Oxytocin hormone effects – A natural way of dealing with stress

Why are some people better at dealing with stress than others? How do some people just fit into social circles without any inhibitions whilst the very thought of dealing with strangers paralyses others? It seems that dealing with stress and an ability to socialise could all come down to chemistry.

Oxytocin is a hormone. It is a naturally-produced chemical that alters activity in a part of the brain that makes us feel good. It has been the subject of studies over the past 20 years because of its association with human bonding, in particular the role it plays in sexual reproduction. However, a recent study from Stanford University School of Medicine shows that oxytocin is involved in a much broader range of social connections. Researchers discovered that oxytocin released through any type of social connectivity triggered the release of serotonin. This is the hormone that makes us feel happy and good about ourselves.


Not just a sex hormone

Originally, oxytocin was thought to be solely related to sex. It was released during orgasm and then responsible for the dilation of the cervix during birth. While these are important, it is now believed that oxytocin increases our levels of social behaviour and helps us when dealing with stress. A study carried out in 2010, demonstrated that people with a higher level of oxytocin were dealing with stress better. In addition, the people with higher levels of the hormone were generally more affectionate people; they hugged a lot more.

How to boost our natural highs

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So if we want to feel happy and get better at dealing with stress, are there ways we can boost oxytocin hormone effects?

Having sex is the obvious answer, but that is not the only way to release this powerful little hormone. Here are six ways that you can increase your levels of oxytocin:

1. Change your handshake. When you shake hands with someone, use both hands. Grip in the conventional manner, but then cover the hands with your other one, this is warmer and more intimate.

2. Watch a sad movie. When you feel empathy with a character your oxytocin levels fly off the chart, leaving you feeling emotionally drained, but relaxed.

3. Exercise with a friend. The stress created when you exercise is reduced if you exercise with a friend. The feeling of companionship and “we are in this together” result from the release of oxytocin.  Pick a plan for working out together, shared goals are more easily accomplished.

4. Do a thrill-seeking activity with a friend. By putting yourself in a dangerous situation, such as a bungee jump, you are raising stress levels. When you share the risk with a friend, you create a really strong bond.

5. Tell someone you love them. Not just your nearest and dearest, but friends and family too. Avoid taking this too far, you could end up in trouble!

6. Get on social media. Social media gets a bad rap as the antithesis of social connections, but it has been proven to raise oxytocin levels as people interact with each other. Social media interaction does not create the same level of hormone release as actual contact, but it still provokes a rise in brain activity.

7. Check out these tips for foods that reduce stress.

So there you have it: hug a hoodie or kiss a granny and you’ll feel much happier!

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