Oxytocin is much more than the “love hormone,” as it is commonly known. On top of promoting social interaction, oxytocin reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels, increases the threshold of pain, reduces anxiety, and stimulates all kinds of positive social interactions. In addition, it promotes growth and healing.
The effects of oxytocin, just like other chemicals that signal the brain, rely more on changes rather than absolute levels. Oxytocin helps us respond adequately to the demands of our social environment and to critical situations by varying in concentration in different areas of the brain.
Therefore, instead of focusing on oxytocin levels in general, we must ask ourselves how to achieve these changes in certain moments to benefit from these effects. In some situations, like sexual relations or childbirth, oxytocin is released naturally.
However, there are other ways to increase oxytocin levels to reduce stress and feel better. Also, studies have demonstrated that the more oxytocin is released, the easier it is to release more, which means if you do the following actions, it will make it easier and easier to feel good, even with adversity, pain, and stress around the corner.
Oxytocin triggers a reward system that is activated and deactivated in romantic relationships. It’s well-known that sexual relations increase oxytocin levels. However, it’s only released in men when they have an orgasm with someone who they have an emotional bond with.
But physical contact from sexual relations isn’t the only thing that increases oxytocin levels. In general, hugs, kisses, and caresses also help to increase these levels quickly. And it’s not necessary to have sexual relations, or even a partner, to do this. Hugging, kissing, and caressing can be done with friends, family members, and even pets.
Words of encouragement
Receiving a compliment can encourage you, console you, and make you feel good about yourself. These words of encouragement can make you feel loved and valued. The feeling of well-being also increases when you offer these words of encouragement to others.
Words are powerful tools to make others feel good and feel good yourself. They can convey kindness, compassion, and love. Also, they connect us with others, causing oxytocin levels to increase in both people.
Listening to others
Listening is an incredible way to increase oxytocin. Everybody wants to feel acknowledged. We all like to know that we’re heard and accepted. When you’re physically present while you’re listening to the other person, it produces a connection between the two of you. Listening attentively and ignoring all distractions provides an incomparable sense of reward.
Listen with your eyes, without being distracted by your phone or anything else. Don’t multitask when someone needs your attention. Give all your attention to the person who is talking to you. Look them in the eye while you listen to what they’re saying.
Meditation relaxes the body and mind, releasing the mind from stress. We usually think of it as a tradition with deep roots in Eastern culture, but that doesn’t mean that others can’t also benefit from its power.
In Western culture, the word “meditation” comes from the Latin meditatĭo, which originally indicated a type of intellectual exercise. In this sense, meditation is a worthwhile tool for relaxation, both of the body and the mind. Therefore, when you’re not in a fight or flight situation, oxytocin is released. This balance reduces blood pressure and unlocks the senses.
Exercise isn’t just for keeping the body healthy. It also increases the levels of endorphins and oxytocin and stimulates the arrival of oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body. The amount of hormones released in the brain during exercise is also beneficial.
To obtain all these benefits, you don’t have to go to the gym, go out for a run, or ride a bicycle if you can’t or don’t want to. Going for a walk or doing moderate exercise at home is enough to release oxytocin and feel better quickly.
Studies have demonstrated that trying to defensively control your emotions reduces oxytocin levels. The accumulation of energy that comes from repressing your feelings causes stress and physical problems to appear.
Crying is an act of releasing this energy. Think about how you’ve felt after those times when it seemed like you couldn’t stop crying. You probably felt relaxed, as if you had done an hour of meditation or moderate exercise. Therefore, the effects of crying on oxytocin levels would be similar to those described in the above sections.
Being generous by giving to others
We feel good when we give to others and when they give to us. Being generous and charitable, as well as selflessly offering your time to someone else, causes feelings of gratitude and connection to flourish, releasing large doses of oxytocin.
Another gesture that releases oxytocin is making a gift for someone from the heart. For this, you don’t need the excuse of a big achievement or the celebration of an anniversary. What really releases oxytocin is thinking about the other person with affection and the desire to make them happy.