Friday, August 09, 2013

Vagus Nerves and the need not to gossip or backbite

Interesting article:

Vagus thinking: Meditate your way to better health, from the 18 July 2013 edition of New Scientist

It talks about the importance of "vagal tone," the relation between heartbeat and breathing, as it affects the vagus nerve.

Remember the saying, "The journey between the head and the heart is one of a thousand miles."? Well, that is what the vagus nerve does. Literally. It connects the brain and the heart. It is very important for health and alertness. Recent findings show that you can improve the tone of that nerve.

"Then there are mental benefits. People with higher vagal tone tend to be intellectually sparkier, with a better working memory and ability to focus their attention. Some work even suggests that the low vagal tone commonly seen in people with chronic fatigue syndrome may account for the cognitive slowness that can accompany the condition."

The scientist researching this has come up with "loving kindness meditation" techniques to improve vagal tone, techniques that remind one of Abdu'l-Baha's teachings against negative thoughts about others, or even about life itself. As you see below, this is also a teaching of the Quran.

"Learning loving kindness meditation improves vagal tone," says Fredrickson. And good vagal tone improves emotional and social well-being. So an "upward spiral" exists, in which higher vagal tone promotes greater social connectedness and positive emotions, which then promotes even higher vagal tone. She calls social connectedness a potent "wellness behaviour", noting that social isolation is associated with an increased risk of death comparable to smoking, drinking too much alcohol, obesity or physical inactivity. If she is correct, vagal tone is an important player in the mind-body connection, and loving kindness meditation is a key to improving our mental and physical well-being, deepening our personal experience, and lengthening our lives."

..."Meanwhile, if you are tempted to think well of others, there is one thing you should know: improving vagal tone is hardest for people who have low tone to begin with. But whatever your level, there is hope – and regular meditation may not even be necessary. Exercise also boosts vagal tone, although there still isn't enough research to quantify its impacts. Repeated exposure to "excitative" music may do too. Andy Martens at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, has found that hearing positive feedback about yourself can increase vagal tone, suggesting that anything that enhances your self-esteem might help. And Kok has unpublished work showing that just reflecting on positive social experiences during the day boosts vagal tone."

The health of our vagus nerve also seems to have something to do with genius, the confirmations our efforts get from others, and from the Spirit. The Baha'i writings say:

"The confirmations of the Spirit are all those powers and gifts which some are born with (and which men sometimes call genius), but for which others have to strive with infinite pains. They come to that man or woman who accepts his life with radiant acquiescence."
~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

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