The Love Hormone Oxytocin and Your Well-Being

By Val Silver

With the discovery of the love hormone oxytocin, science now supports the age-old understanding that love truly has healing powers. 

Once associated primarily with childbirth, breastfeeding and maternal bonding, research shows that the role of oxytocin, sometimes called the love hormone or the cuddle hormone, extends beyond the realm of motherhood. It plays a role in healing as well as your happiness and well-being. 

Oxytocin is excreted by the heart and the brain. The pituitary gland excretes it during labor, delivery and breastfeeding to encourage mother baby bonding.

Men and women get a dose of cuddle hormone during sexual intercourse, when you hug a loved one, and snuggle your pet.

You don't even have to physically touch someone to experience the emotional warmth and feelings of closeness oxytocin creates. Enjoying the company of friends and loved ones, and doing good deeds prompts its release. 

Oxytocin encourages trust between mates, evokes feelings of contentment, and fosters social bonding and empathy for others. It helps you feel less stressed, anxious and afraid. 

Love Hormone Health Benefits

Shortly before her death, Mother Theresa said that loneliness and isolation in the West was the most significant 'disease' she had encountered during her lifetime. It turns out, she just may be right. 

Research confirms that love heals us and isolation hurts us. People who have good marriages, close relationships with loved ones, or a good friend cut their risk of death by one-third. 

love hormone oxytocin

Longevity and well-being benefits attributed to deep connections with others are at least partly due to higher levels of the love hormone oxytocin. 

The more your pituitary and heart releases the love hormone, the more benefits of oxytocin you receive: 

  • You handle stress better, which may also play a part in its other benefits. 
  • It helps reduce cravings for drugs, alcohol and sweets.
  • The love hormone protects your heart from stress. Certain parts of the heart have oxytocin receptors. When you feel anxious, blood pressure spikes. A release of oxytocin reduces these spikes. Over time, this helps you have more elastic blood vessels, which allows your heart to respond better to higher demands. 
  • It helps damaged hearts heal by reducing inflammation and cell death.

Humans are not the only ones to experience the benefits of oxytocin. When scientists treated a group of isolated hamsters, their wounds healed faster than hamsters receiving a placebo injection. Likewise, wounds on hamsters living with a companion healed twice as fast as those who were isolated. They also produced fewer stress hormones.

How to Enjoy the Benefits of Oxytocin

You can experience the benefits of this cuddle hormone by nurturing your relationships with others and yourself regularly. 

Warm, loving, intimate relationships, nurturing touch anywhere on your body, positive interactions, and giving and receiving support with other humans and animals increases oxytocin levels.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Help others. Being helpful promotes the release of oxytocin and opiate-like reward hormones known as endorphins. Your brains releases endorphins as a reward for doing something that benefits the survival of our species.
  • Share loving touches - give or receive a massage, hold hands, kiss and hug, give little touches, pet your dog. 
  • Nurture others- share a meal, offer a listening ear, show compassion, donate time to a cause you are passionate about. 
  • Avoid synthetic oxytocin preparations. Synthetic hormones are not good for your health. Hamsters given synthetic oxycotin actually had slower healing times.

The benefits of oxytocin are significant to your mental and physical well-being. Even so, the healing power of love extends beyond the reaches of this hormone alone. When you create and enjoy deep connections with others, you are more likely to experience more happiness and better health than if you are a loner.

Source: What is it and what does it do?

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