Date of Award

Fall 9-15-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Mindfulness Studies

First Advisor

Melissa Jean

Second Advisor

Andrew Olendzki


The vagus nerve, which is the longest of the cranial nerves, extends from the brain to the majority of organs in the body and has, therefore, been dubbed the Wanderer. It carries both sensory (afferent) information about the organs to the brain and motor information (efferent) from the brain to the organs. Stimulating the vagus nerve has been the interest of researchers since the late 1800s when delivering electricity to the nerve was used to treat acute epileptic seizures. Today, vagus nerve stimulation has been approved as treatment for morbid obesity and treatment-resistant depression as well. More natural techniques to stimulate the vagus nerve also exist. Current research shows that meditation and movement-based contemplative practices; exercising; singing, humming, and chanting; cold exposure; massage; laughing; and maintaining good gut health can stimulate the vagus nerve. All of these activities produce an increase in heart rate variability which is a measure of how well the vagus nerve is functioning. Interestingly, these natural methods of stimulating the vagus nerve have been an element of mindfulness practice for millenia. Since the natural methods are easily taught and sustained; non-invasive; low cost; and low risk, they are very suitable for improving the well-being of young children. One age-appropriate way to educate children on how to easily stimulate the vagus nerve is a storybook.