Studying positive psychology a few years ago I became slightly obsessed by the work of Dr Barbara Fredrickson a positive psychology researcher.  Barbara and her team investigated the impact of Loving Kindness Meditation not only on emotions but also on how this practice could build other internal resources.

May I introduce your vagus nerve?

The name vagus nerve comes from the Latin meaning ‘vagabond’ or ‘wanderer’ because it wanders to many parts of our body.  Your tenth cranial nerve connects your brain to your body and your heart stopping by various internal organs as well as your ears, the muscles that control speech and our sweat glands.

About your vagus nerve

  • After a flight, flight or freeze response with some help from oxytocin, it is your vagus nerve that soothes your racing heart engaging a rest and recover response
  • Supports and coordinates your love experiences
  • Stimulates facial muscles enabling eye contact
  • Enhances the possibility of connection and increases chances of positivity resonance
  • Puts the breaks on heart rate increases caused by stress, fear or exertion – slowing your heart rate on exhalation
  •  Higher vagal tone the better – yes it can be measured

Why it’s important
Science has shown people with a higher vagal tone:

  • Adapt better to ever-changing circumstances
  • Physically regulate their internal bodily processes
  • Mentally able to regulate attention and emotions

Building and increasing vagal tone, once thought impossible but no longer

  • You can build vagal tone through regular emotional exercise breath by breath
  • Loving Kindness Meditation has been scientifically proven to increase vagal tone

Loving Kindness Meditation

Regular practice of Loving Kindness or Metta meditation a deliberate training of our hearts to be filled with loving kindness, forgiveness, and humility, opens your heart and supports you to rewire old habits of responding to others.  It also increases your vagal tone

Let’s begin

  • Find a quiet place you won’t be interrupted and sit comfortably, ensure your spine is straight and relaxed
  • Rest your palms gently on your thighs and gently close your eyes

As you sit in meditation repeat these phrases in your mind.  Be gentle if you mind starts to wander.  Simply repeat them over and over for as long as you desire but at least four times but you can extend to a few minutes or more.

First, direct the loving-kindness towards yourself, yes, I know it is difficult

May I be happy
May I be safe
May I be free from pain
May I live with ease

Building on your practice bring to mind someone close to you who loves you, someone from your past or present, still with you or who has passed, family, friend, spiritual teacher, imagine that person in front of you.  Now send them loving kindness.

May you be happy
May you be safe
May you be free from pain
May you live with ease

After a few rounds move your attention to a neutral person (I often visualize my barista) and offer them the meditation.

Next, expand the practice to someone you have had or are having difficulty with and offer them the same meditation.

Your practice can then be expanded to include your neighbors, those in your city and finally the world.

May all beings be happy
May all beings be safe
May all beings be from pain
May all beings live with ease

Daily practice of this meditation for six weeks has been proven to improve vagal tone and overall health and wellbeing.  Enjoy the journey

References:  Love 2.0 Dr. Barbara Fredrickson – http://www.positivityresonance.com/

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