Understanding how to increase oxytocin naturally can have positive effects and benefits on the way we feel, our relationships with others, and even play a healthy role in addiction treatment and recovery.
Oxytocin is sometimes called the “love hormone” and has a significant impact on our emotional health, happiness, and physical well-being.
What is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone produced by the hypothalamus in the brain. It is transported to the pituitary gland where it circulates throughout the rest of the body to do its work on our emotions.
It is similar to the hormone, vasopressin, although it functions differently, and responds to social and emotional stimuli.
Oxytocin has various nicknames such as:
- Love Hormone
- Cuddle Hormone
- Bonding Hormone
It gets these names because many of the oxytocin side effects are felt when we bond or cuddle with other people or even pets.
Oxytocin Function – What Does it Do?
Even though oxytocin is a hormone, it acts like a “feel good” neurotransmitter in the brain, similar to serotonin and dopamine.
It regulates social and emotional behaviors like:
- Trust and empathy
- Social bonding with others
- Anxiety and stress
- Childbirth and breastfeeding
- Addiction treatment and recovery
What Does Oxytocin Do?
1. Increases Trust and Empathy
Oxytocin has shown to be an effective way to improve trust and empathy in social interactions. It promotes social behaviors and cultivates positive relationships to enhance emotional connections with peers and family members.
2. Improves Social Bonding
It is referred to as the bonding hormone because it works not only to form new bonds with others, but also to strengthen social relationships, including the maternal bond between a mother and a newborn child.
3. Reduces Anxiety and Stress
Oxytocin can help suppress production of hormones like cortisol that increase stress and anxiety. Learning ways to increase oxytocin often leads to feelings of calm and relaxation that support mental health and emotional happiness.
4. Promotes Childbirth and Breastfeeding
During childbirth and labor, increased levels of oxytocin are essential for inducing contractions, while at the same time reducing the stress and pain of labor.
During postpartum recovery, it aids in producing milk during breastfeeding and fosters a bond between mother and child.
5. Supports Addiction Treatment and Recovery
Recent research suggests that increasing oxytocin naturally might be helpful for drug and alcohol addiction treatment related to substance use cravings and enhancing social support for people in recovery.
All of these functions explain what oxytocin does, so the next step is to learn how to increase oxytocin levels to take advantage of its benefits.
How to Increase Oxytocin
Learning how to increase oxytocin naturally can have a positive impact on a person’s emotional health, relationships, and overall well-being.
10 Ways to Increase Oxytocin
1. Sensation of Physical Touch
The physical act of hugging another person triggers an increase of oxytocin, and a long, heartfelt hug will produce the biggest effect.
Receiving a regular massage can increase oxytocin levels because the physical touch between people during a massage reduces stress and promotes a state of relaxation.
Skin-to-skin contact between a parent and a child will increase oxytocin levels that boost emotional bonding, especially for newborn babies.
2. Social Interaction
Openly sharing thoughts and feelings, and regularly engaging in meaningful conversations with friends and peers can boost oxytocin.
Spending time with loved ones and people you care about are healthy ways to stimulate connection and intimacy.
Taking part in social groups can increase oxytocin through regular social interactions.
3. Volunteering and Acts of Kindness
Volunteering for a worthwhile creates a sense of connection and empathy that has shown to increase oxytocin levels.
Practicing random acts of kindness either anonymously or for someone you know can boost oxytocin levels.
4. Physical Activity
Regularly engaging in some form of physical activity is known to increase oxytocin. This activity can be anything like walking, jogging, yoga, or aerobic exercise, with the greatest boost occurring after 30 minutes a day, several times a week.
5. Meditation and Mindfulness
Practicing meditation or incorporating mindfulness with deep breathing exercises into a daily routine can increase oxytocin levels and lead to a decrease of anxiety and stress.
6. Have a Good Laugh
Laughter is a powerful feel-good oxytocin booster. Watching a funny movie or going to a comedy club with friends are fun and easy ways to have a good belly laugh.
7. Spend Time With a Pet
Petting, cuddling, and playing with a pet can trigger a natural boost of oxytocin. The hormone released while bonding with pets has a healthy and calming effect on emotions.
8. Have Sex
Having sex with someone you care for and are in a relationship with increases oxytocin during and after the encounter. This is not intended to promote having sex with anyone and everyone. Sex between two people in a healthy, romantic relationship stimulates emotional bonding and oxytocin.
9. Eat Foods that Increase Oxytocin
There are many foods that increase oxytocin levels, and a good place to start is with those that are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Magnesium.
Foods to Increase Oxytocin
- Fatty fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Citrus fruit
- Dark chocolate
In addition to releasing oxytocin, many of these are foods that increase serotonin levels as well to feel even happier.
10. Supplements to Increase Oxytocin
Because oxytocin is so important for mental and physical health, there is a wide range of supplements that may be helpful for improving vitamin and nutrient levels related to production of the hormone.
Oxytocin supplements can be found in oral tablets, creams, and nasal sprays, although it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare physician before starting a new routine of supplements.
By incorporating these ways to increase oxytocin, it can improve emotional health and social relationships.
Increase Oxytocin to Improve Addiction Treatment Outcomes and Recovery
Early evidence has shown that oxytocin can play an important role to improve addiction treatment and recovery.
Ways Oxytocin Can Help With Addiction Treatment and Recovery
1. Reduces Cravings and Withdrawal Symptoms
Oxytocin is known to reduce anxiety and stress that can lead to drug or alcohol cravings and triggers, especially for those in the early stages of recovery.
The feel-good properties associated with an increase of oxytocin can also be helpful for alleviating some of the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.
2. Improves Social Support
Building and re-establishing trust with others is vitally important during addiction recovery. Establishing new relationships and maintaining old ones is necessary for a healthy support system.
Increasing oxytocin levels can enhance the bond and trust shared with other members of group therapy sessions, which are important for recovery.
3. Helps Prevent Relapse
Reducing stress and cravings during recovery has a positive impact on preventing a relapse during addiction treatment.
4. Enhances Emotional Health
Increased oxytocin levels enhance mental health and mood, and the feel-good properties produced by the hormone ease feelings of anxiety and depression during recovery. It is also a nice complement to treatment for high functioning depression or anxiety.
5. Strengthens Therapeutic Relationships
Oxytocin is called a “bonding hormone” because it improves the emotional bond between two or more people.
Strengthening the bond between patients and others in recovery, or patients and therapists will make therapy sessions more effective.
While oxytocin is not a standalone cure or treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, it can serve as important part of a comprehensive treatment program.
By understanding how to increase oxytocin and its function in the brain, it can serve as a positive and healthy way to improve relationships, mental health, and addiction treatment success.