Release the Flow of Oxytocin for Emotional and Relationship Health
Posted Oct 05 2010 12:44pm
Pssst…have you heard of oxytocin? If you’re committed to improving your emotional and relationship health, it’s something you might want to learn a bit more about. In the article, Love Potion #1?: Human Hormone Increases Positive Communication Between Couples (ScienceDaily.com), the question was raised as to whether oxytocin might assist couples in discussing difficult topics by reducing their cortisol (stress) levels. Another study (Bonn University and Cambridge’s Babraham Institute) found oxytocin regulates emotional empathy.
What exactly is oxytocin? Are there additional benefits? How can one release the flow of oxytocin in themselves – and each other?
Oxytocin is a naturally occurring neurochemical that acts like a hormone in our bodies, meaning it crosses the blood-brain barrier and circulates in the blood steam as well as in the brain, to regulate the arousal level of our nervous system. Oxytocin is released through touch, warmth, and affectionate connection. Classic examples of connections that release oxytocin are breastfeeding and orgasm, both of which can generate a blissful, other-worldly sense of contentment, “everything is all right.”
But any warm, loving, touch can release oxytocin – hugs, snuggles, holding hands, partner dancing, massage and body work. Neuroscience has confirmed, because of how our brains process information, even thinking about someone who loves us or someone we deeply care for is enough to activate the release of oxytocin in the brain. Which is very good news as we learn to use the relax and repair quality of oxytocin to re-pair and heal old relational wounds with new experiences of safe and affectionate connection.
Here are five benefits of evoking the natural release of oxytocin in our body-brains:
(This is an adaptation of the April 2010 newsletter by Linda Graham, MFT, with permission. To learn practical exercises to cultivate the capacity to release oxytocin in our bodies-brains, see the full article on this topic titled, Oxytocin: The Neurochemical of Everything Good . )
Linda Graham, MFT, specializes in relationship counseling in full-time private practice in San Francisco and CorteMadera, CA. She offers trainings and consultation nationwide on the integration of relational psychology, mindfulness and neuroscience. Her monthly e-newsletter, Healing and Awakening into Aliveness and Wholeness, is archived through www.lindagraham-mft.com .