Meditation improves vagal tone

30 Jul

The vagus nerve emerges directly from the brain is involved in the regulation of a number of organs including the heart and the adrenal glands. Vagal tone refers to the effect that the vagus nerve has on hear rate and is used as a measure of the body’s ability to mediate stress.

A study published this month (pdf) in the prestigious journal Psychological Science, reports that Metta Meditation, sometimes called Loving Kindness Meditation, improves both positive emotion and vagal tone. This was a well designed and controlled experiment and it adds to evidence of the health and psychological benefits of meditation.

The authors conclude:

“Most advice dispensed about how people might improve their physical health calls for increased physical activity, improved nutritional intake, and reductions in tobacco and alcohol use. Alongside this good advice, we now have evidence to recommend efforts to self-generate positive emotions as well. Recurrent momentary experiences of positive emotions appear to serve as nutrients for the human body, increasing feelings of social belonging and giving a needed boost to parasympathetic health, which in turn opens people up to more and more rewarding positive emotional and social experiences. Over time, this self-sustaining upward spiral of growth appears to improve physical health.”

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