7 Simple Ways To Boost Your Love Hormone, Oxytocin

Oxytocin is known as the feel-good hormone. It’s a neurotransmitter released from the pituitary gland and it encourages us to love, and bond.

Boosting your oxytocin doesn’t mean sprinkling a seed on your salad, or regularly taking a supplement. However, increasing your “love hormone” is easy, nourishing, fun, and has many positive physiological and psychological benefits. It is the feel good hormone, after all.

I discovered the benefits of oxytocin while researching irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and autism (ASD). I’m autistic, and in the past I’ve experienced IBS.

Through reading and self-experimenting I found that increasing oxytocin made socialising a more positive experience and it reduced disturbances in the intestine through the calming effect it has on the nervous system.

Researchers at Duke University proved that oxytocin also strengthens our spiritual connection, and some believe it assists with weight loss through regulating blood sugar levels and producing feelings of relaxation and calm.

That’s not all : oxytocin supports wound recovery and heart health by dilating blood vessels and clearing free radicals and inflammation from the arteries. It’s also around when we make love and during childbirth and it promotes maternal bonding.

But you don’t have to go into labour or be having sex all the time in order to reap the benefits of this beautiful hormone. You can do small things at your desk, when walking to the shops, or in the company of friends to raise your oxytocin levels and feel good – because that’s what it’s all about.

#1 Meditation and spiritual connection

We’ve all read about the benefits of meditation once, twice, a million times. Sorry: we’re back at it again. Meditation is a great way to increase levels of oxytocin and it can take many forms. A comforting meditation practise it isn’t restricted to a yoga mat or mountaintop.

Being in a mindful state is something we can consciously create throughout the day. It can involve the repetition of a mantra, or focusing on our breath as we wait in line at the post office.

Renowned Buddhist teacher and bestselling author Pema Chodron even argues that laziness can become the focus of a meditation practise.

#2 The power of scent

There are proven links between oxytocin and scent – namely, the smell of lavender. Yet any scent that creates happy vibes can’t hurt. One of the most powerful ways I think that I’ve increased my levels of oxytocin is through burning essential oils or a fragranced candle at my desk.

And sometimes no perfume or essential oil is required to get the good feelings going. Pheromones – which we release through our sweat glands and pores – and oxytocin work together in magical ways. They encourage greater connection with loved ones and romantic partners and they don’t cost a penny.

#3 Hug yourself (& others, when appropriate)

A consensual hug (as opposed to the one that Uncle Ray insists on giving you every Passover that leaves you freaked out) has many positive effects on our minds, hearts, bodies and oxytocin levels.

And, yes, it’s been proven that hugging ourselves impacts oxytocin and feels really good, too. Give it a try the next time you need an injection of positive energy, or comfort.

Dr Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion spoke in a podcast on Sounds True about the ways we can sneakily hug ourselves during a stressful situation, or social event. Look out world: now we can be hugging ourselves anywhere, anytime!

#4 Eat dark chocolate

Well this is an easy one. No social situations to navigate, or open flames to be wary of. It’s just you, the humble cacao bean, and all the miraculous forms that it can take. Dark chocolate boosts our oxytocin levels. Go.

#5 Take a walk on the wild side

… Or even on your front lawn. Some have laughed at the idea of “earthing” or “grounding” and some are just wary of whatever Gwyneth Paltrow’s health and wellbeing website Goop seems to be endorsing. However, I can personally attest to the feel good benefits of spending time in nature with two bare feet on the ground. There are many positive things to be said about Vitamin D, oxytocin and autism. And I’ve learned that even just a few minutes outside on the grass calms me down, and connects me to something bigger.

#6 Splish splash: take a bath

Taking a bath is thought to be soothing because it replicates the feeling of being in the womb. The University of Wolverhampton studied 80 people who took baths everyday for a fortnight and noticed significant increases in “psychological wellness.”

Soaking in the bath can also reduce inflammation, stimulate circulation and cell movement, strengthen the immune system and help us lose weight. So chuck in some essential oils and Epsom salts – maybe even some bi-carb soda – and your bathtub is where the oxytocin party’s at.

#7 Trust

Oxytocin helps us to trust, and trusting helps us to feel the benefits of oxytocin. The wonders of being centred and feeling safe in the world cannot be overstated. Feeling loving, and loved, is good for our health, loved ones, friends, work life and pets (whose oxytocin levels are raised from contact with us). So trust that you know what you need, and make time for it – the power of oxytocin won’t be too far behind.

Madeleine Ryan is a writer living in Castlemaine, Victoria. More of her work can be viewed at www.madeleineryan.com