Oxytocin may be the key to staying positive during hard times.
Are you feeling lonely or a little depressed? Social distancing is difficult for a lot of reasons, but one, in particular, is the decrease many people are experiencing in levels of oxytocin.
What is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a highly pleasurable neurotransmitter that acts as a hormone in the brain. It is sometimes called the “love molecule,” because it is produced when we have contact with others.
Why is Oxytocin Important?
This hormone binds us together. Oxytocin has been shown to increase happiness and lower stress levels. It is also associated with the desire to be more kind and express charily or compassion toward others.
In contrast, a lack of oxytocin can lead to loneliness and depression. These feelings are often associated with isolation, which is the current state for many people across the globe who are obeying “stay at home” or “shelter in place orders.”
Facts about Oxytocin
- Studies show that hugging for 10 seconds has shown to boost oxytocin levels. A 20-second hug can lead to lower blood pressure and heart rate. This is especially true for women.
- The interaction does not necessarily need to be physical. One study showed that eye contact alone could boost oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is in fact, very much related to the connection or perceived connection being made.
- Oxytocin is produced in all mammals in exactly the same chemical composition. Researchers imply that it has the same effects whether you are a human, elephant, or pot-bellied pig. That also means that cuddling with your dog could boost oxytocin for both of you. Don’t skimp on the belly rubs!
- Receptors for oxytocin exist in your digestive tract. You know that feeling you get after a big meal when you feel happy and a little sleepy? Oxytocin is working to keep your body relaxed so that you can absorb more nutrients by stimulating digestive hormones and gastric juices.
- Oxytocin and stress hormones cannot be released at the same time. Basically, you cannot simultaneously be calm and freaked out. Stress hormones like cortisol will override your calmness in order to keep you safe and alert.
- Breathing slowly like when you drifting to sleep or meditating can release oxytocin, which is one of the reasons you are able to relax. Oxytocin includes 12 oxygen molecules in its chemical composition. In contrast, adrenaline only has three oxygen molecules.
- Levels of trust may increase when oxytocin is present. One study found that when a librarian gently touched a book borrower during the checkout process, the borrower was more likely to return the book. Researchers concluded that a person who makes physical contact is more likely to keep a promise. Maybe this is why a pink promise is so sacred.
12 Tips to Increase Oxytocin During Isolation
1. Look at People When They are Talking
This is a good manner anyway but can be challenging if you are not in the same room, or potentially not even in the same state. Substitute phone calls for video chats, whether it is a work meeting or a casual check-in call with your mom.
2. Give a Gift
Studies have shown that receiving gifts raised oxytocin levels. You probably shouldn’t show up at someone’s doorstep, but you can pop a card in the mail pretty easily. This small gesture could really make someone’s day.
As we discovered in our search for oxytocin facts, breathing deeply and slowly can boost oxytocin. Unlike many other oxytocin boosting activities, this is one that is actually easier to do with no one around. HERE is a list of some free online mediation resources that may come in handy.
4. Use Social Media
In moderation, social media can be a good way to stay connected. Studies show that the act of posting or liking the posts of others is a positive action and may boost oxytocin. Spending too much time on social media without other activities can have the opposite effect.
5. Interact with Your Pet
If you are lucky enough to be isolated with an affectionate animal, give them some attention. Belly rubs, hugs, and playtime can boost oxytocin levels for both of you since mammals produce the same oxytocin as humans.
6. Color or Doodle
Any sort of artistic outlet like coloring in a coloring book, sketching, doodling or crafting can boost oxytocin levels. You don’t have to be a professional artist to color in the lines. In fact, we could all benefit from coloring outside of the lines sometimes.
7. Take a Walk
Being exposed to sunlight is a great way to get vitamin D into your system. Vitamin D has binding sites in the genes that produce the oxytocin receptor and an oxytocin precursor. Abide by the restrictions of your local government, but try and get outside at least once a day.
8. Consume Chamomile
Chamomile is a herb known to promote relaxation and boost oxytocin, which is why it is commonly used as a natural way to get better sleep. Chamomile is also an ingredient in Receptra Naturals Serious Rest CBD formula.
9. Sing Like No One Is Listening
If you are staying home by yourself, it may be true that no one is listening. Even if they are, researchers found that singing for 30 minutes increases oxytocin levels in both amateur and professional singers. So, go sing your heart out.
10. Donate to a Cause You Care About
Online donations are currently the easiest ways to give (unless you can sew facemasks). A study published in the journal Hormones and Behaviour found that charitable activities reduce stress and improve health by increasing oxytocin levels.
11. Read a Book
Our brains are captivated by a good storyline. Re-read your favorite book or discover a new one. For an extra boost, pass that book along to a friend you think would enjoy it. Then you can receive a little extra oxytocin from a shared experience, social interaction (even if it is through the mail) and kindness.
12. Laugh About It
Humor breaks down barriers that separate us socially, allowing us to feel a sense of connection and safety. These elements are essential to oxytocin. Share a meme in a Facebook group or text a joke to a friend. You may even opt to have an online Netflix party. We recommend a comedy.
Naturally Boost Oxytocin and Stay Positive
It can be hard to stay positive when there is uncertainty in life or you feel alone. Use these tips to take matters into your own hands and boost oxytocin, naturally and from the comfort of your own home. Again, oxytocin and stress hormones cannot flow freely at the same time, so you have to choose one. Choose to be happy.