It’s 12.25pm and I’ve given two hugs today. Three if I count my dog.
I need to give five more.
This is because hugging floods me with oxytocin.
And if I hug you — or your dog — it will boost your oxytocin too.
Your health will improve. Your mood will improve.
I know this because Dr Paul Zak knows.
Dr Zak hugs everyone.
He’s a scientist and an oxytocin expert who says we need eight hugs a day to prevent oxytocin deficiency.
Oxytocin is a powerful hormone. We make it when we feel happy and when we watch soppy movies.
We also make it when we talk to our mothers.
Additionally, oxytocin boosts our immune systems and lowers our blood pressure.
It’s also excellent for relationships. Just ask a rodent.
American love rat.
It appears the key to lasting human kinship lies at the burrow-door of a small rat.
The American prairie vole is a rodent that happens to be one of nature’s most monogamous mammals.
Oxytocin. It practically stews in the stuff.
How to get more oxytocin
- Call your mother. Better still, visit. Studies with teenage girls show levels of their stress hormone cortisol decrease and their oxytocin levels increase when they talk to their mother in person or on the phone. Texting is hopeless. Each girl had to hear her mother’s voice. It makes sense because voices convey warmth and intonation and empathy. I don’t know if this works with all mothers.
- Get a dog. And make sure you pat it because, as I’ve said, it raises your oxytocin levels — and your dog’s. If you can’t get a canine of your own, then pat someone else’s.
- Have a massage. Nothing too rough. Moderate pressure is best.
- Take a friend to a café. Pay the entire bill. It makes them feel great and increases their oxytocin levels. This means they’ll be nicer to everyone else and the world improves. All because you paid for their cake and coffee.
- Walk with a friend. Or by yourself.
- Go dancing. Especially with a partner. Oxytocin levels rise 11 percent when people dance. The tango’s good if you’re looking for romance.
- Thrill yourself. Try a roller coaster, bungee jumping, a scary movie, rollerblading. Excitement will have your heart thumping and the oxytocin pumping – particularly if it’s with a partner. It helps you bond.
- Sing. The more people you’re with the better. Try karaoke, choir, a cappella — they’re all great oxytocin releasers. Singing may also help you live longer. My husband said this to me yesterday: “I think the reason my uncle’s still alive [ at 82] and all his family died years ago in their fifties is because he sings in a choir. It’s a great emotional release.”
- Go to weddings. Weddings make oxytocin levels spike. The bride gets the biggest shot, followed by her mother. Then it’s close family and friends. The groom’s the only one to miss out. That’s possibly because a huge testosterone surge cancels out his oxytocin.
- Give eight hugs a day. I’ve told you why.
- Treat people decently. Their oxytocin levels increase. And so do yours. It encourages them to treat others well and this continues down the line.
- Be trustworthy. If you feel trusted by others it raises your oxytocin levels. And if they feel they can trust you, it lifts theirs.
- Give lots of eye contact. Looking directly into people’s eyes raises their oxytocin.
- Go on Facebook and Twitter. Contrary to what you’ve heard, social media is not the death of human interaction. Dr Zak says we’re a connective species and the more interaction, electronic or otherwise, the better. His research shows that after using Facebook and Twitter, oxytocin levels increase.
- Watch or listen to a stand-up comic. Live, You Tube, audio, it matters not. My favorites are George Carlin, Louis CK, Phill Jupitus, Nina Conti, and Eddie Izzard.
The best oxytocin-releaser of all?
A soppy romance
Oxytocin levels increase an enormous 47 per cent. Dr Zak says this is amazing because even a 10-20 per cent boost is great. The reason oxytocin skyrockets when we watch a romance or comedy, or any emotionally-charged movie, is that our brains treat the people and the plot as if they are in the room with us.
How to be a better lover
Stressed to the Max? Calling Mom for help. Raychelle Cassada Lohman, Psychology Today, January 21 2012