Let’s first talk about that “love hormone” – oxytocin. Oxytocin is your happy molecule, the one that helps you bond and form good relationships, the one that makes you “Aww” and is released during the experiences of love, bonding and caring. Even if you are seeing strangers embrace, an adorable child or a loving scene on TV, oxytocin will be released in your body and make you go all gooey.
Testosterone is oxytocin’s antagonist, and is what stops us from melting with love all over the place. They are meant to level each other out, but in this day and age, we often feel the extremes of our hormones. When we don’t get enough oxytocin release, it gets harder for our bodies to find a reason to release it, and in turn we become more logical, linear, rational, and more goal oriented. Eventually, if your oxytocin never gets released it becomes harder to see the point of being caring, and in turn one could become decidedly self-centred, short sighted and egotistical.
This love molecule is so powerful that there are even studies that have shown that those with high average levels of oxytocin are more likely to believe in God or a higher power. While on the other hand, studies have linked sociopathy and autism to very low levels of oxytocin. When oxytocin is released we feel softer, more nurturing, more cuddly, more loving. It can change perceptions and help us to see the oneness of all things, the interconnectedness of all of us. When we reach out to understand and forgive, the oxytocin that gets released increases trusting and allows us to see world views we didn’t know existed.
So, here are our favourite 10 ways to boost the release of this lovely hormone naturally and truly bond with your loved ones and the world which we co-create.
10 Ways to Increase Your Oxytocin Levels Naturally
1. Just Keep Smiling
One simple way you can add brightness to your day is by smiling – smiling at strangers and co-workers will brighten their day too, while strengthening your bond with those around you. Shoot your partner and loved ones a smile as often as possible and it will surely boost your connection.
2. Find the beauty in every encounter
If you take some time to soak in the world around you, and seek out the “aww” factor – allow yourself to coo over that little baby, and that puppy at the store. Watch a romantic comedy, or read a love story; Watch that video doing the rounds of the cat with a stuffed toy – all of these wil give your body an oxytocin kick.
3. All you need is hugs
Hugs can be powerful – especially between loved ones. They give your brain a serious oxytocin boost. Getting between 8-10 hugs a day may be the trick to maintaining a healthy level of oxytocin hormone in your body, and that has even been advocated by neuro scientists as a necessary regular practice for everybody. Cuddling with your kids or partner, and even your pets will also release oxytocin. In fact, just petting an animal you feel a fondness for will evoke a sense of happiness.
4. Practice your gratitude
It is important to your overall happiness to be thankful for everything that you have, no matter where you direct that gratitude. Just mindfully thanking your partner, kids or colleagues, even saying thanks to the teller (while smiling) will work. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to start, and to be mindful of when good things happen – when things might seem doubtful, you can look back at everything that has gone right and what you still have to be thankful for. You know that feeling of renewed hope? Say thanks to oxytocin. Meditation is also a wonderful way to practice mindfulness and does wonders for ones sense of happiness.
5. Take a calm approach to conflict
This is a tough one, but if you are able to keep you cool at the beginning of a conflict, its a good way to resolve or diffuse an issue. Really listening and trying to understand another’s point of view will turn on that little oxytocin tap too – finding a resolution and admitting where you are wrong are great ways to repair trust, bond, and connect.
6. Release your emotions
Guarding and suppressing strong emotions actually builds more testosterone and in turn reduces your oxytocin levels. When you feel tears coming, find a safe place to let them flow – whether you are crying for sorrow, joy or even stress and exhaustion, it is cathartic for your body to release these. It has been found that scientists can actually examine tears and see what hormone was released with particular emotions. Allow yourself to cleanse and you will feel a sense of release and a boost in warm, fuzzy feelings. A good hug after a good cry could really do wonders.
7. Make real love
There is nothing like the close embrace of your lover – and maintaining a loving, trusting relationship can really improve your health and happiness. Making love is a powerful way to bond with your partner, and might be the most direct way to boosting oxytocin. This does not count for casual flings, but rather with the one you have a close bond based on trust. Intimately embracing each other builds on to that trust and love, securing your connection. Massage and cuddles are also known to invoke those amorous feelings.
8. Build your trust
Be a trustworthy person, and build friendships and relationships with a mutual trust. Choosing to trust people, even when it may be difficult, will draw them to putting their trust in you. This is useful for strengthening relationships in the workplace and making it a happy place for yourself and your colleagues. When people share trust, it spikes their oxytocin levels.
9. Get gifting
Giving is a great thing, and giving to a cause is something we can all feel great about. When you help out a charity, donate or even help some one out who needs it, those feelings of empathy that you made good on will reward you with an oxytocin boost. Its a strange turn, but even by giving gifts to those you might not be keen on spoiling will have the same effects. Your brain will register this as a token of trust, and release oxytocin to aid in happy feelings and bonding. It feels great to give, doesn’t it? So next time you see something your mom would love, get it and revel in the gifts of giving.
10. Make yourself useful
Give the gift of yourself to a valuable cause you feel passionate about. When you add value, especially to a cause you feel deeply about, your brain will reward you with the great happy molecules. You might be lucky enough to get this kick at work, if you are doing something to be proud of. Parents will benefit from this as they revel in the successes of their children. Others may find solace in helping out at local charities, community enrichment projects, or a neighbourhood watch. Feel real empathy and strive to add value to others lives and it will surely bring a smile to your face.
What makes you feel all warm and fuzzy? Faithful to Nature would love to know your secrets to staying happy and healthy!