November 27, 2013

How To Be An Oxytocin Superhero And Save The World [By Claire Bell]

It’s 12.25pm. I’ve given two hugs today. Three if I count my dog.

I need to give five more.

This is because hugging people (and dogs and cats and maybe lizards for all I know) will flood 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’ll save you a fortune in medical expenses.

I know this because Dr Paul Zak knows.

Dr Zak hugs everyone.

He’s a scientist and an oxytocin expert and he 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. I don’t know what happens when we talk to our fathers – maybe it reduces oxytocin. This makes me wonder: if this is the case and we talk to our mother and father simultaneously, would this negate the oxytocin mother-boost effect?

And what if we have an evil step-mother? Like Snow White had.

Dr Zak needs to investigate.

Whatever the case, oxytocin’s great for upgrading immune systems and lowering blood pressure.

It’s also excellent for relationships. Just ask a rodent.

American love rat.

It appears the key to long and fruitful human kinship lies at the burrow-door of a small rat.

The American prairie vole is a rodent with an aversion to extracurricular liaisons. This cute creature is one of nature’s most monogamous mammals.

Its secret?

Oxytocin. This amicable beast stews in it.

How to be an oxytocin superhero

I’ve researched the oxytocin effect. Do one of the following things each day and you will be a better person. You will be more sociable. People will like you more. You will like yourself more. People will like your dog more. The world will transform.

Turbo oxytocin boosts -
  • 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. See my comment re Snow White above.
  • 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 cafĂ©. 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.

This piece, was originally published on Midlifexpress and appears here with her kind permission.  Find more writing by Claire Bell at

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