The Anxiety-Reducing, Love-Boosting Hormone (& How To Benefit From It)
Updated: Mar 12, 2022
Healing requires both self-care & community care.
In moments of stress or crisis, you need people who can be there for you.
In times when you’re overwhelmed & can’t catch a break, you need support.
In grief or anxiety, you need people who can hold space for you while you heal.
As individuals, it’s up to us to be healthy participants in our own lives, but being surrounded by healthy, supportive relationships supports your health down to a molecular level. There is no separation between your mental health & your physical health.
During the female hormonal cycle (typically lasting 21-35 days), the fluctuations in estrogen & progesterone heavily influence our brain chemistry. The interplay between our sex hormones & the hormones in your brain changes your mood, energy, & communication throughout the phases of your cycle.
Arguably, one of the most defining & important neurotransmitters for women is oxytocin, aka the “social trust” or “bonding” hormone.
Oxytocin is the neurotransmitter that improves many of the qualities that women are best known for: being caring, warm, altruistic, empathetic, positive, & communicative.
For pregnant women, oxytocin even induces labor & lactation.
It also reduces anxiety, fear, pain, & even lowers the stress hormone cortisol. Oxytocin stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from your brain to your colon & shifts your body from a sympathetic fight or flight response to a parasympathetic rest & digest response– in fact, sometimes this response is even known as the “tend & befriend” response because we often seek connection, help, & resolution, even in a state of crisis. For women who are struggling with anxiety, stress, or even phobias, this incredible “happy hormone” can make a huge improvement in their symptoms & quality of life.
Seeking hormonal balance & living a healthy, happy life isn’t just about the food you eat, how you exercise, or the supplements you take. It’s also about how you behave, how you communicate, & who you have around you.
Here’s how you can tap into oxytocin’s amazing health benefits:
Make Your Connections & Conversations Count
Need a sign to call that friend who you’ve been meaning to catch up with– you know, the one who you always have great conversations with, even if you go months without speaking? This is it!
Active & empathetic communication boosts oxytocin levels, which in turn, leads to the ability to continue to communicate in a more positive, empathetic way.
Make plans & spend quality time with people who are uplifting, trustworthy, & who you can be yourself around. The oxytocin released from strong connections will reduce your stress levels & improve your overall health.
Cycle Sync Your Social Calendar
In the Follicular Phase of your cycle, estrogen begins to rise & naturally encourages the rise of oxytocin– making you feel like a social butterfly as you approach ovulation. This makes the Follicular & Ovulatory Phases ideal for collaboration & communication!
In the Luteal Phase or Menstrual Phase, you can certainly still spend quality time with others, but oxytocin is naturally lower & women don’t feel as social. Understanding when and how you like to spend time with others, in regards to your hormones & energy, can help you understand when communication fills your cup vs. when it feels more draining.
Cycle synching your social calendar is an excellent way to enhance your mood & use your hormones to your advantage. From the time menstruation ends until shortly after ovulation, express your more social, outgoing side & lean into community care. Luteal Phase through menses, lean more into self-care, journaling, or just spending time with someone one-on-one, instead of in a group.
Physical Touch & Affection
Oxytocin is released during physical touch when we feel a sense of connection or emotional bond.
Cuddling, hugging, kissing, & sex can all produce more oxytocin, giving us a feeling of euphoria, safety, & trust.
Orgasms can boost oxytocin, release cortisol, improve immunity, & lower your risk for heart disease.
No partner? No problem! Oxytocin can also be released with self-pleasure or self-touch, including giving yourself a massage (i.e. massaging your scalp, arms, hands, or legs).
Important note: Oxytocin is not released during every act of physical touch or sexual intercourse. Exceptions to the release of oxytocin with physical touch can include cases where partners do not feel emotionally connected, or if there is no consent.
Yoga is the practice of uniting or “yoking” your mind, body, & spirit. It involved breathwork (pranayama), movement (asana), & mindfulness as a guided practice. Yoga isn’t just a workout, it’s a work-in that connects you deeper with your true self.
Studies on yoga show that it can improve lung capacity, lower the risk for heart disease, and yes, even improve oxytocin levels in patients with mental illness! After just one month, oxytocin improved, as well as their assessment for socio-occupational health.
Especially if you’re looking to improve your stress levels & hormonal health, adding yoga to your routine can make huge improvements in both emotional well-being & physical fitness.
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Jayaram N, Varambally S, Behere RV, Venkatasubramanian G, Arasappa R, Christopher R, Gangadhar BN. Effect of yoga therapy on plasma oxytocin and facial emotion recognition deficits in patients of schizophrenia. Indian J Psychiatry. 2013 Jul;55(Suppl 3):S409-13. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.116318. PMID: 24049210; PMCID: PMC3768223. Uvnas-Moberg K, Petersson M. Oxytocin, ein Vermittler von Antistress, Wohlbefinden, sozialer Interaktion, Wachstum und Heilung [Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing]. Z Psychosom Med Psychother. 2005;51(1):57-80. German. doi: 10.13109/zptm.2005.51.1.57. PMID: 15834840.