Taking proactive steps to sustain your well-being is vital these days. Fortunately, there are self-care practices that can support greater coherence and well-being. These practices are easy and effective yet require no expensive equipment…just your body!
The first practice involves your breathing rate. You breathe without conscious awareness throughout your day. Without conscious awareness, the average respiration rate is 12 to 16 breaths a minute. When you bring your awareness to the pattern of your breath, you can slow down your respiration rate to 5 or 6 breaths per minute. This is the practice of coherent breathing that has been found to enhance well-being.
This practice of coherent breathing translates to a 5 to 6 second inhale through the nostrils followed by a 5 to 6 second exhale through the nostrils. It is very helpful to repeat a meaningful 6-word statement about your well-being as you inhale and then repeat the statement as you exhale. Take a couple of minutes to do this practice right now and you will notice one or more shifts within your body. As you practice, notice how your breath becomes deeper with more movement in your abdomen. Even within a couple of moments, you may sense of greater state of calm.
Researchers have reported that this practice of coherent breathing can improve circulation, reduce blood pressure, mitigate pain, and potentially contribute to longevity. It also improves heart rate variability (HRV). HRV or the variation in the time interval between heart beats is an indicator of health. The practice of slower and deeper breathing has been passed down from mystics to mothers with the intent to support the body and mind while calming a person.
Coherent breathing is a simple practice to integrate into your day. It can be done as you watch a movie, before you go to sleep, or when you can take a break from your daily tasks and projects. You can begin with a 2-minute practice and work your way towards a 15 to 20-minute practice of conscious coherent breathing. Over time with a daily practice, your respiration rate will lower throughout your day without your conscious awareness as you reap many benefits.
The next group of practices address how well your vagus nerve supports your well-being or the quality of your vagal tone. The quality of your vagal tone affects the maintenance of health, regulation of bodily functions, and support of healing when needed. When the vagus nerve functions in a less than optimal way, you can experience different types of symptoms ranging from physical tension such as pain, mental and emotional difficulties such as anxiety, cardiac symptoms such as high blood pressure, respiratory problems such as asthma, and issues with immunity such as frequent colds.
The vagus nerve comprises 75% of your peripheral nervous system. It is the longest nerve that creates a coherent system of communication between the brain stem downward and into the torso connecting the organs and glands. The name of this nerve means wanderer due to its extensive presence in the torso. Eighty percent of the communication from the vagus nerve goes up to the brain.
Here is the good news, supporting better vagal tone occurs as you practice coherent breathing!
There are other easy practices that enhance the coherence operating via your vagus nerve. One is to hum or sing along to your favorite music. The vibration of your vocal cords stimulates the vagus nerve as it travels down from the brain stem and into your throat. The practice of yoga is very helpful for improving your vagal tone. Laughter is yet another easy way to support good vagal tone. These practices require only your willingness to engage in activities you can perform with your body.Enjoy these practices to support your well-being!