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5-2-8 Breath to connect to the Vagus Nerve
I have just released my latest instalment on YouTube. I talk about the Vagus Nerve as a possible "Hack" to happiness and health. The aim of my website and social media content is to give you access to some of the extraordinary things that I have uncovered over my years exploring the mind, body and soul. For those who work with me on a 1-2-1- basis they receive a much more detailed program and structure, but for everybody else I like to share free content and ideas. I have read extensively, worked with incredible leaders, gurus and travelled globally to bring you the ideas and content that inspires my work.
The Vagus Nerve is such an incredible part of the human anatomy. Wim Hoff (The IceMan) is probably one of the most famous people working in this field, although his focus is more on cold water treatment. However, we do know that cold water is a trigger for the Vagus Nerve. Hoff recovered from depression after his wife's tragic suicide. He started to realise that by swimming in the ice cold waters of the Netherlands his mind became calmer, his darker thoughts diminished and he was becoming more content and happier. The Wim Hoff Method is now a huge discussion point on social media, with many people practising this on a daily basis.
The other great advocates of cold water are The Happy Pear Twins (Stephen & David Flynn). They are two great friends of mine and such passionate fun beings to spend time with. Their practice is to jump into the Irish Sea every morning, they call it their ‘vitamin sea’ and the cold shock fires up and reboots the Vagus Nerve.
There are extensive resources on the internet discussing the Vagus Nerve and it's benefits, but for the purposes of my personal regime, I mainly focus on the benefits to the mind, major organs and even the stomach. It can impact the mircobiomes in the stomach. We are what we eat, but feeling happy can directly impact the acid production in your stomach. The happier you are the more alkaline your body will become, thus reducing the damage to the walls of your stomach by acid. So if you suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) you should do some research into the Vagus Nerve, the Sympathetic Nervous System and of course, consider your diet. If you are living your life in a near constant state of stress, then your body is always primed for ‘fight flight or freeze’, which can mean you are producing chemicals that directly impact the balance within your body and especially your stomach.
The most positive and lasting impact you can have on your Vagus Nerve (and your Parasympathetic Nervous System) is to develop a regular daily practice of meditation. This will train the mind to step away from an overly stimulated Sympathetic Nervous System, which can be always "primed" especially if you are stressed or anxious. Instead you will develop a sense of calm, which will mean you don't just panic at the next drama or crisis, you learn to see the issue, assess the need for action (or not) and then take appropriate and measured action.... not just blind panic or stress....
I swim each morning in the sea at Greystones in Wicklow with the Happy Pear and a great team of friends who support each other to face that morning cold shock. I like to be there for sunrise and this means my swimming times vary throughout the year. In the winter it is very cold and sunrise is about 8.15 am. In. the summer it is only a little warmer (that’s Ireland) but sunrise is 4.30am. I allow my body to wake with the sun and I adjust my bedtime accordingly. My daily meditation practice trains the body to relax, but the cold water also improves my capacity for shock, allowing me to connect deeper into my being. There is no morning where I jump out of bed with excitement knowing I am going to plunge into freezing water, but this means I must push my mind, stretch the walls of discomfort and create growth.
Training your mind and body to move from a Sympathetic Nervous System to a Parasympathetic Nervous System is one of the greatest survival skills you can ever master. It is stepping from ‘fight, flight, freeze’ to ‘relax and recover’ through breathing and connecting to the body. It takes time to master, but the 5-2-8 breathing technique will give you a little insight to this. It is worth repeating the breath technique three times to feel the benefit. Over the longer term you need to develop a meditation practice to sustain this state of wellness and I can’t recommend that enough.
I have designed a very simple 10-minute guided meditation for my members. If you subscribe to my mailing list you will receive a link. Once a month I share hints and tips around mindset change and wellness. This guided meditation is the byproduct of years of training and research into multiple modalities of meditation and mindfulness.
Something to consider I hope.
(Before trying cold water training or anything that may shock your body consult first with your doctor).