There is a reason we feel a warm and fuzzy feeling when giving or receiving a hug, and its name is oxytocin.
Sometimes referred to as “the hugging drug” or “the love hormone,” oxytocin is one of four chemicals in our brain that affect happiness along with serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. These chemicals give us access to more drugs in our brain than any pharmaceutical company could ever make.
Oxytocin earned these nicknames because it is released by the brain during physical contact with others. Engaging in long hugs is another way to boost oxytocin levels for both the hug giver and the hug receiver.
Women tend to have higher levels of this hormone than men. Oxytocin plays a role in a variety of reproductive functions, from sexual activity to childbirth and breast feeding.
During labor, oxytocin causes contractions in the muscles of the uterus. Pitocin, the pharmaceutical form of oxytocin, is used to induce labor.
Increase your oxytocin levels naturally
Oxytocin also has several social functions. It influences bonding and the feeling of love, friendship, and deep trust. Positive social interactions tend to be the best natural way to increase your level of oxytocin.
Working together with others on a project, eating together, giving or receiving a gift, and actively listening to someone are good ways to boost this hormone. Doing yoga has been shown to increase oxytocin. It also helps relieve anxiety, stress and depression, as well as improving your sleep.
You probably listen to music because you enjoy it, but you might have noticed it has other benefits as well. It can improve your mood, focus, and motivation. Listening to music with friends can strengthen social bonds while also producing and releasing more oxytocin.
Sharing your feelings with a loved one and telling them how much you care provides benefits for both of you. Telling a friend or partner you love them or letting someone know how much you appreciate them can boost oxytocin for both of you.
Strong friendships make a big difference
The good feelings you get when spending time with friends and loved ones is the result of oxytocin at work. These interactions can help you feel more positive and make you want to spend more time together. If you have grandkids, their visits are a great way to boost your oxytocin. Bonding in general triggers oxytocin release.
A daily meditation practice helps reduce stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and help you feel more compassion toward yourself and others. The loving-kindness and Hono Pono meditation involves thoughts of love, compassion, forgiveness, and peace and wellness toward yourself and others.
Having a loving, heart-felt conversation is a way of bonding the increased feelings of connection, trust, and empathy. Sharing a meal is a great way to bond. Preparing a meal with friends or a partner provides enjoyment and nourishment. Whether you get or give 15 minutes of massage, this can also boost oxytocin levels and help you feel more relaxed.
Another reason to enjoy intimacy
Having sex, and more specifically having an orgasm, is another way to raise your oxytocin. Making love with a romantic partner can help you feel closer and more connected. Both you and your partner get this oxytocin boost.
Other forms of physical intimacy, like cuddling or hugging, also trigger oxytocin. Go ahead and engage in a good, long hug with your partner, child, or your pet.
Altruistic or selfless behaviors can also promote oxytocin release, which means doing something nice for someone helps you as much as the person you are helping. Practicing random acts of kindness not only makes the other person happy, it can make you feel happy, too. The simple act of brightening someone’s day can lift your spirits and promote positive feelings in you, too.
Dogs are so good at showing unconditional love, and we can learn a lot from them. Petting your dog or cat promotes an increase in oxytocin from physical contact for both of you.
Action step: See if any of these suggestions resonates with you. Are there ways you can boost oxytocin in your daily life, so you can enhance your well-being?
Bonnie Groessl is a best-selling author, podcast host, holistic nurse practitioner and success coach. Her mission is to educate, empower and facilitate your well-being while nurturing the mind-body-spirit connection. You can find links to her books, guided meditation audios, blog and podcast at www.bonniegroessl.com