What Is The Vagus Nerve And How Can It Help Boost Your Wellbeing?

You may have heard of it, you may not – but either way, the vagus nerve is a wellbeing wonder that’s definitely worth understanding…

What Is The Vagus Nerve And How Can It Help Boost Your Wellbeing?

It’s an understatement to say that the human body is pretty impressive. And while we like to think that we have at least a basic understanding of how our bodies function, there’s one major player we’re only just learning about: the vagus nerve. You may have heard of it, you may not have – but either way, it's a wellbeing wonder that’s definitely worth understanding…

You might be familiar with its name, but this silent conductor orchestrates our entire bodily symphony – without us even realising. Plus, understanding its role and tapping into its potential could help us impact our overall wellbeing.

So, if you want to better understand the vagus nerve and boost its wellbeing benefits, you’ve come to the right place…

What Is The Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve, also known as the vagal nerves, are the main nerves of your parasympathetic nervous system. Put simply, it is a huge system running through our body that helps with things we don't think about day to day. It's a big part of our 'unconscious' – helping to regulate things like breathing, gulping and heart rate.

"The nervous system is an automatic process, constantly striving for balance within the body,” explains Clinical Psychologist and Breathwork Facilitator Dr Katie Overbury. “It governs everything from your blood pressure to your breathing and, depending on whether it perceives a threat or safety, it adjusts your bodily state accordingly."

“The nervous system is constantly looking out for two things: are you in threat or are you safe, both internally and externally. Depending on the answer and what it finds, the nervous system will adjust your bodily state to respond to this.”

“Think of the vagus nerve’s responses like a traffic light system,” says Self-Development Coach Wendy O'Beirne. “It influences our emotions, thoughts and bodily sensations – from the 'red' zone of extreme danger or 'freeze,' to the 'amber' zone of jumpy and anxious behaviour associated with fight or flight, and finally, the 'green' zone denoting a state of calm connectedness.

Why Is The Vagus Nerve Important?

Understanding the vagus nerve's significance is helpful to allow us to understand how our body and mind are connected and work together. It serves as a messenger system, shuttling information between your body and brain. "The vagus nerve constantly relays data between the body and brain," explains O’Beirne. “Where you are on the scale of connectedness or stress alters your perception and response to the world.” By harnessing its power, we can positively impact our overall wellbeing.

What Are The Benefits Of Stimulating The Vagus Nerve?

Activating the vagus nerve isn't just a wellness trend – it can be a game-changer for your mind, body, and soul. "The connection between breath and the vagus nerve is profound," says breathwork coach Rob Rea. "Deep breathing activates the vagus nerve, signalling our body to relax and unwind."

"Many of us are all too familiar with the daily grind, feeling the weight of stress, anxiety, and irritability. We struggle to unwind, to find that elusive sense of calm,” says Dr Overbury. “That's where 'downregulating' comes in – a process of cultivating feelings of safety within the body, allowing the Ventral Vagus to kick in and usher in a sense of peace."

So, how can you harness the power of the vagus nerve in your daily life? It's all about finding what works for you. “The things that ‘soothe’ or ‘downregulate’ you are going to be completely unique to each person,” explains Dr Overbury. “You can explore things that make your body feel calm over time and makes notes on what these practices look like.”

“For me personally, going from my work day (which can be very stressful) to meditating in silence doesn’t work. I need time to ‘wind down’ – imagine it’s like going from 100 mph to 0mph in a car, we need to slowly press the brakes on in order to not get whiplash. For me, that might look like first doing some slightly more active things (which are still winding down) such as a walk or run with music on, before a walk in silence, before cooking with music, before a bath with a podcast, before a silent bath, before some breathwork or meditation. It’s a slow process, and it’s going to look totally different for each person, but we want to gently guide the body to slow down, not shock it into stillness or silence which may feel unsafe.”

How To Soothe Your System And Downregulate Your Vagus Nerve


Breathwork is a practice that many people find beneficial when it comes to calming your nervous system and helping you feel more relaxed and grounded.

“There is a breathing technique called vagal breathing,” explains Rea. “This involves taking slow, deep breaths and focusing on feeling the breath as it moves through the body. This type of breathing can help to activate the vagus nerve, leading to a decrease in stress hormones and a feeling of relaxation.”

Want to boost your breathwork practice even further? Pair with NEOM’s Calming Pen – and let the essential oil blend create a moment of relaxation, wherever you go.

Grounding Rituals

Engaging in grounding rituals can help us reconnect with our body and soothe our mind. Practice activities such as walking in nature, splashing cold water on your face, or spending time barefoot on the ground to intentionally slow down and notice your surroundings.

Yoga and Meditation

Incorporating yoga and meditation into your routine is a great way to promote relaxation and emotional resilience. Explore different yoga poses and meditation techniques to find what works best for you.

Enhance your practice by lighting one of our NEOM Natural Candles. They’re perfect for creating a tranquil ambiance to deepen your connection with yourself and help to activate your vagus nerve.

Everyday Practices

Incorporate everyday practices into your routine to support your nervous system and enhance wellbeing. Enjoy activities like singing, dancing, connecting with friends, or cooking, which bring joy and relaxation into your life. “Some of these practices may feel more ‘therapeutic’ than others,” says Dr Katie Overbury, “but all are valid when making us feel good.”