Oxytocin, not to be confused with Oxycontin, is my current drug of choice! I first heard about it years ago when I learned that Oxytocin is a neurohormone that is primarily made in the hypothalamus region of the brain and is released into the body via the pituitary gland. The great thing about Oxytocin is that it lowers the heart rate and levels of cortisol (that nasty stress hormone responsible for heart disease and high blood pressure), among other health benefits. I was reintroduced this past weekend and I'm now on a mission to get my fill of Oxytocin every single day. I mean seriously, who doesn't want to lower levels of cortisol and the risk for heart disease? And it's the way I get my Oxytocin that's the best news of all. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
In the scientific study of resilience, also known as positive psychology, understanding neuroscience and how we can learn to be flourishing well beings is, for me, transformational. With a most inspiring and intellectually impressive group of women and men that meets monthly in NYC, I am studying applied positive psychology. And it was just a couple of days ago that my reintroduction to Oxytocin took place. I will spare you the plethora of scientific details (mostly cause I can't possibly remember everything) and encourage you to do a little research for yourself. But here's the really good part. You can make Oxytocin your drug of choice too with a simple act that I hope you're already familiar with. Hugging. Whether you give or receive a hug your body will experience a release of Oxytocin. Now I'm not talking about the side hug or half hug, but it needn't be a romantic hug that leads to the bedroom either, although that could release some Oxytocin too! I'm talking about a feel-good embrace. Different studies claim various lengths of time for the hugs to be effective but I'm committed to following Dr. Paul Zak's simple prescription of 8 hugs a day. Even embracing your pet counts, although I'm not sure your pet tarantula will be cooperative.
I firmly believe that people need more hugs these days. Having served religious communities as clergy for the past ten years I've seen the longing for human touch. We need the connection and need to feel that we matter. Research out of Ohio State University shows that hugging and physical touch becomes increasingly important as we age. So hug your grandma or elderly neighbor! And don't forget the babies. Children who receive loving hugs typically grow up to be less stressed adults. We all need hugs and we all need our Oxytocin release.
But wait, just like the infomercials for miracle cleaners and kitchen knives, there's more. Oxytocin is known to increase the likelihood to trust and be generous with strangers, improve communication among couples, and motivate compassion and forgiveness. And we all have it within ourselves. How awesome is that? And there are other ways, aside from hugging, that Oxytocin is released (i.e. snuggling, breast feeding, massage, and even prayer) because it's all about connection. But 8 hugs a day sounds great to me. Or I could take it up the nose since there are Oxytocin nasal sprays available. Nah, I'll take my drug of choice by hugs. Uh-oh, It's noon and I've only gotten 3 of my 8. Gotta get hugging!
I had hoped to post once a week, and did for a short time. Unfortunately, my doctorate research and other obligations have taken priority over the blog. BUT, I will return soon! Some postings may be articles I've written for publication, messages I've delivered in congregational settings, or excerpts from papers written in my doctoral classes.