Feeling a little glum, chum? I’d like to introduce you to one of the most powerful and naturally occurring drugs: Oxytocin. I can’t even begin to tell you how much you need this drug if you’re on a path of survival.
Oxytocin is that incredibly powerful substance created in your brain that is responsible for monogamous pair bonding, social group bonding, smooth childbirth, inflammation reduction, wound healing, and yes, achieving orgasm. Some studies suggest that an oxytocin release in males will only happen with someone they care about, creating a monogamous pair bond. Regardless, this is a chemical we like to call the cuddle molecule for a reason.
Feelings have been the subject of scientific study for a very long time, and the brain is still a source of wonder. It holds the distinction of being a very tangible object, capable of very intangible things, and we’re constantly learning new information about the way it operates.
There are countless ways to improve our moods and lifestyle – feeling better directly correlates with acting better. The trick is knowing how to get the Oxytocin Rush. Here are some of my favorite ways to get the love drug going:
Research has shown that hugging increases oxytocin, and decreases cortisol, stress, blood pressure, and depression. It elevates our immune response and mood. The key with a hug is the connection. Hugging a pet, a favorite stuffed animal, or a person with whom you share a positive connection will release oxytocin.
Sure, most of us eat from time to time, but are you really eating? I mean, are you really paying attention to what you’re putting in your mouth? Taking the time to taste your food can release oxytocin, and sharing a meal with someone increases that likelihood. You know that feeling of satisfaction at the end of a meal? That’s partially due to oxytocin. So eat, drink, and be merry. It’s great for you!
Your oxytocin levels increase in response to warmth. I like to draw a bath, complete with bubbles, and sink all the way in. Just make sure it’s warm, and 30 minutes or more before bed. A hot bath does another thing entirely, and being overheated can keep you awake and do the opposite of relax you.
Yeah, this falls under #2, but it’s chocolate, and for that reason alone it gets its own spot. Chocolate increases dopamine, which can cause an increase in oxytocin levels also. Of course, if you hate chocolate (WHO ARE YOU?), you’re probably not going to enjoy the taste. Also, you should send me all the chocolate you hate. See #5. Weirdo.
Random Acts of Kindness
This shouldn’t be news, but doing something nice for someone else because you feel like it – or don’t feel like it, which is even better – is an instant mood lifter. Just give some little piece of yourself – a smile, kind word, just hello. Anything that brings a genuine smile to someone else’s face will immediately make you feel better, increasing that all-important oxytocin level.
Modified Handshakes & Other Touching
Any touch, not in the realm of invasion or unwanted contact, will increase the oxytocin levels of those participating. Personally, I like the secret handshakes that border on double-dutch competitions. I need to see more of those.
Watch a Movie
Even more research shows that watching a compelling movie can cause a giant surge in oxytocin levels. Because we connect with the characters, we react to their situation and resolution as though we know them. And no, it doesn’t have to be a chick flick. In The Valley of Elah can be just as compelling as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
So go, be, do, touch, bond, love.
If all else fails, just laugh.