On Vitality

The neuroscience of creating vitality

The Neuroscience of Vitality, Tip 4: Oxytocin

Oxytocin is the root of intimacy, trust, and serenity.

Oxytocin
As a practicing psychiatrist, I have gathered my top seven neuroscience tips for vitality that have proven to be useful for virtually all of my patients, and I am eager to share them with you. In my previous articles, you learned about neuroplasticity, mirror neurons, and BDNF. Today, in my fourth vitality tip, you’ll learn about oxytocin — the root of intimacy, trust, and serenity.

Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” has been getting a lot of attention lately. It’s been shown to have a connection to a wide range of very positive effects on its recipients and it’s easy to release. Oxytocin is the among the most ancient of the neurochemicals. It has a powerful effect on the brain and the body. When oxytocin begins to flow, blood pressure decreases, pain decreases and wound healing increases. Social fears are reduced. Trust grows. Compassion soars and a feeling of attachment ensues.  

Oxytocin is released during lactation, orgasm, and virtually all forms of touch. It can also be boosted through a wide range of social actions. Hugging and caressing is a sure-fire way to produce oxytocin, but even a handshake will give you a bit of a boost. You can even hug a pet or stuffed animal to get some oxytocin released.  Warm showers or baths also mimic human warmth and thereby make us feel calmer.  

Women’s brains have more oxytocin receptors than men, making us more sensitive to the impact of oxytocin. This biological difference may help explain why women and men may view the connection between sexual activity and intimacy so differently.  

Recommended reading: The Love Response by Dr. Eva Selhub

Eva Ritvo, M.D. is vice chair of psychiatry at the University of Miami and co-author of The Beauty Prescription: The Complete Formula for Looking and Feeling Beautiful.

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