Peace, Love, and Your Brain

Oxytocin is a chemical that’s released in the brain that produces feelings of love, trust, ease, and contentment. Sometimes called the bonding hormone, oxytocin courses through the bloodstream, for example, when we give or receive love and when we experience safe and pleasurable connections with others. We experience well-being and a sense that everything is okay. Trust opens in us. We relax and feel comfortable. Oxytocin helps to reduce blood pressure and lowers cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. So the release of oxytocin can be an antidote to stress. 

I witnessed one of the benefits of oxytocin when my daughter, Heidi, was in labor in 2011. Her contractions had stopped. The nurse knew that Heidi’s three other children were the great joys of her life and that she loved being a mother, so she had Heidi talk about the children and describe special moments with them. I watched Heidi’s face relax as she recalled precious memories. She was smiling and looked radiant as she spoke. In five minutes or so, the contractions started up again. I asked the nurse if she was intentionally having Heidi bring these experiences into awareness to stimulate the release of oxytocin. “Yes,” she said. “I have a few tricks up my sleeve.”

There are a number of ways to trigger the release of the “love hormone” in your body/mind. Here are some suggestions:

  • When you are hugging or being hugged by someone you care about, let yourself deeply receive the positive sensations that are evoked in you. If you can, extend the hug for as long as it feels right to do so. This is a gift to yourself and to the person you are hugging.
  • Spend time with people who are supportive, kind, caring, and empathetic. Notice how you feel when you’re in the presence of such people. Write about some of these experiences in your journal if you keep one. As you write, recall the memories as vividly as possible and open to the feelings and sensations now that were present for you then.
  • Bring to mind someone who cares about you. Imagine that he or she is looking into your eyes, feel them holding or hugging you, and hear the sound of their voice expressing their affection to you. Include all of your senses and let this register in your whole being for as long as you want.
  • If you like animals, spend time with them and hold or pet them whenever you feel “off” or would just like to boost your oxytocin levels.
  • Since touch can trigger the release of oxytocin, massage and bodywork are wonderful ways to relax and increase a sense of well-being.
  • Create a love box. Go through magazines and/or personal photos that represent love, trust, connection, and ease to you. Start a collection of these images. Whenever you feel like it, choose one and take some time to reflect on it. Let feelings of warmth or peacefulness permeate you. Then free write in response to the image and what you’re experiencing. As you write, keep relaxing into the sensations.

I wish you a very Happy New Year and many love-filled moments.