Oxytocin. Also known as the “love” or “cuddle” hormone. Your brain wants it because it helps you get close to other people.
One way to get oxytocin is by eating. Alex Korb, PhD, a researcher at UCLA, says, “Eating mimics the same feelings of comfort we get from close friends and family.”
That’s nice, but not very helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. Fortunately there are lots of other ways to increase oxytocin. And here’s even better news: When oxytocin levels are high, they decrease your desire to snack and help you lose weight. So how do you increase oxytocin without eating?
- Talk with a friend or family member. The sound of a familiar voice causes a surge in oxytocin.
- Pet a dog. This will be easy if you’re a dog lover. It probably works with cats too, but this study was only with dogs. So spend some extra time with your family pet. I guess Chula is going to get some extra attention from me.
- Take a hot bath or sit by the fire and drink a warm cup of tea. Physical warmth triggers the release of oxytocin.
Build trust. I like to think of myself as a trustworthy person. Most of you probably do too. But to increase oxytocin we need to intentionally seek ways to build trust with other people. Here are some examples:
- Say what you’re going to do and then do it.
- Tell the truth. Your mother told you to tell the truth and she was right. Even if she didn’t know about oxytocin. ☺
- When you make a mistake, admit it.
- Show people you care about them. Little acts of kindness go a long way towards building trust.
- Be open. People want to know more about you than your name, rank and serial number.
- Watch a tearjerker. According to Dr. Paul Zak, author of The Moral Molecule, watching an emotionally compelling movie boosts oxytocin by 47%. It only takes a 10 to 20 percent increase to make us feel noticeably more relaxed. So kick back, enjoy the movie and the oxytocin.
Do something a little stressful, but fun. Dr. Zak gives these suggestions:
- Go for a hike with friends.
- Ride a rollercoaster.
- Get on the dance floor.
- Sing karaoke. This only counts if you do it in front of other people.
- Jump out of an airplane -- strapped to an experienced skydiver and a parachute of course!
I’m going to work on building trust by being honest here. The only two that appeal to me are the first two. I have no intentions of ever jumping out of an airplane. Karaoke? Maybe. Getting on the dance floor? I haven’t busted a move since disco was in style. Though I will be dancing with my daughter at her wedding in a couple of weeks!
- Think about your romantic partner. One study found that when women, who had a good relationship with their husband, were asked to think about their husbands, their oxytocin levels rose quickly.
Touch someone. Appropriately of course. Since physical touch is one of the surest ways to increase oxytocin:
- Give someone a hug
- Walk hand in hand with someone you care about
- Get a massage
- Kiss your partner
- Have sex with your spouse. An orgasm causes one of the biggest spikes in oxytocin.
Other Benefits of oxytocin
In addition to helping us snack less and lose weight, oxytocin helps us:
- Stay loyal to the people we love
- Cooperate with others
- Do something kind for someone else, including strangers
And it improves our health by:
- Relieving pain, including headaches, cramps, and overall body aches
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Lowering blood pressure