneficial. How have you dealt with eating disorders with your child? Share!