Tuning Up Your Vagal Tone: Practical Tips for a Happy Nerve 

Welcome back, mindful explorers! Now that we’ve uncovered the secrets of the Polyvagal Theory and peeked behind the curtain of our emotional circus in the previous blogpost, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get hands-on with some practical tips and exercises. Today, we’re diving into the world of increasing our vagal tone for a happier, healthier nerve! 

1. Breathe Deeply: Let’s start with something we all do, but often overlook: BREATHING! Deep and gentle belly breaths send a powerful signal to your vagus nerve, telling it that you are safe. A simple  practice that can quickly shift your nervous system towards a state of calm and relaxation, is the 4-7-8 breath: Inhale for a count of 4, hold for 7, and exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat this a few times  throughout the day, especially when you feel stress creeping in. 

2. Mindful Moments: Embrace the power of mindfulness. Take a few moments each day to ground  yourself in the present. Whether it’s through meditation, mindful walking, or simply pausing to  notice your surroundings, these mindful moments can work wonders in enhancing your vagal tone. An exercise that helps to breaks the cycle of our ruminating monkey mind is, the 5-4-3-2-1-exercise

  • Name 5 things you can see in your immediate  environment and pay attention to the color, form, and texture.  
  • Name 4 things you can feel and concentrate for example, on the sense of fabric on your skin. 
  • Name 3 things you can hear, while listening to the ambient noises around you. 
  • Name 2 things you can smell, for example: the perfume on your skin and the aroma of your freshly prepared- coffee.  
  • Name 1 thing you can taste, for example: the lingering flavor of toothpaste or the refreshing taste of water while taking a sip.

 3. Warm Up Your Vocal Chords: Did you know that humming or singing can stimulate your vagus  nerve? It’s like a little lullaby for your nervous system. So, belt out your favorite tune in the shower or hum a calming melody when you need a quick stress-buster. 

4. Socialize and Connect: Engage in activities that bring you joy and connect you with others.  Laughter, shared experiences, and genuine connections all contribute to a positive vagal tone.  Schedule regular catch-ups with friends, join a club, or volunteer – anything that nurtures your social  connections. In meaningful and authentic relationships, we help to co-regulate one another, promoting feelings of safety and connection.  

5. Embrace the Power of Touch: Physical touch increases the release of the cuddle-hormone  ‘oxytocin’ in the brain. Which helps us to relax, lower anxiety and blood pressure and promotes  growth and healing. Whether it is a warm hug, a gentle massage, or even petting your furry friend,  tactile experiences help regulate your nervous system and boost your emotional well-being.

6. Move Your Body: Regular physical activity is a fantastic way to keep your vagus nerve in top-notch  condition. Whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga, or dancing around your living room, find a form of exercise  that brings you joy and makes your body happy. 

7. Prioritize Quality Sleep: A good night’s sleep is a secret weapon for vagal tone. Ensure you create  a calming bedtime routine, minimize screen time before sleep, and create a comfortable sleep  environment. Quality sleep does wonders for your overall well-being. 

8. Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a mindset of gratitude. Taking a moment each day to reflect on the  positive aspects of your life can shift your nervous system into a state of calm, contributing to a  healthier vagal tone. 

Incorporating these ‘vagal toning exercises’ into your daily life will empower you to take a more active role in your well-being. Be patient with yourself and know that increasing your vagal tone is  not a one-size-fits-all journey. Experiment with different exercises, find what resonates with you, and  weave them into your daily routine. Remember, small, consistent steps can lead to significant  improvements. As you embark on this adventure of self-discovery, may your vagal tone soar, and  your emotional well-being flourish! 


Annelies Van Tieghem 


  • Porges, S. W. (2001). The polyvagal theory: Phylogenetic substrates of a social nervous  system. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 42(2), 123-146.
  • The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy by Deb Dana 
  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk 
  • Uvnas-Moberg, K., & Petersson, M. (2005). Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being,  social interaction, growth, and healing. Zeitschrift für Psychotraumatologie,  
  • Psychotherapiewissenschaft, Psychologische Medizin, 51(1), 57.