Fall in love with random people and strangers for better health.
No, not the conventional type of love from the movies. No, not the by-product of loving feelings in which a system of behaviors follows. I'm talking about the micro-moments of emotional connection that lead to emotional resonance and, in turn, have been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve.
The vagus (wandering) nerve is the 10th cranial nerve. It wanders throughout the body and sends information between it and the brain. The more the vagus nerve is appropriately stimulated, the more toned it becomes. That tone positively affects our cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.
There are many ways to stimulate the vagus nerve. One way demonstrated in research is that when two people share a story, even if they are strangers, there is synchronization in their brains and this can improve vagal nerve tone. So, let's start talking to people. About real things. Let's take a second to notice something individual about whoever is in front of us or whatever moment in time we are sharing. I'm not advocating oversharing, but we should avoid staying stuck on our phones or our heads and miss an opportunity to fall in love. It's healthy to feel that there is a common energy and intention connecting us to each other, even if only for a brief moment.
One of the things I can reflect on as I look back on my somewhat unusual life is that while there are enough strange stories (some might call it trauma), to make a mini-series out of, there has also been a lot of falling in love. I tend to really enjoy connecting with people and, well, to "fall in love" with them. I'd like to think of this as one of the healthiest things I do.
When I work with my clients, there are those who feel utterly overwhelmed by cutting out most of their processed foods or adding in exercise or more sleep. While we work on those habits, which take time and persistence, I remind them that they can get healthier simply by fostering small, warm emotional connections with people throughout their day. Whether it's with the guard you see each morning as you enter your office building or another parent at carpool drop off, there are many opportunities for deep micro emotional connections. To be present enough to bring our focus, intention, and attention to another person can lay the groundwork for falling in love with random people, strangers, friends, and family and help improve vagal nerve tone.
In today's world, we are so distracted. I am the first to notice my attention span has shrunk dramatically since working more, doing more, and scrolling more. I am reminding myself how healthy it is to be present in my relationships and that it has a physical manifestation in my body. There are so many opportunities to fall in love. Add in some walking, more whole foods, and less processed food, and you've got a recipe for good health.