Category: Emotions

What Is the Vagus Nerve? (and How Does It Impact Health, Mood and Performance?)

In recent years, I’ve regularly vouched for the gut as our long-abused secondary brain. Given what most of us grew up learning in school, it can feel like a mammoth shift. Science and philosophy have long revered the brain as seat of consciousness, even the seat of humanity itself. But when it comes down to it, everything is interconnected. Our consciousness extends well beyond the brain. How we feel and who we are encompasses a much more expansive and intricate system than any of us learned in high school biology. At the center of this paradigm revision is something called the vagus nerve.

Vagus…as a word it sounds a little off-putting. If someone called me a vagus, I’d probably be mildly offended. But the literary origins of this word are actually kind of mystical: “vagus” in Latin translates to “wandering.” And I’d struggle to find a more apt definition.

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Embodiment for Emotional Health: Is Mindful Movement a Primal Key?

“Women carry trauma in their hips.”

(The stray remark got my attention, too.) I was walking along the beach when I heard it. Two women, deep in conversation, had passed me. Between the waves and my dog’s bark, it was the only snippet I caught. One had matter-of-factly professed it, and the other offered a knowing sigh in agreement. As a trainer, the thought jumped out at me—not so much the gendered suggestion (I have no claim on expertise there) but the idea that emotion gets stored in our bodies and not just in our memories. All of us are at various points in life subject to pain, loss and suffering. Whether we contend with something as severe as trauma or something difficult but normal like grief, anxiety or resentment, how do unresolved emotions linger within our physiology or even particular locations or functions within it? How might these feelings that we retain act as a wild card in our overall health? Finally, in keeping with this possibility, does “moving through” emotional suffering oblige us to move bodily toward healing?

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7 Primal Ways to Bridge the Parent Happiness Gap

Particularly when you’re a parent, October can be a transitional month. I remember feeling like we’d just gotten the kids settled in school and suddenly we were knee deep in extracurricular activities, class projects, parent-teacher conferences—and the holidays. On my more exhausted days, I felt like we were navigating a two-month bender of parties and concerts, costumes and events. On the one hand, it was fun to see the kids’ excitement. It made for good memories, but it also exacted an extended toll. When every week is “special,” it’s wearing. These days life is simpler on the family front, but every once in a while I’ll remember those more frenetic patches. It’s easy to be nostalgic on the other side of the dogged years, but I haven’t forgotten the harder truth of parenting. Sometimes it’s a slog through overwhelm, and research reflects that much. But does it need to be as heavy as we often make it?

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How Expressing Your Emotions—or Not—Affects Your Health

A little bird told me the other day that it might not be a bad time to talk about the impact of emotions on our health—particularly our choice to express or not express them. I’ve heard people around me share that they’re worn out lately—that emotions have imposed a toll regardless of how well they keep their own in check. It got me thinking. Increasingly, researchers uncover the remarkable imbrication of mental and physical well-being. How we nourish or neglect our physical selves affects how we feel psychologically. Likewise, the emotional terrain we traverse throughout a day, in turn, elicits its own physiological feedback. Yet in this culture, there’s a certain esteem for the stiff upper lip. We restrain ourselves for the sake of others—our perception of their comfort and/or of their opinion of us. But are we sacrificing something in doing so? When does the polite instinct to suppress our emotions benefit us, and when does it backfire?

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7 Ways to Deal with Food Anxiety

People frequently wax sentimental for what they call “simpler” days—presumably times when the rules were fewer and clearer, when choices weren’t so overwhelming, when demands were less and common sense was more prevalent. Eating, of course, is no exception to this. If you listen to the dominant voices in the social-media-marketing-medical culture, it’s enough to ruin your dinner and make you feel guilty for skipping breakfast (Don’t buy the guilt trip). We’re fed contradictory studies, warned of the latest threats lurking in our food supply, told every bite squashes the life out of another ecosystem, and led through fluorescent-lit warehouses filled with more food options and label claims than one person should ever be reasonably expected to handle. It’s exhausting, frustrating and on certain days defeating. So what’s a reasonable approach in an age when anxiety too often overtakes enjoyment of eating?

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How to Accept Your Body After Significant Weight Loss

There are many meaningful reasons people go Primal: they want to improve their fitness, increase their longevity, feel younger, reverse lifestyle conditions, heal hormonal imbalances, enhance fertility, get off prescription medications, and lose fat. With regard to losing fat, some want to lose a good deal of it—to significantly alter their body composition. This goal, while it has the power to shift one’s entire health trajectory (not to mention life experience) may also be the most likely to come with unforeseen, even undesired results. I’m talking particularly about those who undergo dramatic transformations—the kind that can leave them feeling incredible, enjoying vitality, and (in particular) looking substantially different.

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