A powerful chemical that causes uterine contractions, oxytocin is typically known for being produced in high quantities during the labor and birth process. Anyone who has ever had a baby can attest to the powerful and painful uterine effort that is required to push an irregularly shaped 8 pound object through the tortuous birth canal. For those that don’t go into labor spontaneously, synthetic oxytocin, or Pitocin, is given intravenously to induce labor. Later on, after the birth is over, oxytocin is responsible for successful breastfeeding and mother-infant bonding.
Recent studies have shown that oxytocin has some amazing positive effects on physical, mental, and emotional health. It decreases blood pressure and cortisol (a hormone produced in mass quantities while under stress), and even improves wound healing by decreasing chemicals that cause inflammation. It increases one’s pain threshold and helps us forget the pain of birth, a handy feature for the laboring woman. This along with its ability to reduce the amount of fear one feels is probably the single most important factor in ensuring the propagation of our species! It improves the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and even increases feelings of generosity and trust.
Oxytocin has even been shown to improve the symptoms of autism, while an inability to secrete oxytocin and feel empathy has been associated with sociopathic, psychopathic, narcissistic, and manipulative behavior. For more detailed information regarding this, please see the following web page:
How Can We Get More of It?
Oxytocin is not just the privilege of the birthing or nursing mother. It turns out that oxytocin is produced naturally in high levels, by both men and women, during many of the activities that make us feel good. For example, smelling, eating, viewing, or even just thinking about “comfort foods” produces oxytocin. Listening to soothing music has been shown to increase levels. Touching and being touched produces oxytocin in both the giver and receiver, as does orgasm. It is no surprise that massage is a great way to boost oxytocin levels. Even just thinking positively about your significant other can produce a rise in oxytocin.
If you have a pet, you may intuitively know that you just feel better when you are around them. This is because oxytocin levels increase in both of you when you have friendly interactions. Simple eye contact with a dog boosts your oxytocin levels, as does the happily wagging tail (WAG MORE, BARK LESS). The vibration of your cat’s purr affects oxytocin levels in both you and your cat, which may be why some cats purr when they are in pain. Stroking or petting a dog or cat (also shown in rats, monkeys, and sheep) increases levels in both parties.
Nature has provided us with many opportunities to give ourselves a boost of this love drug, whenever we need it. If you live alone, consider getting a pet. Even if you can’t take on the responsibilities of having a pet, you can visit your local dog park and enjoy eye contact with someone else’s dog. Just make sure it is a friendly gaze, and not an aggressive stare! Take walks in nature whenever possible, as she provides her own soothing music, played just for you.
- How to Naturally Increase Oxytocin, and Why This May Help Your Marriage (marriagegems.com)