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Self Esteem

When we feel new beginnings stirring and our alert focus is heightened toward reaching them, what is it that holds us back?  I was guided to read up on the relationship between our self-belief/self-esteem and our body/mind connection in manifested form as the 'vagus nerve' today, to find some glimmers of illumination.  Here's what I found:

As a reminder, the physiological phenomenon of the vagus nerve is the primary vehicle of our parasympathetic nervous system.  Vagus activity, measured by heart rate variability (HRV) is implicated in many diseases and in the down-regulation of inflammatory responses.  Interestingly, I found some evidence that our self-esteem levels predict cardiac vagal tone.  Self-esteem provides us with an overall sense of security, especially during times of threat and it seems may, for example through vagal pathways, have an impact upon our physical health.  Martens, et al., 2010, showed self-esteem was positively correlated with our HRV at rest.  Intruigingly, a later study showed the correlation between self-esteem and HRV to be more pronounced in men, compared to women. Women tend to have higher baseline vagal activity which is as things should be, if we are here as the incarnation of the 'yin' principle. 

Self-regulation, is an important piece of the puzzle, how we regulate our own thoughts, emotions and physiological responses.  Evidence suggests that the inhibitory activity of our pre-frontal cortex upon the cardioacceleratory regions of the amygdala and medulla plays a part in HRV regulation.  Fascinating to me, is the pre-frontal cortex's activity during self-reflection, 'symbolic' thinking (Jungian psychology, anyone?) and self-referential activity, where we relate and process info from the external world to 'self'.  This is how we make sense of ourselves and our lives in relationship with the external world, or our reflection in the maya, in yoga philosophy.  So perhaps engaging in these mind-maps can also improve our self-esteem.

So why do we want to improve self-esteem?  Evidence shows HRV and self-esteem provide a buffering effect on cardiac stress responses during taxing situations, lower cortisol reactivity, reduced depression, anxiety and an overall salutogenic impact on our health.  What then, can we do to heighten our vagal activity?  As per previous blogs/vlogs where I delve deeper into the physiology, we can:

  • Connect with supportive like minds

  • Engage in body/mind practice, such as yoga, meditation (particularly the loving-kindness meditation), Qi-Gong

  • Time in nature

  • Resistance training

  • Cold water immersion

And what can we do to improve our self-esteem?

  • Try something new / step outside the comfort zone

  • Review our boundaries and people pleasing behaviours at the expense of 'self'

  • Self-care (see above)

  • Reframe our locus of control from external to internal: what we have the power to impact, influence, shift

If you'd like to explore themes such as these in a supportive group setting, join our Free-Flow call on 23.7.23 at 7pm to hear more.

Link to sign up here:

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