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Wellness

Oxytocin: An Overview Of The Love Hormone

5 Mins read
Table of Contents
1. The Science of Oxytocin
2. Serotonin, Dopamine, and Oxytocin
3. What Does it Feel Like When Oxytocin is Released?
4. How Oxytocin Gets Released: The Specifics
5. How to Increase Your Oxytocin Levels
6. The Powerful Impact of Oxytocin

When oxytocin is released from cuddling, hugs, or physical intimacy, it feels amazing. Oxytocin truly is a feel-good hormone. Love drug, cuddle hormone, and love hormone are all nicknames for the important hormone, oxytocin. 

Oxytocin levels can be influenced by various factors, such as cuddling, sex, exercise, hugs, physical bonding, and music. High levels of oxytocin can be released by orgasming.

Here’s a very interesting article about how even having a good cry can release oxytocin. Crying releases oxytocin, and having a good cry can help calm us down and reduce feelings of emotional pain.

Because of the very positive impact oxytocin has on our mood, mental state and energy levels, it’s essential for us to understand all of the ins and outs of this love hormone. Oxytocin can help bond two people in a relationship, because when oxytocin is released from physical intimacy or cuddles, it’s bonding for couples.

Oxytocin also helps you bond with your friends and family members, for example by hugging them.

The Science of Oxytocin

Oxytocin is made by the hypothalamus in the brain, and is stored and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland. Electrical activity in the hypothalamus determines the production level. When these little neurons get excited, more oxytocin is released.

From an evolutionary standpoint, oxytocin is very important. It helps women enjoy sex so they want to prcreate, and the primary function of oxytocin is to be released during the contraction of the womb (childbirth) and lactation. This results in the strong mother-and-child bond that many women experience during childbirth and breastfeeding.

When it comes to childbirth, the release of oxytocin helps combat labor pains.

While oxytocin is dominant during the child-rearing years, it can also act as a chemical messenger. In addition to mother-infant bonding, oxytocin is prominent in sexual arousal, recognition, trust, and romantic attachments.

Serotonin, Dopamine, and Oxytocin

This trio of neurotransmitters is often referred to as the happy hormones. That would be serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. These three happy hormones work together to create feelings of happiness in life, and positive sensations that can flood the body and brain. When we are with someone we are attracted to, or someone we care deeply about, our brain tends to increase its release of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin levels all at once.

If you’re curious how to release more serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, you should read this article on how to hack your brain chemicals.

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What Does it Feel Like When Oxytocin is Released?

Whether it’s from cuddling someone you care about, having sex, orgasming, or having a good cry, oxytocin feels good when it’s released. 

Oxytocin is released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland, sending it directly to the brain. When released under the right circumstances, oxytocin has the power to promote stronger bonding, regulate emotional responses, and promote better social interactions.

Here’s what oxytocin often feels like when it’s released:

  • A comfortable, tranquil feeling when you are around your closest friends, family you care about, or your partner.
  • A warm, fuzzy feeling during particular moments of happiness when you are with people you care deeply about.
  • Butterflies in your stomach when you are with someone you are sexually attracted to.
  • A strong notion of safety and security with a romantic partner or close friends.

The release of oxytocin can make an appearance in many different ways, for many different reasons. However, the key response is an overwhelming feeling of happiness and warmth that seems to radiate from within.

When oxytocin is released, we often feel that both our body and mind are in a state of bliss. It’s normal to feel very relaxed, happy and safe.

How Oxytocin Gets Released: The Specifics

We’ve discussed the science behind oxytocin and how it gets released into the bloodstream, but we’re now going to cover examples of definitive actions that trigger the release of oxytocin.

Most of the time, oxytocin is released when we’re with another person, not when we’re alone. This is typically someone we care for, or someone we’re romantic with. Self-pleasure, however, can also lead to the release of oxytocin when we’re alone – as can having a good cry.

Below are some definitive actions and examples of ways to release the feel-good hormone oxytocin:

  • Positive physical contact. Actions like hugging, kissing, holding hands, being held, having sex and cuddling can all release oxytocin.
  • Social bonding. For a long time, scientists have associated oxytocin release with child-rearing and physical intimacy. More recently, however, studies indicate that small acts of social bonding can release oxytocin. One study involving chimpanzees revealed a link between simple food sharing and an increase in oxytocin levels.
  • Sex. There is a direct connection between orgasms and oxytocin levels. During the climax, oxytocin causes genital nerves to fire spontaneously, resulting in a more intensified experience. This is one of the reasons why we feel happy and calm after an orgasm. 
  • Breastfeeding. Oxytocin is released when the nipples are stimulated during suckling while breastfeeding. This encourages the release of breast milk through the nipples.
  • Childbirth. Oxytocin plays a vital role in childbirth. During labor, oxytocin is released in large amounts to further open the cervix and combat pain. For decades, physicians have even been using synthetic oxytocin during childbirth to make the experience more comfortable.

Scientists keep discovering more about oxytocin in humans. There is sure to be more knowledge and understanding of its release and its impact on us in the future.

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How to Increase Your Oxytocin Levels

We know how good oxytocin makes us feel. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to increase your oxytocin levels:

  • Physical touch and intimacy. Oxytocin is directly linked with physical relationships and social gatherings. Sex, hugging, cuddling, and even massages can naturally increase oxytocin levels. If you get a massage, the physical touch could release oxytocin. 
  • Exercise. High-intensity workouts show a large boost in oxytocin levels immediately after exercising. Other forms of exercise, such as yoga, are also shown to improve oxytocin levels as well. Take a CircleDNA test to find out the best exercise program for you, based on your genetics, by reading your genetic fitness profile.
  • Music. There is a shocking level of evidence that correlates music and high oxytocin levels. Both by listening to your ‘good mood’ music and singing are shown to boost the release of oxytocin.

The Powerful Impact of Oxytocin

Low levels of oxytocin can be linked to feelings of depression and chronic anxiety. Scientists are continuing to develop a deeper understanding of the effects of oxytocin.
There is no denying that oxytocin plays a crucial role in our lives and our relationships, whether it is familial bonds or romantic relationships. While there is a strong link between physical intimacy and the love hormone, there are also many ways for single people to get a healthy dose of oxytocin.


References

  1. Food sharing is linked to urinary oxytocin levels and bonding in related and unrelated wild chimpanzees (Roman M. Wittig, Catherine Crockford, Tobias Deschner, Kevin E. Langergraber, Toni E. Ziegler & Klaus Zuberbühler) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3906952/#:~:text=Subjects%20showed%20higher%20urinary%20oxytocin,following%20grooming%2C%20another%20cooperative%20behaviour.
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The editorial team behind CircleMagazine, dedicated to bringing you bite-size health tips, real-life health stories and the latest genetic-related findings at this digital health hub.
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