Your team is approaching a hard deadline at work. It’s stressful, but you leave the morning stand-up feeling motivated and ready to work hard to achieve the group’s goals.
It’s a great feeling to know that your team is a united front and you’ve got each other’s backs.
That great feeling is the oxytocin kicking in. Oxytocin is a neurochemical that plays an important role in regulating your emotions, social behavior, and stress levels.
Our bodies love oxytocin. After all, we love feeling great and we love feeling great all the time.
While there are many natural and healthy ways to boost your oxytocin levels (and your mood), there are just as many unhealthy coping mechanisms to do so, including substance misuse, overconsumption of food, and spending too much time on social media.
Here, we’re sharing a handful of healthy ways you can increase your oxytocin levels and your overall well-being and happiness — naturally.
What Is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin, often referred to as the “cuddle hormone,” is an essential component of human bonding. One of your first encounters with oxytocin occurred when you were born, since this hormone is responsible for much of the parent-child bond.
Oxytocin is part of the “feel good hormone” family, which also includes dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.
Whenever you feel cheerfulness, closeness with other people, self-esteem, love, or trust, one or more of these hormones are present in your brain.
Here’s what healthy levels of oxytocin can look like:
- Reduced stress and anxiety: Increased oxytocin often results in decreased cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Boosted mood: The effects of consistent levels of oxytocin may better equip us to sustain positive moods. Being in a good mood can help you develop cognitive, social, and emotional well-being.
- Better sleep: Researchers link oxytocin to better sleep, and it may even decrease the number of nightmares you experience over time. Having high levels of oxytocin in your brain can also help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer.
- Improved overall health: Oxytocin also affects your appetite, giving you the same feeling you have after you’ve had a snack or a good meal. This impact on your appetite can help you maintain a healthy weight. The chemical is also linked to improved immune function, which means it may also help you to prevent illness.
On the other hand, having lower-than-usual levels of oxytocin can be harmful in certain situations (ex. childbirth) and has been linked to symptoms of depression.
8 Ways to Increase Your Oxytocin Levels
Here are some science-backed, healthy habits you can start incorporating in your life to increase oxytocin in your brain and, ultimately, improve your overall emotional and physical well-being.
1. Move your body
Exercise can be a great source of all those “feel-good hormones,” so why not find a physical activity you enjoy?
One study found that oxytocin levels in mice increased when they were made to exercise regularly. The mice were evaluated on their empathy-like behavior, which increased in every group tested. Their anxiety levels decreased as well. While researchers did not conduct the study with human subjects, their findings still show the potential benefits of maintaining healthy oxytocin levels.
2. Do some yoga
Yoga is a powerful habit for all-around well-being, but it’s also been linked to increased oxytocin levels.
A study that examined patients with schizophrenia found that practicing yoga greatly improved the patients’ socio-occupational functioning, as well as their oxytocin levels.
3. Get a massage
Since humans are highly social creatures who generally thrive on physical touch, it makes sense getting a massage is an effective way to increase oxytocin.
Getting regular massages provides you with a myriad of health benefits, but increasing oxytocin is definitely an underrated benefit.
4. Listen to music
Turning on some soothing music has also been shown to increase oxytocin levels, especially during stressful activities.
Studies show that patients who listen to relaxing music after undergoing open-heart surgery, for example, have significantly higher levels of oxytocin in their plasma.
5. Hug someone
Holding hands, cuddling, or locking arms around a loved one can have significant psychological and physiological effects on your brain and body. You can also achieve the same effect by spending time with friends or petting animals.
In one study, researchers looked at women’s oxytocin levels in relation to how often they hugged their partners. Those women who hugged their partners more had lower resting heart rates and lower blood pressure than the control group did.
Some studies suggest that meditation and oxytocin go hand in hand. Since oxytocin is a bonding hormone and meditation is a grounding experience, it makes sense that it may cause us to experience a greater connection with our spirituality.
7. Engage in active and empathetic listening
Practicing active and empathetic listening with others may also be linked to higher levels of oxytocin in your system.
Listening with an empathic attitude can help you improve your relationships, which can increase your oxytocin levels. As a result of this increased oxytocin, you may feel more connected with others and more fulfilled during conversations and in your relationships.
8. Do something nice for someone
Scientists have determined that there is a connection between oxytocin and generosity; the two often go hand-in-hand. Volunteering or serving others is another way to stay connected with others by increasing feel good chemicals in your brain.
If you’re feeling like you would benefit from more oxytocin in your life, helping others will likely serve you too.
The Bottom Line
While it certainly isn’t a cure-all, oxytocin can have many positive effects on your health, from your emotional too mental to physical well-being. And, yes, it can also have a positive effect on the bonds you experience with those around you.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to naturally increase oxytocin, including incorporating the habits above into your life.
If you’re looking for additional support in living your fullest and best life, Arootah coaches can empower you to develop healthy habits and guide you every step of the way. Schedule a free consultation today.