Oxytocin is vital not only to childbirth, reproduction, and breastfeeding, but also to social bonding and building relationships. It’s a feel-good hormone that is released when we are feeling happy, connected, and safe, and it’s considered one of the most important hormones that humans and other mammals produce. So how can you create more of it in your life?
Helping Hormone for Moms
Oxytocin plays a significant role in childbirth. It is released into the body in large quantities during labor, creating more intense uterine contractions that help the cervix to open in order for the baby to pass through. Oxytocin continues to increase during labor and helps diminish a mother’s pain in childbirth.
Once the baby is born and begins to suckle at its mother’s breast, Oxytocin is released in the mother that helps release her milk, as well as supporting her to bond with her little one. This earns Oxytocin yet another nickname, the “mothering hormone.”
Besides causing the uterus to contract during childbirth, Oxytocin also helps the uterus shrink after labor, as well as lowering stress, anxiety, and even the blood pressure of new moms. It is said to possibly support with postpartum depression as well.
Helping Hormone for Everyone
But Oxytocin helps more than mothers. When you meet someone new and start spending time together, Oxytocin supports you in forming a bond in that partnership. Released naturally in the body, it is said to help with more pro-social behavior, as well as helping you be more open and connected with others.
Higher levels of this “Love Hormone” cause you to feel more calm and better able to deal with stress. It can potentially increase feelings of generosity, forgiveness, and joy, and it seems it can even increase fidelity in relationships through facilitating compassion and empathy for others. Thus, it has earned yet another nickname, the “trust hormone.”
Once you’ve created a pair-bond with someone, Oxytocin plays a major role in ensuring that sex feels good. It is an important aspect in female sexual function, and higher levels of the love hormone create deeper intensity in orgasms for both men and women.
Mother Affection (Even if You’re Not a Mom)
When mothers and babies gaze at each other, they create higher levels of Oxytocin. Mothers then engage in more mothering behavior, which creates more Oxytocin in the babies. This causes a baby to feel more attached and attentive to their mother, which increases the mothers’ Oxytocin level. Physical affection between mothers and babies is another way they create Oxytocin.
Turns out, it’s the same with your dog! Dogs affect our Oxytocin levels in much the same way as babies. When you pet your dog and are affectionate, you and your dog both experience an increase in Oxytocin levels. Oxytocin helps mothers in the development of caregiving for newborns, in the same way it helps humans in the caregiving of their dogs.
According to the study, Oxytocin-gaze Positive Loop and the Coevolution of Human-dog Bonds (2015), there is a cross species effect. Humans and their dogs were observed interacting for 30 minutes. Dogs who gazed at their humans longer showed higher levels of Oxytocin than the pairs who did not gaze at one another for as long.
How To Create More Oxytocin in your Life
Now that you know how wonderful Oxytocin can make you feel, how can you get more of it in your life? There are many ways to amp up the levels of love hormone in your system. But the best part may be that in doing these things, you not only increase your own sense of well-being, but you can also increase Oxytocin for the other person:
- Physical Contact ~ Consensual hugs, massage, and being intimate all create Oxytocin. Even the act of shaking someone’s hand can increase your levels. It’s all about connection, no matter how big or small.
- Making Eye Contact ~ Gazing into the eyes of someone you love and trust is a potent way to get the cuddle hormone active in your system, as well as the one you love.
- Laughing ~ Do what you can to get those guffaws happening. Watch a comedy movie or tell silly jokes with a friend. Comedians are always ready to try and make you laugh so find a funny show online. Laughter that’s filled with love is the best for Oxytocin release.
- Connect with your Pets ~ It’s not just dogs that can increase your Oxytocin. Petting a dog, cat or other pet will do the trick. Even just spending time with animals is a boost to the system.
- Music ~ Calming music can relax the body and support Oxytocin to flow.
- Meditation ~ A “loving kindness” meditation, or visualization, can increase the love hormone. You can do this while focusing on someone that you love or follow along to a guided meditation with the intention of loving kindness.
- Eat with Others ~ Sharing a meal creates loving connection and cooking together can do the same. It’s a great way to be nurtured and nourished, as well as activate Oxytocin.
- Walk or Exercise with Someone ~ Exercise is great for the body, regardless. But walking or getting in shape with someone you care about has the added bonus of raising your Oxytocin levels.
- Speak to Someone you Trust ~ Can’t get together with a friend or loved one? Talk to them on the phone. Speaking to and hearing the voice of someone you trust invites Oxytocin to release.
- Photos & Videos ~ Looking at photos or videos of people you care about helps release Oxytocin, even on social media.
- Gifts ~ Giving and receiving gifts amps up Oxytocin, including donations of money.
- Say I Love You ~ Telling someone you love them helps release Oxytocin for both of you.
Create the Oxytocin you Seek
Whether you call it the love hormone, or the cuddle, trust, tend and befriend or mothering hormone, there is no doubt that Oxytocin is something that we all want and need. It helps bring us into the world and continues to support a sense of loving connection with others.
Finding time for self-care that can increase your Oxytocin levels can be calming and feel good. It’s also a wonderful way to mother yourself.
Bloom Post is a freelance writer, ceremonialist, teacher, and author of the books Shaman’s Toolbox: Practical Tools for Powerful Transformation and Plant Spirit Totems. For more information: www.BloomPost.com