What do the vagus nerve, probiotics and loneliness have to do with happiness?

Happiness linked to probiotics loneliness and the vagus nerve

What do the vagus nerve, probiotics and loneliness have to do with happiness?

These seemingly unrelated at first topics of the vagus nerve, probiotics, loneliness all have to do with happiness. We blog a lot about ways to improve your life and increase happiness; let’s start with ONE easy hack into happiness using ikigai. After we saw the Kintsugi “reference”, literally, in the season finale of TED LASSO [and that’s not really spoiler, and side bar we wondered who else picked up on the reference?! SEEing it is the hint, versus them saying the word!], we loved that the number one on this list of science backed habits to feel happier talks about using ikigai, which we posted about in this recent Instagram post along with 7 other transformative Japanese words/concepts that we can use for improving our lives! The Ikigai is concept is about discovering your purpose in life – even if it’s for a day. Determine the reason you wake up each morning. Choose something that aligns with your STRENGTHS, PASSIONS and the NEEDS of the world. This is what gives life meaning.


What also gives life meaning is the value of and quality interchange between people, even if fleeting
A few high quality interactions can be profoundly healing, according to Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General. You may have a lot of friends, but you need to experience friendship. Your small talk might be the thing that someone else in the world needs right now – a quality interchange – especially if they are experiencing loneliness. This even extends into sleeping arrangements. The benefits of co-sleeping in romantic partnerships included less fatigue, falling asleep faster, and spending more time asleep! Sharing a bed with a partner reduced sleep apnea risk, sleep insomnia severity, and overall improvement in sleep quality and reported lower anxiety, stress, and depression, along with greater life satisfaction. Sounds like deeper relaxation and waking up more refreshed = happy! Sharing a bed also appeared to help the relationship via increased social support and relationship satisfaction. The common thread here? Spending some QT with others. The goal is spend time loving people, instead of things, which adds intrinsic value. Intrinsic motivation of happiness, serving others will foster less organizing yourself around pain and focus on orienting time and energy spent around pleasure!

When we lack proximity to trusted others it signals a threat response.
Our brains become more activated and use more metabolic resources.
Studies have shown people who are more socially connected have a 50% increase of odds of survival.
It’s critical that we take our relationships seriously for our health

Podcast: How To Build a Happy Life: How to Know you are Lonely


Hot off the press from the American Academy of Neurology just released this study linking social isolation to lower brain function. The next section talks about how the vagus nerve, that starts in the brain specifically the left and right side of the medulla oblongata portion of the brain stem.

Older people who have little social contact with others may be more likely to have loss of overall brain volume, and in areas of the brain affected by dementia, than people with more frequent social contact. WOW.

American Academy of Neurology July 12, 2023

VAGUS NERVE happiness connection

Are you starting to see the connection about loneliness? Here comes the more specific brain piece and the gut relationship. We can only imagine what the older generation is EATING and how their gut is also likely in chronic state of dysbiosis. The VAGUS NERVE plays both a role in your mood, behavior, anxiety and depression and CONNECTS the GUT and BRAIN as the longest “wondering nerve” originating at the brain stem and innervating all the way to our gut, which is where the link to probiotics and happiness comes in. We rely on the vagus nerve to make up 80% of our parasympathetic system which is directly responsible for our ability to relax, feel socially engaged and connected to ourselves and others. Feeling out of sorts, something as simple as HUMMING is just one of the vagus nerve hacks that can help us return to a state of relaxation. Maybe that’s why so many people rock out and sing in the car especially when stuck in traffic. When we do things to interrupt or affect the stress pathway, like singing or humming, we induce the relaxation response.

PSYCHOBIOTICS: probiotics for gut-brain health and happiness

PSYCHOBIOTICS is cool name for probiotics that affect the psychology of brains – mood, behavior, anxiety and depression. The gut nerve (enteric “brain”) and the vagus nerve connect in the gut – this is what is referred to as the “gut-brain” connection. This bi-directional super highway can control the stress pathway through the use of probiotics, specifically Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacteria longen which affect GABA production – a neurotransmmitter or chemical messenger that can trigger or inhibit specific reactions in the body. GABA calms the nervous system by preventing the transmission of certain signals. Research from 2020 and 2019 supports benefits using GABA for depression, sedation and insomnia to name a few. That means improved good sleep, calmer body and happy mind!

GABA, Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, can be found from natural sources in our foods, many of which are probiotic rich like :

  • kimchi
  • fermented fish
  • tempeh
  • fermented buffalo milk
  • fermented cassava
  • fermented durian
  • Zlatar cheese
  • sourdough
  • mulberry beer
  • sake
  • yogurt-sake


STILL needs more ideas to be convinced? Try these 8 habits that will make you happier:

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Go forest bathing
  3. Get some sun and Vitamin D
  4. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone
  5. Build and maintain a support network
  6. Do something nice for others
  7. Keep a gratitude journal
  8. Design a meditative practice


OK, so time to check in? Are you happy now? Putting together a happiness story could start with pushing yourself out of your comfort zone; this could be breaking out of an isolated state contributing to loneliness and make a brief but quality connection with another person that can bring profound happiness. Following, this happiness encouraged you to whistle a happy tune therefore activating your vagus nerve which in turn regulates your parasympathic nervous system allowing you to “rest and digest”; than you further enhance digestion with the use of fermented food that deliver probiotics affecting GABA production in the brain. By now you are speeding down the super highway to happiness!

OF COURSE at Tao we think one of the best healthy happy habits is COMING IN for SERVICES!! You know it’s true! Quick side bar about the brain and mood related menopause solutions. NAMS suggests getting massage (!) to manage increased irritability, anxiety, fatigue, and blue moods and to include relaxation and stress-reduction techniques, also including deep-breathing exercises.

Are you ready to make happiness/Tao a regular part of your life? Connect with us! Call/text Tao 732-775-1550