The impact of our nervous system on our mood, behavior, and general well-being cannot be understated. It is essential in regulating emotions, influences our ability to make decisions and concentrate, and affects how we respond to stressors. Today, we’ll tell you all about the different ways your nervous system affects your everyday life and how you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system to enjoy benefits such as increased relaxation and greater focus.
Parts of the Nervous System and How they Affect Your Everyday Life
We’ll begin by breaking down the different components of the nervous system.
Central nervous system (CNS)
First, the central nervous system is composed of the brain and spinal cord. It takes in information from our senses, such as sight, sound, and touch, and sends it to our brain for processing. The peripheral nervous system then carries messages from the brain to muscles throughout our body, allowing us to move in response to stimuli. (We’ll talk more about that in a moment)
The CNS also plays a vital role in our emotional regulation, contributing to neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine release. These powerful chemicals can influence our mood, help us stay focused, and even activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us relax and remain calm.
Peripheral nervous system
Another part of the nervous system is the peripheral nervous system. It includes sensory neurons that receive information from our external environment and motor neurons which activate muscles throughout our body, enabling us to move in response. This part of the nervous system also interacts with other parts of the body, such as our endocrine system, which can release hormones into the bloodstream to affect bodily functions.
Autonomic nervous system
We also have an autonomic nervous system responsible for controlling involuntary activities like digestion and heart rate. This nervous system branch is divided into two subsystems: sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic division prepares your body for fight-or-flight responses during times of danger or stress, while parasympathetic nerves activate rest-and-digest processes.
Let’s talk more about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems next.
Sympathetic nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system prepares your body to respond to stressful situations and fight-or-flight reactions. It activates the release of hormones like adrenaline, which increases heart rate and triggers other physical responses like increased alertness. This can be useful when faced with a potentially dangerous situation, however, it can also activate in non-threatening situations such as during social interactions or public speaking.
Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS)
On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system helps activate rest-and-digest processes that promote relaxation. Neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are released into the bloodstream, helping to reduce stress levels, improve focus, and increase feelings of well-being. Activating this branch of the nervous system can benefit mental and physical health.
An essential component of the PNS is the vagus nerve. This nerve serves as a key connection between the gut and the brain, influencing both digestion and emotional regulation.
How to Activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System
We now know more about how the nervous system affects our everyday life, including the benefits of activating the PNS. Next, let’s discuss ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (and stimulate the vagus nerve) and reap its rewards.
Get enough sleep
Ensuring you are getting adequate rest is essential for both physical and mental health. Research shows that lack of sleep can activate your sympathetic nervous system, leading to increased stress and poor emotional regulation. Therefore, aim for at least seven hours of quality sleep each night.
Regular physical activity has been shown to activate the PNS, reducing stress levels and improving focus. Even low-intensity activities such as walking or stretching can be beneficial for your body and mind.
Eat healthy foods
A healthy diet helps keep our bodies balanced by providing essential nutrients for optimal functioning of all body systems including the nervous system.
Practice mindful activities
Mindfulness is an effective way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and help our bodies relax. Mindful activities such as meditation, yoga, or even deep breathing can benefit mental and physical health.
Vagus nerve stimulation
One of the most exciting and effective ways to activate the PNS is through vagus nerve stimulation. This technique activates the brain-gut connection, helping our body relax and reducing stress levels. Vagus nerve stimulation can be done through activities such as humming or gargling, or even an electrical device used to activate the vagus nerve.
Another effective option is using a vagus nerve stimulation device. Handheld, non-invasive options, including Xen by Neuvana, allow you to stimulate the vagus nerve from the comfort of your home.
Benefits of Vagus Nerve Stimulation
When you do stimulate the vagus nerve, you activate the PNS and reap the benefits, such as:
- Improved focus: Activating the vagus nerve helps maintain normal levels of alertness and focus.
- Stress reduction: Stimulating the vagus nerve helps activate rest-and-digest processes, reducing stress levels.
- Mood regulation: The vagus nerve can help regulate emotions and improve overall well-being.
- Better sleep: Many people report improved sleep quality and duration when stimulating their vagus nerve.
- Faster recovery: Vagus nerve stimulation can help activate the body’s natural recovery process.
- Reduce inflammation: VNS can help activate processes that can reduce inflammation in the body.
The nervous system plays a significant role in our everyday lives and understanding how it works can help us make better choices for our health and well-being. For example, we know activating the parasympathetic nervous system helps reduce stress levels, improve focus, and boost mood. Thankfully there are several simple ways we can activate this branch of the nervous system, including getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, practicing mindful activities, and stimulating the vagus nerve. By taking the time to activate our PNS, we can improve both physical and mental health and live happier lives.