The Science of Love and Sh*t (Part 2)
John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss how stimulating the vagus nerve can reduce stress, increase resilience, and amplify your experience of love and belonging.
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The Science of Love and Sh*t (Part 2)
For more in this series, check out: Love and Sh*t (Part 1) and Neurobiology of Love: Exploring the Science of Desire.
In the previous episode, we dove into the workings of happiness from a scientific perspective. Through small moments of micro-connection and a shared agreement between two people to have a mutually beneficial engagement, we learned that you can literally find love everywhere.
Today, we’re examining what happens in your body as a result.
A steady diet of these micro-moments of positivity and connection influences how you grow and change. However small they may seem in the moment, they actually make you healthier and more resilient.
As we experience these micro-moments, it fundamentally alters the biochemicals in your body. And that can alter the way your DNA gets expressed within your cells.
When we think about it, this is truly a revolutionary concept.
When we go out into the world everyday, we tend to be stuck in our nervous systems - our cortisol-driven survival mechanism of “fight or flight”. What we may not be looking for are these beautiful little moments of positivity and connection that can actually feed our souls and change the way that we experience life.
How we show up is a choice, and it is also a practice. Just as it takes action to connect with another with another human being, there is action that occurs inside of your body.
Think about waves — peaking and then crashing, ebbing and flowing. That’s the way our physiology works. Our whole inner universe is fluid and constantly changing. The more that we can get our brains and bodies at tune to accepting and embracing this constant flow of change, the better off we are.
How does that system actually work?
There are three parts of your physiology that make up “love”:
- Oxytocin: the bonding hormone that pulses through your body
- The vagus nerve: your 10th cranial nerve, which runs from deep inside the brain down to your heart and your lungs and your other internal organs
- The brain
Oxytocin is what pulses through your body. Your vagus nerve is the thing that pulses and sends it all out. And your brain is the locus of feeling, where you have the experience of being in sync with another person.
Your vagus nerve is the lynchpin. You can have a weak or strong vagal tone. This impacts the extent to which this nerve is pumping and pulsing the feeling of connection to your brain and body.
If you have higher vagal tone, you’re going to be more flexible across life domains — physical, mental, and social. You’ll adapt better to ever-shifting circumstances, and experience stress better. You’ll also feel more love in your daily life, and more micro-moments of positivity resonance.
There are many ways to strengthen your vagal tone. Here’s three:
- Meditation and breathwork
- Trust (the process of building it with others)
- Feeling and processing your emotions
Increasing your flow of oxytocin doesn’t negatively impact your ability to decide whether or not to trust someone. In other words, building up your vagal tone doesn’t turn you into a blind optimist! What it does do is provide you with a heightened ability to defend against cortisol, your stress hormone. It’s like a superpower.
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