Feel younger with vibration

Aging. It’s an inevitable part of being human.

Of course, there’s nothing you can do to reverse the hands of time when it comes to your chronological age.

But there are a few things you can do to reverse your “biological age”—that is, how well your body functions compared to your chronological age.

(Some researchers believe it’s possible to reduce your “inner age” up to 24 years! Could you imagine?!)  

And one major way to do this is to focus on your autonomic nervous system. Researchers say it can make a huge difference when it comes to how you look, feel, and function.

But before I tell you about this groundbreaking research, let’s back up for just a moment. I want to talk a little more about your autonomic nervous system (ANS), and why it’s so important.

This system runs the show

Your ANS system has two main branches:

  1. The sympathetic nervous system—which controls your “fight or flight” reactions, preparing your body for stressful or emergency environments.

  2. The parasympathetic nervous system—also known as your “rest and digest” system, which controls your bodily functions during ordinary, everyday environments.

(I’ve talked about these before here and here.)

And as a whole, your ANS regulates a lot of your most basic bodily processes, including:

  • Blood pressure
  • Body temperature
  • Breathing and heart rate
  • Defecation
  • Digestion
  • Metabolism
  • Nutrient balance
  • Sexual arousal
  • The production of body fluids (saliva, sweat, and tears)
  • Urination

And this system works automatically, without you even having to think about it (hence the name “autonomic”.)

Clearly, it’s crucial to support your ANS system and keep it strong. Especially since it weakens with age.

The damaging domino effect of a weak ANS

Problems happen when a vulnerable ANS gets thrown out of sync. This can do a real number on your heart health, mood regulation, and gut function, triggering inflammation—a major factor that can actually accelerate the aging process.

On top of all that, this puts you at high risk for developing one of many autonomic disorders, each with its own set of unique symptoms.

These disorders can occur on their own, or are triggered by other disruptions of the ANS, like: alcohol/drug abuse, autoimmune disease, cancer, chronic fatigue system, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, or spinal cord disorders.

So if you’re currently managing any of the conditions I just listed, I urge you to pay extra attention to today’s Sound Health issue.

Protect your body from poor aging—with sound

The good news is that UK researchers have found that sound vibration can strengthen the ANS—naturally.

In a 2019 three-part study published in Aging, this team of researchers explored the effects a relatively new sound-based technique had on older adults.

This technique—transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation—is non-invasive technique, and involves attaching a small earpiece to specific points of the ear. This ear device then emits a vibrational frequency which stimulates the vagus nerve.

The green area of this image shows where the ear meets the vagus nerve.
Also pictures is a transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation device.
IMAGE SOURCE: Research Gate

The vagus nerve is hidden beneath all of your skin, lymph nodes, and throat muscles—and nestled in between your trachea and spine. It runs from your brain down through your abdomen, touching all of your major organs.

And when this nerve is stimulated with sound vibration, it sends a message to your brain to activate certain chemicals, switching your body into “healing mode.”

How the ear connects to the vagus nerve.
IMAGE SOURCE: Quizlet.com

Now, back to the study…

The researchers tested the use of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation on 51 adult subjects, all over the age of 55.

One group acted as the control, with no vagus nerve stimulation; the second group underwent 15 minutes of vagus nerve stimulation for one session; and the third group underwent 15 minutes of vagus nerve stimulation for 15 minutes every day for two weeks.

The results were remarkable in the third group. This short window of stimulation produced a wide range of health benefits, like:

  • Better quality sleep
  • Decreased severity of bodily pains
  • Improved blood flow
  • Reductions in depressive symptoms

Researchers also noted significant improvements in the subject’s heart rate variability (HRV)—how well the heart adjusts during various situations or environments. Scientists consider this an indicator of a strong autonomic nervous system.

Clearly, these are all benefits that help people live longer, more enriching lives

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend money on expensive devices, like a transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulator, to reap these longevity benefits.  

Better yet, you already have a way to strengthen your ANS system. And the best part is, you can access it anytime, anywhere—for free!

How to stimulate your inner anti-aging tool

As you learned today, you can build-up your ANS system through vagus nerve stimulation.

And to do this, all you’ll need are your voice, a willingness to try, and three minutes of free time.

Try this at home:

  1. Set a timer for three minutes.

  2. Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Sit or lie down—whatever feels most comfortable.

  3. Close your mouth and jaw, so that your top and bottom molars are touching.

  4. Start your timer. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Exhale through your nose.

  5. Inhale again slowly through your nose.

  6. On the exhale—while keeping your mouth closed—vocalize a humming sound. This stimulates your vagus nerve.

     Do this for the duration of your exhale, or as long as you can.

    (To ensure sure you’re doing this exercise correctly, gently place your palms and fingers on both sides of your neck. You should be able to feel the vibration resonating from your throat as you hum.)
  7. Inhale and repeat until the three minutes are up.

    If you need to stop and take a break, please do so. Do only what feels comfortable. And if you’d like to continue this exercise for a longer time, go ahead!

For more sound-based exercises to sharpen your ANS with vagus nerve stimulation, check out my latest learning tool.

It’s called the Sound Mind Protocol. It’s all online and easy-to-use, so you can learn at your own pace, on your schedule. Click here to learn more or to get started right away.


SOURCES:

Autonomic nervous system. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomic_nervous_system

Bretherton, B. (2019). Effects of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation in individuals aged 55 years of above: potential benefits of daily stimulation. Aging. 11(14): pp. 4836 – 4857. Retrieved from: aging-us.com/article/102074/text

Cherry, K. (2019). What Is the Autonomic Nervous System? Verywell Mind. Retrieved from: verywellmind.com/what-is-the-autonomic-nervous-system-2794823

InnerAge (n.d). Retrieved from: insidetracker.com/innerage/

Low, Phillip. (2018). Overview of Autonomic Nervous System. Merck Manual Consumer Version. Retrieved from: merckmanuals.com/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/autonomic-nervous-system-disorders/overview-of-the-autonomic-nervous-system

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About the author

Jim Donovan M.Ed., is a professional musician and educator. He's an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where he teaches music and how the power of sound can help you experience a healthier life.