To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions. ― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Have you read The Secret? I read it for the first time 8 years ago in my freshman year of college. It forced me to notice how negative and self-destructive my moment-to-moment thoughts were. Because of my apparent ‘negative’ thought process, it was a bit frightening when this book made me aware of my mind’s connection to my future and present reality.

Initially, many of the concepts in the book went over my head, but it did immediately force me to start paying closer attention to my mind’s thoughts. This heightened self-awareness made me realize three things:

  1. I had no idea how much of a critic I was of myself
  2. I spoke very poorly to myself on a regular basis
  3. My thoughts completely controlled how I felt every day

The time and effort spent on fixing my poor thought process were more than worth the investment because as I started to shift my mind’s thoughts, I started to feel better too. 

How the body works

All of a sudden, a light bulb went off… The internal functioning of the body must work in the same way that everything in nature works. Nature works in perfect harmony when energy is allowed to flow freely. For example, block the sun’s energy and most plants would fail to grow, and without water, surely all plants will die. When we restrict a living entity’s natural flow of life (it’s connectedness) and hold back its needed connections, it usually dies off.

Human’s are also created to be connected to our external surroundings, and our internal body mirrors this natural law in the universe by working the same way. Everything in our body is connected, so it must be obvious that our mind is a powerful indicator of how we will feel.

After reading The Secret, I picked up Zen and The Art of Happiness, where I read about how positive thoughts create a very specific cell in our body, they call it ‘the happiness cell’. Negative thoughts correspondingly create an opposite cell in our body.

The mindblowing part is that the negative thoughts are addictive, and the negative cells duplicate and feed off of each other. These negative cells are the same cells in which cancers and diseases feed off of and grow in… WHAT?! 

Our minds are in control

Our minds really DO control how we feel. What I first experienced in college, when I stopped my negative thought process and in turn began feeling better, was the first time I personally experienced how my mind was in control of how I felt.

8 years later, to pull it all together logistically, a mentor of mine recently started talking about the vagus nerve and its power over how we feel. Everything I had been learning and personally experiencing through the years all of a sudden had more of a scientific and logistic explanation. Excuse my language but F*$&K yes!

The vagus nerve is what I see as a compelling example of the power our mind has over major elements of our health.

What is the vagus nerve?

The vagus nerve is the longest and most complex of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves that originate from the brain, and it’s also the primary nerve that connects the brainstem to the body.

It transmits information to or from the surface of the brain, directly to all of the main organs and tissues in the body. The name “vagus” comes from the Latin term for “wandering.” This is because the vagus nerve wanders from the brain into main organs in the neck, chest, and abdomen. (1)

If the vagus nerve feeds ‘negative’ signals to the neck, chest, and abdomen on a regular basis, you can only imagine all of the ailments that might be derived from a consistent poor thought process, or a blocked vagus nerve.

At this point in time, the harsh effects caused by putting your body in a constant state of stress are common knowledge. To be thorough, common stress causes symptoms like:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Heartburn
  • Weakened immune system
  • Risk of heart attack
  • Stomach issues
  • Low sex drive
  • and the list goes on (here)

And, surprise surprise… the same things that release stress ALSO stimulate the vagus nerve. 

12 ways to stimulate the vagus nerve

The vagus nerve directly connects the brain to the gut (both the intestines and stomach), heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder, spleen, lungs, sex organs (in females), ureter, neck (pharynx, larynx, and esophagus), tongue and ears. No other nerve in the body has such a far-reaching effect.

It’s important to keep the nerve stimulated so the pathways of communications are clear. Below are 12 ways to stimulate the vagus nerve.

  1. Yoga
  2. Meditation
  3. Deep Breathing Exercises 
  4. Laughter
  5. Probiotics
  6. Exercise
  7. Fasting 
  8. Massages
  9. Acupuncture
  10. Omega 3’s – Fish Oil
  11. Cold Showers
  12. Singing, chanting

An awareness of thought is a powerful improvement in the functioning of the vagus nerve. If we’re constantly sending ‘stressed’ or ‘negative’ feelings to our organs, you can only imagine how damaging that will be over time!

This topic will definitely come up again. Hope you enjoyed the basics. Be sure to scroll down and subscribe to OmniMinds so you can receive articles directly to your inbox!

You might also like:

What flow means in positive psychology: here

Using emotional intelligence (EQ) to change your life: here

90-second anxiety relief and sleep aid: here


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