Valentine's Day: DIY Oxytocin
Valentine’s day is nearly upon us and, if you feel like love is in the air, then you probably have oxytocin on the brain.
Oxytocin has been called the “cuddle chemical” and the “mommy hormone,” due to the critical role it plays in our social behaviors. It encourages bonding between mothers and offspring. It is responsible for the formation of lifelong, monogamous pairings in prairie vole populations and the feelings of empathy between humans that allow for trusting, loving relationships.
This “love drug” feeds the reward centers in our brains for our successful social interactions. Cooperation, altruism, and acts of loyalty give us a sort of subtle buzz; the warm, fuzzy feeling of doing the right thing. Oxytocin also works on a positive feedback loop; the more loving we act, the more oxytocin we release, which in turn makes us act more loving.
It is the key component of human empathy. Our oxytocin levels spike whenever we are having a social interaction, heightening our awareness of social cues and body language, allowing us to understand each other on an emotional level and feel trusting enough to open up to the people we are communicating with in the moment.
There are ongoing studies investigating its use as a potential treatment for depression that are showing some promising results. It is also being considered as an adjunct to couple’s therapy, to facilitate empathetic communication, as well as a means for people with autism to improve their comprehension of social cues and emotional content.
So this Valentine’s day, give that special someone the gift of chemically induced emotional empathy! If you’re fresh out of oxytocin nasal spray, you can always produce this “cuddle chemical” with your very own pituitary gland, in the comfort of your own home.
Recipe for Home Made Oxytocin:
You will need:
Hugs. Skin to skin contact releases all kinds of happy drugs, including oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. Make time this Valentine’s day for hugs and cuddles, backrubs and foot massages.
Eye Contact. Maintaining eye contact cues your brain to release oxytocin and tune into the emotional signals of the other person, making you feel closer and more connected to your partner.
Gifts. It is Valentine’s day tradition to give gifts to our loved ones, and the very act of giving rewards us with a dose of oxytocin. This is especially true for sharing food, so consider cooking a meal for your loved ones.
Puppy Love. Spend some time petting your animal friends. This will not only give your oxytocin levels a boost, but your dog’s or cat’s as well.
For more information on this fascinating and complex hormone, check out these articles:
Originally appeared on the Medicine People of the World blog