Tone your vagus
Writer Victoria Woodhall trials the latest and greatest
Loving kindness meditation
WHAT: This meditation was the basis of a 2013 study, which showed how positive emotions and social connection helped to improve vagal tone.
THE VERDICT: I used a clever (free!) 13-minute Soundcloud session from Happy Buddha. The aim is to imagine people who love you sending warmth, with you radiating it back to them and the world. I felt a definite softening and a sense of letting go. I didn’t realise my default mode was defensive.
A cold shower
WHAT: Copius cold water on the face actually activates your mammalian dive reflex, which stimulates the vagus nerve.
THE VERDICT: After a few bracing seconds, a cold shower became a very zen experience. I was too cold to think about
anything. Afterwards I felt a strange sense of calm – and actually surprisingly warm.
The wearable pebble
WHAT: Vibro-acoustic therapy has been used to help treat migraines and insomnia. Now the tech has been shrunk to a smartphone-linked wearable called the Sensate (getsensate. com) for instant calm on the go.
THE VERDICT: I tucked the pebble in my bra and activated it via an app; it played relaxing music and also sent throbbing pulses of sound to the Sensate on my breastbone. Ten minutes felt like a turbo meditation.