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Better health, happier life and improved relationships

Dr Katelyn Jacka is the Principal Chiropractor and owner of True Health.

You can contact Dr Katelyn at





Are you looking for a free and easy way to better health, a happier life and improved relationships? What about a way to decrease your risks of cancer, heart disease, inflammation and even the common cold? How about an approach to better handle the social craziness of summer?

Research suggests that good health, positive emotions and strong social connections influence one another in an upward spiral dynamic. This means that by improving one or two of these aspects in your life you can improve the others. In other words, if you can improve the way you feel and the way in which you connect with others, this can have a positive effect on your health and vice versa.

How does this work and how do I do that you ask? Preferably as quickly and as easily as possible!

There is a direct link between positive feelings, better health and strong emotional connections. Stay with me as we enter the world of neurology and discuss a concept called ‘vagal tone’.

The vagus nerve is part of our autonomic nervous system – this means that it is not under our conscious control. It is largely responsible for the regulation of our body at rest and has many diverse effects on the heart, lungs, gut and throat. Amazingly, it also effects our social engagement and our self-regulation.

Basically, vagal tone refers to how healthy our vagal system is. This is measured specifically in labs, but in practice we measure it by comparing our heart rate on our breath in to our heart rate on our breath out. Our heart rate should be slower on an exhale, which is controlled by our vagus nerve. The greater the variability between the two – the better our vagal tone.

Greater vagal tone has been associated with:

  • a superior ability to regulate one’s own emotions;
  • positive emotionality;
  • better health; and,
  • greater prosocial behaviour.

Low vagal tone forecasts a greater risk for heart attack (myocardial infarction) and lower odds of survival after heart failure.

There are many ways to improve our vagal tone but one way is by experiencing positive emotions.

Positive emotions have been linked to:

  • greater vagal tone;
  • greater physical health and longevity;
  • fewer colds;
  • reduced inflammation;
  • lowered likelihood of cardiovascular disease;
  • fewer headaches, less chest pain, congestion and weakness;
  • greater social engagement and inclusiveness; and,
  • greater interpersonal trust and compassion.

Another way to improve our vagal tone is by experiencing a healthy social dynamic.

It is also important to note that the opposite (e.g. loneliness or a self-perceived lack of social connections) is linked to ill health and ill-being.

Some research has concluded that the influence of social integration on mortality risk is comparable in magnitude to that of other well-established risk factors, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity and a lack of physical exercise.

See how they are all linked?

Well this is interesting, I hear you say but how do I start on improving these things?

This is the fun part.

You use your vagas nerve every time you breathe out. Essentially, we all just need to improve and lengthen our exhale. You may consciously choose to elongate your exhale by counting – for example, two counts for a breath in and four for a breath out. Easy really. Lots of fun activities involve a long exhale – singing, humming, gargling (water will do), whistling, laughing, blowing up balloons and blowing bubbles and windmills are great examples. Just make sure that you do something on this list daily. Involve others, this will increase your social interaction too. Most of these activities will also improve your feelings of positivity – see, you’re already on the right track!













Lastly, embrace positive social interactions. Even in stressed out times honest meaningful communication where we feel heard or can sincerely hear others counts. If you are having trouble connecting with someone, remember that we are all the same in our wish to be healthy, safe and happy.

To wrap this all up like a Christmas gift for you:

  • Take long breaths out, sing, whistle and hum those Christmas Carols.
  • Think nice things about yourself and others and give yourself the occasional moment to do so.
  • Honestly connect to your friends and loved ones this silly season, remembering that deep down we are all the same.

Remember that positive emotions build physical health. Better health improves your social connections and that stronger social relationships improve your positive feelings. Onward and upward.

Wishing you a Truly Healthy summer,

Dr Katelyn