As human beings, we are driven toward interaction with others. Our urge to connect is motivated and dictated in part by oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland. It has a variety of functions in the human body. In general, it is related to our connection with others. Oxytocin levels can affect feelings of trust and arousal for men and women. For women, oxytocin is essential for childbirth. It controls the frequency and intensity of contractions. Following childbirth, oxytocin is released during breastfeeding. For men, the hormone increases during bonding experiences and is also related to sex*ual arousal.
How does oxytocin relate to mental health?
Studies on the link between oxytocin levels, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder are ongoing. Just like any hormone, abnormal oxytocin levels can throw the entire system out of balance. Researchers are still trying to sort whether the relationship between low oxytocin levels and certain health conditions is causal or correlative. Tiredness, weight gain, and feeling lack of connection to others are common threads between low oxytocin levels and associated illnesses.
There is a relationship between low oxytocin and depression and anxiety disorders. People with low levels feel less connected than those producing oxytocin in the proper amount. Postpartum depression in particular has been linked to reduced oxytocin. Aging and adrenal fatigue from extended periods of stress can also trigger oxytocin decreases. Regulating oxytocin levels could combat the perceived isolation that is associated with depression and anxiety.
Ten ways to supercharge oxytocin levels
There is no over-the-counter remedy for oxytocin deficiency, but prescription nasal sprays, sublingual tabs, and injections do exist. You may consider trying to naturally boost oxytocin levels before seeking an endocrinologist. These methods may also be used as adjunct therapies for reducing anxiety and depression. Here are ten ways to boost oxytocin:
1. Sex: The “love hormone” spikes when individuals achieve orgasm, and this contributes to feelings of connection after the act is complete.
2. Hold hands: Humans crave physical contact. Holding hands with a friend or loved one can be valuable for our brain chemistry.
3. Practice an act of giving: Donating to a charity, giving a gift, and volunteering make us feel good. That feeling of magnanimity is in part due to an increase in oxytocin.
4. Play with a pet: The benefits of physical contact are not limited to interactions between humans. Playing with a dog or cat could provide the same benefits that we might get from physical contact with people.
5. Watch a cute video: If you don’t have access to a pet, watching cute animal videos can also do the trick. The benefits aren’t limited to animal videos though. Anything that makes you say, “Awww,” is likely to contribute to higher oxytocin levels.
7. Massage: Getting a massage from a massage therapist or taking time to massage yourself are beneficial. The key to successfully increasing oxytocin through self-massage is that you must conduct this activity in a loving manner.
8. Meditation: Loving-kindness meditation, which focuses on sending positivity into the world, is one method of increasing oxytocin that you can perform solo.
9. Hugs: Hugging someone is another mode of physical contact which increases oxytocin levels.
10. Get connected: Whether engaging in meaningful communication on social media or sharing a meal with a friend, bonding acts will increase oxytocin.
While the extent of oxytocin’s effects is still being studied, we know that low levels of oxytocin can contribute to depression and anxiety. The need for balanced levels of oxytocin is one more reason to love yourself, love others, do something romantic, and forge meaningful connections.