Understanding Me - Oxytocin
We like Oxytocin, and so do you! You may never have heard of it, or know what it does, but by the end of this, you’ll want to be it’s best friend!
Oxytocin is one of our happy chemicals, it is often referred to as the ‘love’ or ‘cuddle’ hormone. Oxytocin is made in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland at the base of our brain when we snuggle with someone or bond with someone. It doesn’t have to be a person, studies have shown that oxytocin is released when cuddling with a pet as well as with a loved one.
Oxytocin is particularly important in childbirth, oxytocin is fundamental in the birthing process and also to create a strong bond between mother and baby, it is realised in large amounts during breastfeeding, increasing that bond.
Oxytocin is what makes you want to be around another person, anyone that causes you to release oxytocin will become very attractive to you (not necessarily sexually attracted, but you will want to be in their company)
Oxytocin is been shown to increase trust, a persons ability to relax and maintain better mental stability by decreasing stress and anxiety.
One way to get Oxytocin is through physical contact. This is why we love cuddling and holding hands so much, the more physical contact you have with someone the more oxytocin your body will produce. This creates the feeling of safety and security we crave for good mental health. Massage feels so good, not only because it frees up your muscles, but because you are getting prolonged physical contact with someone and you’re getting oxytocin from it, it’s why the more massages you get from the same therapist it gets easier and faster to relax and get comfortable because you’ll have bonded through oxytocin. The best part is, it’s not just you, your therapist gets oxytocin too so it’s a win-win.
Trust is also linked to several other aspects of your personality - trust, fear, and forgiveness have been observed to change in people with higher levels of oxytocin. In studies on trust, using a game designed to test it, people given oxytocin boosts were far more trusting and also continued to trust after being let down, those given a placebo were found to stop trusting much faster and be less generous, to begin with.
Oxytocin has also been shown to help calm the amygdala, the brains fear response factory. Meaning that people with higher oxytocin levels were able to deal with situations more calmly than those without. This helps your mental health, basically, it is a forerunner to a calmer and happier brain - and all this can be achieved through regular physical contact with a friend, relative or pet. The more you do it the better. Couples who regularly cuddle together in the evening or whilst falling asleep are shown to have higher levels of trust and tend to feel more secure in their relationship. Couples who rarely touch each other are far more likely to divorce because of A - they arent maintaining the oxytocin and trust levels, and B - because if they can’t get the oxytocin at home they will look for it elsewhere either consciously or subconsciously.
Oxytocin can help suppress addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous has 12 steps to beat addiction. The twelfth step is the commitment to help another alcoholic - giving your time and comfort to another - Oxytocin.