How to get more oxytocin

You probably know about Oxytocin and birth, but do you know how crucial is it for the rest of us?

Taking a ride
I was on the tube the other day watching an English sheepdog enjoying the ride. There was a sudden bang and the dog became anxious, the lady sitting next to the dog stroked it’s head to reassure it, the dog calmed down. The lady began to smile, stroked some more, then the whole carriage started to smile, soften and breath a little deeper. That is the oxytocin effect.

Oxytocin Dog

Cortisol addiction
We seem to be addicted to cortisol in our lives; forward motion, busyness and activity are valued over stillness, quiet and being. This has a grave, long-term cost on our health and well-being. Swedish Oxytocin expert Kerstin Uvas-Moberg believes this hormone has significance for the wider population too. In her book ‘The Oxytocin Factor’ she writes that it’s a major antidote to the chronically stressed times we live in; a solution that we all ready have easy access to, with no side effects and no expense.

The effects of Oxytocin
Here are some of the wonderful effects of Oxytocin in your system:-
• It lowers blood pressure
• Works to counteract the flight or fight stress hormones
• Increases our openness and desire to connect
• Produces our body’s natural pain relievers
• Stimulates release of digestive hormones
• Accelerates the growth and healing of wounds
• Makes us trust more
• Decreases social anxiety
(As a little aside, scientists found voles and Meer cats responded to oxytocin by being more caring. What on earth are these people doing experimenting on voles and Meer cats? Bizarre! Is that a real job?)

How do we get more oxytocin?
• Gaze into the eyes of your loved one
• Create a safe, private space with people you trust
• Make love
• Have an orgasm
• Initiate or ask for touch
• Do it again! Repeated doses of oxytocin convert the immediate shift into a long lasting effect.
• Stroke a pet
Get a massage (Kirsten says it’s one of the best ways!)
• Stroke your own skin
• Hug someone (“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” Virginia Satir)

Does massage trigger oxytocin?
Back to the lovely moment on the tube for a moment, as well as showing how animals benefit from oxytocin, it was the contagion that really interested me. The warmth of oxytocin spread from the dog, to the lady and the rest of the carriage despite the frenetic city environment. A feedback loop is created so that as the hormone is released we become more empathic. Massage therapists get a regular doses; the stroking triggers the release in the client, which triggers oxytocin release in the massage therapist. This makes the therapist more empathic, which then improves the sensitivity of the massage. Cool eh? Now massage therapy, that would be an interesting career….

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1 Reply to "How to get more oxytocin"

  • Michelle Eshkeri
    June 9, 2014 (7:13 am)

    Hi Kate. Great piece. I simply stroke my arm when I feel the need to relax. Its amazing how effective it is. Then when I have time, a nice long, hot bath also works wonders. As you say, hugging is great although my boys are getting old now and try to wriggle away sometimes – which isn’t so good!
    Hope you have a lovely oxytocin-filled day…

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