I don’t know about you, but when I’m having a tough week there’s something magical about going shopping or getting a pedicure. When I walk into Lululemon or the nail salon, it’s as if I completely forget about what was bothering me. Some call this retail therapy, but the positive sensation actually stems from…you guessed it…hormones.
Today we are going to talk about oxytocin. Oxytocin is the prom queen when it comes to hormones. When you master your oxytocin, you’ll be the person everyone wants to be around and be the star of the show.
What is oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a hormone and a neurotransmitter that is produced mainly in the hypothalamus (in the brain).
*You may be familiar with Pitocin and Syntocinon, which are forms of synthetic oxytocin*
Oxytocin is released when:
- You hug, kiss, or touch someone
- You have sex/orgasm
- You give birth/breastfeed
- You go shoe shopping 🙂
- You do something new and exciting
- You hang out with friends
When oxytocin is released, you feel a sense of social connection, bonding, trust, generosity, and overall happiness. Oxytocin has been labeled the “tend and befriend” response, as opposed to the “fight or flight” response associated with hormones like cortisol. Since many of us are running around stressed to the max, we could use a little balance in this department. Oxytocin does the trick.
Women actually make more oxytocin than men as a way of dealing with stress. Instead of running from every fear in panic, women tend to talk about their stressors and seek out the company of others. Of course, when the stressor is too much to handle, women may go into more of a “fight or flight” response, but it’s typically second to seeking social connections.
Oxytocin’s role makes perfect sense from a primitive perspective. Post sexual activity, our natural response is to feel connected to our sexual partner. Post birth and during breastfeeding we feel this incredible connection to our baby. We feel safe. This may be the reason why some females find it harder to have a one night stand and forget about it. In fact, the effects of oxytocin last longer for women than for men.
Other health benefits of oxytocin:
- Improve immune system
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve your HPA function
- Improve cardiovascular health (esp. lower blood pressure)
- Lower cortisol
Ways to boost oxytocin:
- Hug!! (Guys actually need a longer hug than women for oxytocin to kick in, since testosterone inhibits oxytocin). Your hug should ideally last at least 20 seconds to get the optimum release of oxytocin.
- Watch a sappy movie. Even watching emotionally charged moments can spike oxytocin levels.
- Dance and/or sing! Even if you’re terrible at it, dancing and singing with others is a great way to increase the “love” hormone.
- Do something new and exciting! Try rock climbing or hit up an amusement park. When you’re scared, you instantly connect with those around you.
- Have a ladies night once a week!
- Have sex!!
- Treat yourself to getting your nails done or going shoe shopping, especially when you’re feeling, “meh.”
- Talk it out. Use the “tend and befriend” response to your benefit when you are in a tough situation. Ask for help, advice, or a shoulder to cry on to help the stress fizzle away.
Why does this all matter?
Taking some of the steps outlined above will help you embrace your womanhood, recharge your batteries, and start aligning your hormones back to that wonderful goldilocks position.
I know I used to feel guilty about spending money on “extra” things like getting my nails done or getting a nice pair of workout pants. I now look at it as doing something FOR my health. Feeling good about yourself and treating your mind-body is like taking a supplement. Now go and show some love to your love hormone. You have a good excuse 🙂
Dr. Sara Gottfried, The Hormone Cure