The Love Hormone
Often called the love hormone, bonding hormone, or cuddle hormone, oxytocin is one of those brain chemicals that just makes us feel plain good. Whether it’s involved in the bonding of a mother and her infant, or the bond between adults, this happy hormone can boost feelings of contentment, security, love, and trust. And while we naturally produce oxytocin in the body, certain activities help to encourage its release. If you feel you could use a little more happiness and connection, here are five ways you can naturally boost it.
Benefits of Oxytocin
Oxytocin is not only a bonding hormone, it also influences our social behaviors and the ability to deal with stress. It may have anti-aging and anti-obesity effects as well. Balance is the key. If our oxytocin levels are too high or too low it can lead to health and psychological issues. In men, high levels can cause enlargement of the prostate gland as well as urinary tract problems. Too low and both men and women may experience depression and anxiety. Lower levels of oxytocin have also been linked to autism and schizophrenia.
5 Ways to Feel the Love
If you find yourself struggling with depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, or disconnection with those around you, adopt one or two of these simple methods to naturally increase production of oxytocin. Here are five of my favorites.
Listen to Music or Sing
Most of us have experienced the benefits of listening to music, including improved mood, focus, and increased motivation. According to research, it also helps to boost oxytocin production. One study found that 20 open-heart surgery patients experienced higher levels of the hormone when they listened to music while recovering compared to those who did not.
Another study discovered that oxytocin levels increased in all 16 participants after a singing lesson. Each person also reported feelings of relaxation and increased energy.
Share a Meal Together
When we share a meal with friends or family, it helps to increase our oxytocin levels and bond with those around us. Interestingly, it’s the same in the animal kingdom. A 2014 study established that sharing food with both related and unrelated chimpanzees was linked to increased urinary oxytocin levels in the animals.
Give a Loved One a Hug
Living up to its name “the cuddle hormone”, oxytocin is released when we give or receive a long hug (aim for 20 seconds or more), hold hands, or cuddle. Next time you feel like you could use a little boost, take a moment or two and be affectionate with your partner, child, or pet.
When we are generous or kind to another, not only does the other person benefit but we do as well. Research has shown time and again that when we brighten someone’s day, we too experience happiness and connection. Simply put, acts of kindness trigger the release of oxytocin and help us to thrive. As researcher Elizabeth Midlarsky points out in “Want to Live a Healthier, Happier Life? Practice Kindness”:
“Being kind may make us feel better about ourselves as a person or about the meaning of our lives, confirm our self-competence, distract us from our own troubles and stressors, give us a warm-glow feeling, or help us be more socially connected with others. All of these could potentially improve our well-being—reducing our stress, improving our mood, or providing community—and they could hold more importance at different stages of life, too.”
Pet Your Pet
Those of us who have pets already recognize that taking a few moments to stroke a beloved animal helps to relieve stress and boost mood. Now we know why. A study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that both pets and their owners released oxytocin when they were affectionate towards each other. A little love for your pet goes a long way in helping you to reap the benefits of this happiness hormone.
Gentle Herbal Support
Beyond practicing the tips above, we can also encourage a bright outlook and reduced stress with medicinal herbs. If I find I am facing a particularly stressful life event, my Anxiety & Stress Tincture helps to soothe my nervous system so that I can move forward from a place of clarity and calm. It is a blend of potent botanicals, including Lemon Balm, Reishi and Lion’s Mane mushrooms, and the adaptogen Ashwagandha. Visit the Apothecary today to learn more!