Last week I wrote about the battle between adrenaline and oxytocin in our systems. I talked about adrenaline and its few benefits, and many undesirable health consequences. And maybe worse, its negative relationship consequences.
Oxytocin, on the other hand, is often called the love hormone or the cuddle chemical. Rightfully so, because it is not only released when we feel loved, but it carries many amazing benefits. Here are a few:
- Reduced depression
- Relief from anxiety
- Reduced stress hormones
- Increased contentment
- Less withdrawal symptoms from drugs or alcohol
- Deeper connections
- Improved sleep quality
- Less loneliness
- More trust
- Sharper brain function
- Boosted immune system
- Many more
When possible, I like to read the feedback that I receive from my blogs. One of the emails I received was from one of my Mother’s friends. She spoke of my Mother’s hugs as one of the best oxytocin-producers ever. What a sweet memory of my Mother’s hugs!
Her email went on to say that she looks forward to Sunday mornings every week at church, because it is often the only opportunity to receive and give hugs. After reading my blog, she realized it was because of the release of oxytocin in her system that she felt so much better for the first couple of days each week.
Then she asked a question that made me realize that she was likely not the only person in her situation. It read, “… since the only real human interaction I have is on Sundays, and I definitely cherish it, are there other ways that I could increase oxytocin in my body mid-and-late week after my Sunday fix wears off? … “
Excellent question, and it inspired this week’s blog. Are there other ways that we can increase our own oxytocin levels? Yes, there are.
But before I give you a good starting list, let me say this to those in all interpersonal relationships; couples, parents and children, families, and friends … there is nothing that can replace the oxytocin released into us when someone we love or care about makes a deposit into the relationship. Deposits can be small, but those small deposits still generate oxytocin in both parties.
A hug, a wink, a softly spoken “I love you”, a loving or caring text for no reason at all, a sticky note found on the steering wheel, a hand-written greeting card, a surprise cup of tea/coffee. Practice them often; practice them regularly. The release of oxytocin from such small gestures is priceless!
Having stated that, here are some ways to self-increase oxytocin in your body:
- Vitamin and Mineral Support
Vitamins C and D, and the mineral magnesium have been shown to support oxytocin release.N
2. Nutritional Support
Sam E has been shown in clinical studies to decrease depression and anxiety, and to improve memory. Recently it has been shown to support the production of oxytocin.
Lactobacillus reuteri has been shown to significantly increase oxytocin levels. It is found in many probiotic products. (Read the label to make sure this particular bacterium is listed.)
Time in the sun has been shown to increase oxytocin levels. Although likely partly linked to vitamin production, there is also something so refreshing about the sun. Of course, use appropriate sun protection, but get out in the sun every day possible.
4. Take a Walk
New studies are showing that walking in areas where the flowers are blooming particularly increases the production of oxytocin. Personally, I think that seeing things come to life re-inspires life in us!
5, Hallmark Movies
Although we live in a time where we love action movies with their rush of adrenaline, a break from those might be in order when you need a release of oxytocin. Any feel-good movie, a sweet story, or an uplifting biography will foster the release of oxytocin.
Laughter has been shown to boost our immune system, increase the speed of our healing process, and increase our pain tolerance. It also boosts our production of oxytocin. Perhaps this is why old proverbs speak of laughter as being like healing to the bones and the heart.
7. Essential Oils
I am not an essential oils expert, but I know that there are two that have been linked to oxytocin: jasmine oil and clary sage oil. You can rub it on your body or put it in an infuser. Both methods have been shown to increase oxytocin.
8. Random Acts of Kindness
Random acts of kindness have long been shown to increase oxytocin levels. Anything works, from paying for the next driver’s coffee in the Starbucks line, to helping someone load groceries into their car. For many years, on hot summer days, members of my church would take cold bottles of water to give out at local stoplights. The reactions were priceless. They wanted to know how much they should pay us, or what we wanted. They always had shock on their faces when we would tell them it costs them nothing, and we don’t want anything! Their shocked faces were the greatest reward! How very sad that we live in a time where we are shocked that someone wants to offer us a small kindness for nothing in return!
There’s something magical about moving our bodies in rhythm to music. Perhaps that is why America is obsessed with shows like dancing with the stars. Research shows that the physical touch, the music, and moving our bodies in rhythm generates large doses of oxytocin. Perhaps it’s the reason why so many dance partnerships become love relationships. Even if you are not a skilled dancer, or perhaps you do not have a dance partner… put on some music and move! Even if it’s just walking in place! Smile; enjoy the moment! Surely you will experience a release of oxytocin!
Everyone loves to sing in the shower! Possibly because the echo makes even unskilled voices sound good! Singing requires that we use our diaphragm, and that, in combination with melodic sound, increases oxytocin production. Research shows the release is even greater when we are singing with others. Perhaps that’s why you find so many happy people at places that offer karaoke. Perhaps it’s what keeps singing groups together. And perhaps that’s why so many people gather in churches and synagogues each week. That’s where many people get not only hugs, but also get to sing aloud with others … a fabulous boost of the feel-good hormone!
Cardio exercise and yoga have been shown to increase oxytocin levels. A brief walk, 15 minutes on the elliptical, or your favorite yoga position, all work. Although we know exercise has its own health benefits, I particularly encourage people who are low on oxytocin to do 15 to 20 minutes of enjoyable exercise or yoga daily.
Whether a cuddly puppy, a purring kitten, or a cockatoo, pets that we can touch create a great release of oxytocin. Many folks live in situations where they are not able to own or take care of a pet. I recommend that they visit a pet store, an animal shelter, or a petting zoo. You will go home feeling lifted in your spirits.
Last but not least is being grateful. Gratitude releases a plentiful dose of oxytocin within us. Keep a gratitude journal. Every evening, just before I go to sleep, I make a minimum of three entries in my gratitude journal. Many times, I can easily list 25 to 30 things. Not only does the release of oxytocin at bedtime create a better quality of sleep, but it also keeps me practicing gratitude all day long. It helps me look for those things that I might journal about at bedtime.
I hope you find these oxytocin-producers helpful. I hope you will become very aware of your ability to increase your own oxytocin levels, AND I also hope you will be diligent about producing oxytocin in others.
Every single benefit of oxytocin can be yours daily. I hope that you actively seek to activate those benefits. Your life will become richer and richer!
I’m wishing you extraordinary things!