Tag Archives: hormones

How to Naturally Increase Oxytocin, and Why This May Help Your Marriage

Oxytocin is the bonding hormone that helps you and your spouse feel bonded together. It has lots of other nice perks, too, like decreasing feelings of pain, reducing anxiety, lowering stress levels, promoting growth and healing, increasing feelings of trust, and stimulating positive interactions.

I read about an interesting study that showed by increasing oxytocin levels with nasal inhalers, participants became 80 percent more generous than the ones who inhaled a placebo. (Read about the study here.) Generosity has been shown in recent studies to be the secret to a strong marriage. It can also lead to increased intimacy, sex and bonding, which leads to higher levels of oxytocin. So, it’s a big, happy cycle.

This oxytocin stuff sound really great, doesn’t it? How can we get more of it? While there has been some talk of medical use of the hormone (in creams, inhalers and pills), there is much debate about its efficacy and its ethical use. Thankfully, lots and lots of natural actions can effectively increase oxytocin in your body. An increase could mean better feeling of wellness along with stronger feelings of bonding with your spouse.

Top Ways to Boost Oxytocin

Intimacy—Oxytocin is probably most well-known for stimulating labor and milk production in nursing mothers. It is also released by men and women at orgasm. It turns out that sex along with an emotional/loving connection provides a much stronger and longer response of oxytocin than does sex alone. More touching and kissing during lovemaking also makes the effect stronger.

Touching—Massage is a surefire way to boost oxytocin levels in the bloodstream. Lots of other kinds of loving touch can have a similar effect, from holding hands to hugging and snuggling.

Daydreaming about your spouse—A study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found happily married women quickly released a dose of oxytocin when asked to think about their husbands.

Pets—The touching benefit also works when petting your dog or cat. Lower your blood pressure and increase your oxytocin levels by petting and cuddling with your pet. (This doesn’t seem to work with my aquatic frogs, FYI.)

Sensory Experiences—Enjoying sights, sounds and smells that bring you comfort can boost oxytocin levels. Smells of foods you enjoyed while growing up, the sounds of the ocean waves or certain lighting can be effective, for example. When senses have a positive emotional connection, that seems to be the point of success.

Activity—Walking, swimming in warm water and physical exercise work well to boost oxytocin levels, says Kerstin Uvas-Moberg, PhD.

Deep interaction—eye contact with intimacy and “deep interaction” are also advised by Dr. Uvas-Mosberg.

Spirituality—Research has not proven this, but Dr. Uvas-Mosberg says prayer, contemplation and meditation may also increase oxytocin levels. Many of us would agree based on personal experience of positive feelings during or after these activities.

Adversity—This one also needs more study, but if you talk to individuals who have experienced a major crisis together, such as a plane crash, being held as POWs, or a natural disaster, they often feel extremely bonded together. Couples I interviewed and wrote about in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage expressed that instances of adversity—from losing a child, to financial crisis,  overcoming cancer, living with a brain injury, and much more—made them and their spouses feel closer together.

All but the last action items are pleasurable experiences that can boost your oxytocin levels, while the last item is often unavoidable, but it can strengthen your bond if you work together to overcome the adversity.  To read about how a dozen couples used real-life experiences to improve their marriages, you can find First Kiss to Lasting Bliss on Amazon.com or in various e-book formats. The marriages didn’t just survive; they became great love stories of hope and resilience that are great role models for the rest of us.

What do you think about the role of oxytocin in your marriage?  Is it really about feeling good, or is there something scientific that helps you stay bonded?

Order in time for Valentine’s Day: First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage , which tells the stories of a dozen amazing couples who used adversity to improve their marriage. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Sony, Nook or PDF. If you already have the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

5 Things I Learned From My Failed Marriage

This is a guest post from Julie Sibert, a passionate speaker and writer on intimacy in marriage at Intimacy in Marriage. Thanks to Julie for providing these lessons, which help turn a past failure into a way to help others.

Julie says: I learned a lot more than five things from my failed marriage, but the items below have to do with discussions about sex in marriage, so I’ll stick to that topic. Here goes:

5. Hormones do matter. Libido (a Latin word meaning desire), aka “sex drive,” is governed greatly by hormones. I was on the birth control pill for a good portion of my first marriage, and had NO IDEA that it was negatively impacting my sex drive hormonally. (In layman’s terms, the pill essentially tells your body to not ovulate. The message “I want to have sex” often does not get through because if you’re not ovulating, your body instead is saying, “What’s the point?”) Now, I’m not telling you to ditch the pill; but I am encouraging you to talk with your doctor. This goes for any medications and prescriptions you and/or your husband are taking. Don’t be afraid to ask the question, “How could this medication impact my sex drive?” Additionally, if either you or your husband experiences low sex drive, consider testing for low testosterone. Both men and women have testosterone (men just have it at a much higher rate). Low testosterone obviously can impact your desire to have sex.

4. Offering my body was not optional. God’s Word in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 clearly and lovingly shows that the marital commitment includes the pledge that husbands and wives will not withhold their bodies from each other. In my first marriage, I think I conveniently overlooked this, much to the detriment of our relationship. Some women ask me, “Is it ever okay to say ‘no’ to sex?” Well, sure it is, because marriage should be a place of mutual respect and kindness. But I believe “no” should be the rare exception, communicated with compassion and a tone that conveys, “not right now…but later.”

3. “Someday” never really comes. I wasn’t oblivious to our lack of sexual intimacy; I was just consistently telling myself, “We will figure this out someday.” Well, the elusive someday never really materializes on its own. Had I intentionally walked in the direction of “someday,” we likely would have overcome many of our sexual struggles.

2. Communication is what makes sex great. Honestly, my first husband and I had horrible communication about our sexual intimacy. It wan’t his fault alone and it wasn’t mine…it was a shared problem that we never really shared. It’s humbling to admit that now…to look back and see that had we made the effort to talk…really talk… not only about our struggles sexually but also about our needs and wants… sex likely wouldn’t have been such a neglected aspect in our relationship.

And the number 1 thing I learned from my failed marriage…

1. Isolating never solves anything. I knew sex was a big issue for us, but I didn’t seek out resources that could have helped me individually and us together as a couple. And let me tell you…there are a lot of Christian resources out there. If you feel alone in any of your sexual intimacy struggles or questions, staying isolated in that painful and confusing place is not going to solve anything. Consider some of the resources I have listed here. You could also ask your trusted Christian friends if they know of resources.

After my first marriage fell apart, I vowed that if the Lord were to ever bless me with marriage again, I was not going to take sexual intimacy for granted. I’m happy to report that I have never regretted that decision. Neither has my current husband. Be blessed!