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What do vagal nerves have to do with stress? Everything.

(bathe in a rain forest + wash your worries away)

In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries created the term Shinrin-yoku, which means 'forest bathing' or 'absorbing the forest atmosphere.' High levels of stress experienced by its citizens and the negative impacts this has on productivity, health care costs, and overall well-being finally got the attention of leaders. So, what's the vagus nerve? It's the longest cranial nerve in our body that runs from the base of the head to the intestines. 

Among many functions, the vagus nerve is connected to our sympathetic nervous system (FIGHT + FLIGHT) and parasympathetic nervous system (REST + DIGEST).

When we're in a perpetual state of stress - from psychological factors and a lack of healthy sleep to animal foods and a lack of movement (and everything in between!) - the sympathetic response can wreck havoc on our immune health, chronic inflammation, and a slew of other ailments. Meditation, walking in nature, and singing/humming (how cool is that?), as well as eating anti-inflammatory foods like green leafies and raw walnuts, are some of the ways that we can shift towards the parasympathetic system. This is where we can heal, sleep, and chill the heck out. I reckon, these are life-promoting practices we all need daily. 

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