Kindness Towards Oneself and Others Tones Your Vagus Nerve – Vagus nerve survival guide: Phase seven.

Christopher Bergland, ‘Kindness Towards Oneself and Others Tones Your Vagus Nerve – Vagus nerve survival guide: Phase seven.’,, Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers (May 30, 2017)


In 2010, Frederickson and Bethany Kok of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences published their landmark study, “Upward Spirals of the Heart: Autonomic Flexibility, as Indexed by Vagal Tone, Reciprocally, and Prospectively Predicts Positive Emotions and Social Connectedness,” in the journal Biological Psychiatry. (…) They found people with higher vagal tone have better overall heart health, lower levels of inflammation, stronger social bonds, and tend to exhibit better emotion regulation. (…) From an evolutionary standpoint, one could speculate that this biological response became hardwired as part of a survival mechanism that nurtured cooperative human bonds and alliances that benefitted both the individual and the collective. (…) In 2013, Fredrickson and colleagues conducted another groundbreaking study that looked at the role that practicing loving-kindness meditation (LKM) played in making the upward spiral dynamic between vagal tone, positive emotions, close-knit human bonds, and physical health more robust. (…) Self-compassion is the key to breaking the vicious cycle of beating yourself up and then feeling the knee-jerk reaction to cut other people down to build yourself up again to regain some self-esteem. (…) Compassion is associated with activation in the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system through the vagus nerve…Compassion, a core affective component of empathy and prosociality, is associated with heightened parasympathetic activity.