How to Naturally Raise Your Oxytocin Levels for optimal growth, healing, relationships, and relaxation.
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone that is used for so much more than just labor and childbirth. In the past 20 years there has been more and more research studies that have revealed the many different functions and benefits of this very important substance. Though most studies to date have been done on animals, we may still greatly benefit from a deeper understanding of the importance of stimulating the release of this vital “love, connecting, healing, and self-growth stimulating” hormone in our everyday lives and relationships. Oxytocin is low in many chronically ill conditions according to studies such as chronic pain, depression, autism, schizophrenia and alchoholism.
What is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin which means “quick labor/birth” is both a neurotransmitter (signaling substance in the brain) and a hormone (acts in the body through the bloodstream) in the body that is involved with calming, releasing, connecting, growth, reproduction, healing, socializing, friendliness, curiosity, digestion, trust, and a recharging of energy.
Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg, author of The Oxytocin Factor, calls the oxytocin system in mammals “The Calm, Healing, and Connection System” in the human body. This system works most efficiently when the body is at rest. It helps the body to heal, grow, and reproduce. In this state, we have greater access to our internal resources and creativity. We are better able to learn, pay attention, and solve problems when we feel safe and calm. According to Uvnas-Moberg, “stimulating the oxytocin system is the solution to protect ourselves from the negative impact of chronic stress.”
Oxytocin is commonly associated with labor, birth, and nursing, but it actually plays a much wider role in both men and women. It is easy to promote the release of oxytocin since information is transmitted to oxytocin-producing cells from the body’s outside environment (through the five senses), inside (through sensory receptors in the muscles and joints), and sensory receptors in the internal organs. Our physical and emotional environment, thoughts, associations, and memories also influence the system.
The Release of Oxytocin has the following effects in the human body:
- Stress Reduction
- Improves Digestion
- Decreases anxiety
- Weight Loss
- Improved Sleep
- Promotes bonding when we have physical contact with another individual (massage, hugs, snuggling, carrying child)
- Lowers pulse and blood pressure in humans and apes
- Increases calm
- More Energy and Focus.
- Increases social interaction
- Reduces the sensation of pain. One’s reaction to the message of pain diminishes.
- Improves one’s learning ability, especially after receiving repeated injections over time.
- Less fearful
- More sociable
- Increased eye contact
- More Nurturing
- Sexual and maternal behavior (mothers interact more with their babies) is increased.
- Lowers blood pressure and lowers levels of cortisol/stress hormone.
- Increased interaction between mothers and their babies
- Small amounts of oxytocin reduce anxiety, increase curiosity, larger amounts produce different effect… a cow will stand still, look drowsy, even go to sleep.
- Aids in digestion, but depends on whether full or hungry. Over time the digestive processes work more efficiently, in part because oxytocin stimulates the secretion of gastric juices and the release of digestive hormones such as gastrin, cholecystokinin, somatostatin, and insulin-these 3 promote storage of nourishment in the body.
Based on observations in rat studies how may I naturally stimulate the release of oxytocin in my body?
- Skin to skin touch is one of the strongest ways to stimulate the oxytocin system.
- Pleasant, repetitive, and rhythmical touch.
- Massage at the rate of 40 strokes per minute seems most beneficial, especially to the front side of the body (chest and tummy). This lowers blood pressure, increases tolerance for pain-higher pain threshold, lower level of stress hormone, increased growth in both young and adult animals, increased social interaction, improved learning.
- Receiving loving and nurturing care, and being handled positively in early life sets us up for a continued sense of feeling safe and connected, which is necessary for emotional and physical health.
- Sexual relations, love making, fore play, masturbation and orgasm.
- Closeness and physical contact, bonding relationships especially within first hour after birth, this has long term effects on both mother and child.
- Having a doula at your birth has been shown to reduce the experience of pain during labor, and speed delivery. As a result, women view the experience of labor in a more positive light. Six weeks after birth, mothers who had doula at birth have better relationships with their infants, partners, and fewer incidences of depression.
- Entrainment: If we have higher levels of oxytocin, we increase other people’s levels from them just being in our presence.
- Movement that is rhythmical and repetitive. The more body parts moving simultaneously, the higher the release of oxytocin which is why dance, running and yoga is so uplifting.
- Physical closeness and touch provide us with feeling of security. SNUGGLING. Being around people we like.
- Exercise: The sensory nerve fibers in the muscles and joints causes the release of oxytocin. Exercise releases oxytocin and oxytocin promotes endorphin release-natural pain killers. Whole body exercise is more effective in stimulating a larger release of oxytocin.
- Repetition of words/mantras in a slow and rhythmical pattern such as in singing, karaoke and chanting.
- Playing an instrument such as a hand drum.
- Acupuncture: The pain reducing effect of acupuncture does not materialize if an oxytocin antagonist is given at the same time, therefore there is a connection between oxytocin and endorphins but we still don’t know exactly how the two are related.
- Prayer, guided imagery, and visualizations.
- Supportive and friendly psychological feedback. Listening attentively with eye contact, gives person feeling of confidence and connection, just as friendly touch does.
- Healthy personal relationships are linked with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.
- Positive physical environments
- Taking a warm bath or going in the sauna.
- Relaxing in the sun.
- The feeling of a full stomach generates peace and calm.
What would an oxytocin-filled day look like?
- Give yourself a hug as you wake up in bed and feel grateful for who you are.
- Make love with your spouse or masturbate. Have an orgasm.
- Dance and Sing while you take your morning shower.
- Exercise in the morning.
- Be Present, completely available to the present moment.
- Connect with a friend and listen to them, take them in completely just as they are.
- Give your loved ones a hug and kiss.
- Sleep with plenty of pillows and feel nested in your bed.
- Notice all the beauty around you without any judgement.
- Go for a nature walk during your lunch break.
- Make eye contact and smile at people and make sure to look at yourself in the mirror and feel grateful for yourself.
- Take deep diaphragmatic breaths throughout your day and notice how your body feels as you breathe in deeply with gratitude for your breath of life.
- Swim in the ocean.
- Belly Dance
Practice different ways to stimulate the release of oxytocin to fill your life with more love, healing and calm. We all seem to be very well educated on how to raise our stress hormone levels (cortisol). Today science has given us many insights on how we can master the art of love and healing.
Raise your Oxytocin by listening to the Guided Meditation called “Breathe In Love” HERE.
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