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.
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