Welcome to month’s post on Oxytocin – the love and connection hormone.

It was World Mental Health Day last month and I thought it would be a good time to continue to talk about this subject and about a hormone inside our body called oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a very powerful hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It comes with the nickname “the bonding and connection hormone” or even “the love hormone” because of its effect on us.

How can you increase the release of this hormone inside your body?

There are three ways you can boost oxytocin:

Spending time with animals

Studies have shown that spending time with animals, specifically, dogs, releases oxytocin in the body, and makes both you and the dog feel good (as you can see from the picture above of myself and my dog). Maybe that’s why so many welcome pets into their homes and why so many therapy centres use animals to help treat and rehabilitate people.

Give people hugs

Studies found that this also works with strangers. You hug them for a little bit longer than feels comfortable. I think 20 seconds is what the study found. You get a release of oxytocin, even though you do not know that person – it’s really fascinating.

Giving a gift

The act of giving increases the release of oxytocin, and makes us feel good as well. That could be a random act of kindness, a surprise gift, donating your time or stepping in to help someone in need.

Gratitude also boosts Oxytocin. When you are grateful, you feel real gratitude. It does change your physiology quite considerably. It isn’t concentrating at the end of the day on the three things I am grateful for. I think it is now and again just being present, really grateful for something and sitting with that feeling for a bit, before you move on. That is my gratitude practice.

If you think about the acronym called DOSE – a dose of happiness, if you like.

It’s all about Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins, and the message is how can you, in a healthy way, generate more of these chemicals to preserve good mental health, to keep you psychologically well. And feeling good about things in the world and your place and yourself.

Why not try to activate your happy chemicals by doing some or all of the following – it’s amazing for our mental health:

  • Spend time with animals
  • Give people hugs
  • Give gifts
  • Be grateful
  • Give someone your time
  • Help others

So, try some of the actions listed above and see how it makes you feel, it could also help someone else who might be silently struggling with their own mental health.

Leanne Spencer

This article first appeared in the November 2019 issue of SE22 magazine.