Who we are is shaped, in part, by our tenth cranial nerve. This key conduit connects our brain to our body and is also called the vagus nerve. It emerges from the brain stem and, although it makes multiple stops to various internal organs, its most significant function is connecting our brain to our heart.
The ventral vagal system is involved with most aspects of social contact and pleasure. It guides eye contact, hearing, eating, speech, singing, nursing, kissing, smiling, and some would say, direct heart to heart contact.
Because of its role in making contact between different people favorable, the ventral vagal system is a way of achieving personal safety but it requires a moderate amount of actual safety to develop or stay employed. That is why prolonged danger or stress, or stress or danger early in life, tends to atrophy or impair the development of the ventral vagal system.
The vagus nerve increases heart rate during fight-or-flight mode but it also soothes the racing heart with the calm-and-connect response. Keeping in mind that love is connection, the vagus nerve tells the story about how attuned we are to sources of love.
Scientist can measure the strength of the vagus nerve simply by tracking your heart rate in conjunction with breathing. This pattern is called the vagal tone – the higher one’s vagal tone, the greater biological aptitude for love.
By learning how to self-generate love, you can raise your vagal tone. And with higher vagal tone, your actions become more agile, more attuned to the people in your midst. You become better able to forge the interpersonal connections that give rise to positivity resonance.