Oxytocin and Health

I’ve written before about the importance of developing self-compassion for overall well-being…well, there’s actually a scientific basis for this. Being kind – including to yourself – stimulates the production of oxytocin, popularly known as the “bonding”, “love” or “cuddle” hormone; and oxytocin is important for good health. Oxytocin receptors are found throughout our bodies and when the love hormone flows the whole body functions better.

Oxytocin helps to reduce depression, reduce both pain and inflammation (which is the underlying cause of many health problems). It also reduces blood pressure and softens arteries, speeds up wound healing and helps to maintain healthy digestive function.

Oxytocin also activates the vagus nerve which acts as a natural brake for the heart, regulates the inflammatory response and slows down the rate of ageing. There’s a link between low vagal tone and depression. With high vagal tone we’re better able to cope with the stressors of life.

Oxytocin is known to make us more trusting (and appear more trustworthy to others), thus reducing fear and anxiety, which leads to greater confidence. We become more kind, caring, generous, forgiving and accepting, seeing people in a more positive light which brings us closer to others. So it makes us feel good and improves our relationships and of course this all creates a positive upward spiral.

When oxytocin is flowing and we’re being more kind and compassionate – it actually changes the structure of the brain – and changes in thought patterns, habits and behaviours will naturally follow.

There are lots of ways to boost your oxytocin levels such as…

    • Stroking a pet
    • Any form of touch – holding hands, sharing a hug, giving or receiving a massage, or when that’s not appropriate a pat on the back or light handshake.
    • Watching inspirational videos
    • Music/art
    • Prayer
    • Forgiving others – holding onto past hurts only harms yourself
    • Naming and expressing emotions in a healthy way, rather than holding them in
    • Counting your blessings
    • Avoiding complaining – give compliments instead
    • Connecting with another person in any way, such as helping an elderly neighbour or someone in need, giving someone a suprise gift, making a new member of staff feel welcome…
And basically anything that involves being kind and compassionate…and that includes, of course, being kind and compassionate to yourself! So have a think about what you can do today to boost your oxytocin levels 🙂

I’m a hypnotherapist providing a friendly, professional service in Devon, with therapy rooms in Buckfastleigh and Axminster. I offer a free initial consultation, so please feel free to contact me.

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