Search Results for: oxytocin release
Virginia Satir is quoted as saying,
“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” You may read that and think, “That’s a lot of hugging. Who came up with those numbers, anyway?”
I don’t know who figured out the numbers; but research does reveal that hugs improve our physical and emotional health. For instance, 404 volunteers from the Pittsburgh area participated in a study exploring social support, hugging, and physical illness. The volunteers were asked every evening for 14 days about their social relationships and whether they had received a hug that day. Then, the volunteers were given nasal drops containing a virus that produced symptoms like the common cold (yes, they volunteered for this!). Volunteers who had received more hugs showed a decreased risk for actually “catching the cold.” In addition, of those who did “catch the cold,” those who had been hugged more often had less severe symptoms. And, the more hugs a person received, the more social support they felt. Hugs increased a sense of social support and decreased the risk of physically “catching a cold.”
Another study, involving 59 women in long-term relationships, shows that hugging can help reduce blood pressure too. In this study, the women were initially separated from their partner for 30 minutes. Then, their partner joined them for 10 minutes. During their 10 minutes together, they were encouraged to hold hands, watch a romantic video, and hug each other for at least 20 seconds. After 10-minutes together, the partner left, and the woman had to give an unprepared, spontaneous speech about an event that made her feel stressed. Blood pressure and oxytocin were measured throughout the procedure. The women also completed a questionnaire that included how frequently they hugged their partners. When all was said and done, more frequent hugging was related to higher oxytocin levels (Read 3…2…1…Oxytocin Release for more) and lower baseline blood pressure. In other words, more frequent hugging can help reduce high blood pressure and, as a result, the risk of heart disease.
Hugs can do even more too…but I don’t have the time or space to share it now. I just got an urge to hug my wife. She’s only had 4 today and I don’t want to quit hugging her at mere survival. I’m shooting for enough hugging to really us grow. What about you? Will you give the one you love 12 hugs a day for growth?
An old proverb encouraged healthy eating by reminding us “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I do agree that an apple a day beats getting sick. Carnegie Mellon University has discovered another way to keep the doctor away, another daily practice that can encourage healthy living. This one is free and I love it! To test this method of encouraging health, researchers exposed 404 adults to a common cold virus. (The volunteers knew about the exposure and were paid $1,000 for their involvement. What would you do for a thousand bucks?) After the initial exposure, volunteers were quarantined and monitored for symptoms. Some of the volunteers developed cold symptoms. Some did not. Researchers compared who did and did not develop cold symptoms with perceived social support in general and being hugged by a trusted person, in particular. The results showed that being hugged by a trusted person actually protected participants from the cold virus. In other words, those who reported receiving more hugs over the two weeks prior to exposure were less likely to catch a cold…even when intentionally exposed to the virus! And, for those who did catch the cold, the volunteers who reported more frequent hugs in the two weeks prior to exposure developed less severe symptoms. It seems a hug a day can keep the doctor away. I’ve been requesting extra hugs since I read this article…for purposes of remaining healthy of course.
Now you know this free health promoting practice: hugging. If you want a healthy family this year, go ahead and encourage everyone to eat an apple a day. But, don’t stop there. Add a new action to your family health plan. This year, prevent illness by giving your spouse and kids at least one hug a day. If you really want to make it special and enjoy even more benefits, share an oxytocin hug each day. Help your family stay healthy. Share a hug every day. After all, it seems “a hug a day keeps the doctor away.”
I recently read a blog on Greater Good (All You Need is Love, Oxytocin, and Gratitude) that revealed an interesting secret for building a stronger, more passionate marriage. I will give you the secret if you promise to try it out for several weeks. It works…even though it is not that hard! Here’s the secret. You’re going to love it! In order to have a more intimate, passionate marriage, express gratitude for your spouse. Wait a second. Don’t quit yet. When I say gratitude I do not mean a simple thank you. Gratitude is more than appreciating what your spouse does. Gratitude is appreciating who your spouse is…not just appreciating that they brought you home a gift or emptied the dishwasher but appreciating that they are thoughtful enough to know that such a simple act would mean something to you. When we express that kind of gratitude (thus the secret) to our spouse, our marriage will grow more passionate. Research shows that sharing this type of gratitude increases joy and enthusiasm for both partners as well as the overall quality of the relationship. Couples that express and receive this type of gratitude from one another are also more peaceful, confident, and amused. Both partners perceive the other as more understanding, validating, caring, and responsive. These “feel good results” arise because of the oxytocin released into each person’s system in response to this type of gratitude. Interestingly, sharing a personal positive event with your spouse does not produce all these great results. Instead, sharing a personal positive event simply increases joy and enthusiasm. It seems that focusing on the other person with an attitude of gratitude has a special effect…an effect that goes beyond merely telling my spouse about the good events of my life. So, go ahead and talk about the fun events you experienced while apart from your spouse for the day. Share the positive experiences you enjoyed as an individual. That will increase joy and enthusiasm in you and your relationship. But, if you want a really intimate and passionate marriage, get beyond your own experiences and start to express how much you appreciate your spouse’s actions and, even more important, the person behind those actions.
I have begun a covert operation in my home and with my family. I have named it Operation M.O.R.E. for More Oxytocin Release Events (MORE). I have left the operation covert at the time so I can assess the impact of my actions. After the initial evaluation, I plan on taking this operation public and including the whole family in Operation MORE. The purpose of Operation MORE is to increase the number of events that will release oxytocin in various family members. Why have I chosen to do this? Research suggests that:
- Oxytocin promotes attachment and bonding. It helps create M.O.R.E. intimacy in relationships.
- Oxytocin helps to reduce feelings of stress. We live in a stressful world. If oxytocin release can help relieve stress, we might as well have M.O.R.E.
- Oxytocin seems to intensify men’s fond memories of their mother and decrease negative memories. Perhaps more oxytocin in general will help produce M.O.R.E. fond memories of family in general.
- Oxytocin can intensify the bond between sexual partners. Even more, it promotes faithfulness between spouses. Men who had received a nasal spray of oxytocin were less responsive to women other than their wife…they became M.O.R.E. singly focused on their wife.
- Oxytocin inhibits tolerance to addictive drugs and reduces withdrawal symptoms. In other words, a steady release of oxytocin will decrease the likelihood of drug abuse.
- Oxytocin seems to improve a person’s ability to interact M.O.R.E. with others (study done with children who had autism).
- Oxytocin triggers “defensive aggression” against outside threats. In other words, it helps promote our instinct to become M.O.R.E. protective of those we love.
- Oxytocin counters the effect of stress hormones (cortisol) and, as a result, will promote “M.O.R.E. better” sleep.
- Oxytocin fosters generosity. In one study, those who received a nasal spray of oxytocin were 80% M.O.R.E. generous than those receiving a placebo.
That is enough reason to increase the oxytocin flow in the family and begin Operation MORE. Here is the plan of action, the ways to complete this covert operation and produce MORE oxytocin:
- Hug family members for at least 10 seconds. Do it at least once a day, maybe even M.O.R.E.
- When the opportunity arises, hold a family members hand with one hand over the other, make eye contact with them, and give them a compliment.
- Watch an “emotionally compelling movie” (AKA—a chick flick). I know it is a sacrifice to watch chick flicks with the family, but research suggests a 47% surge in oxytocin (that’s 47% M.O.R.E.) while watching an “emotionally compelling movie.” Sometimes we have to make sacrifices in our covert operation to enhance family intimacy.
- Sing. That’s right. Singing helps release M.O.R.E. oxytocin. Encourage your family to sing.
- Dance. One study found oxytocin increased by 11% after dancing (dance M.O.R.E.).
- Do something exciting or thrilling. Have an adventure–anything from a roller coaster ride to watching a scary movie. Enjoy a thrill together.
- Laugh together.
- Go for a walk. To make this even more powerful, hold hands while going for a walk and have an open, transparent conversation while you do.
So far, Operation MORE has proven successful in my home. I have noticed M.O.R.E. laughter, M.O.R.E. intimacy, and M.O.R.E. joy in our interactions. In fact, the success has proven so dramatic that I have chosen to take Operation More public in my home. Perhaps you can join us by starting Operation MORE in your home as well.
A hug is defined as the “holding or squeezing of someone tightly in one’s arms.” But, in reality, a hug is much more than simply holding or squeezing another person. A hug is powerful. A hug can change a life. In fact, here are 6 reasons to hug your spouse, children, and parents on a regular basis.
- Research out of Carnegie Mellon University suggests that receiving a hug on the day of a conflict contributed to feeling less negative emotion the day of the conflict and the day after the conflict. The hug also prevented the conflict from reducing positive emotion on the day of the conflict. In other words, a hug helps people feel better even after a conflict.
- In another study involving 404 participants, hugs were found to buffer the stress caused by daily stressors and resulted in less severe symptoms when infected with a virus for the common cold. Want your loved ones to be less stressed and have fewer symptoms of illness? Give them a hug.
- Hugs may boost heart health also. A study published in 2003 found that people who held hands with their loved one for ten minutes and then hugged them for 20 seconds (compared to those who simply rested for 10 minutes and 20 seconds) had lower blood pressure & less increase in heart rate during a public speaking assignment. In other words, physical affection, including a hug, reduces our reactivity to stresses and promotes better heart health.
- A good 20-second hug releases oxytocin…and oxytocin counteracts stress, helps us relax, increases our level of trust, and increases our empathy and feelings of intimacy. You could say hugs release oxytocin and make us feel good.
- Hugs also communicate affection and love to the other person. A hug communicates “You belong.” Who doesn’t like to know they belong? Everyone enjoys knowing they are loved. Communicate your love…give a hug.
- Last, but not least, hugs feel good. You can feel the comfort and the relaxing of the muscles even as you feel the other person’s arms engulf you in a hug.
Hugs benefit our physical health, our emotional health, and our mental health. They communicate love and help people know they belong. Give your loved ones a hug today. Better yet, give them several hugs today.
The corona virus pandemic has led to a call for “social distancing.” But, don’t let the current pandemic or the call for “social distancing” exacerbate any marital issues that might already exist in your home. In fact, if you already experience “social” or “emotional distance” in your marriage, you’re probably struggling even more to navigate these stressful times. Fortunately, there is no better time than now to correct any emotional distance in your marriage and start to practice emotional connection. Here are six great ways to start building emotional connection in your marriage.
- Talk with one another. Take time every day to sit down over a cup of coffee and have a conversation. Talk about your experiences of the current crisis, fears of anxieties you might be experiencing. Talk about how you will work together to navigate the current crisis. Enjoy simple small talk as well. Talk like you did when you were dating. Joke a little. Read a book together and talk about it. Talk about your plans for the coming years. Talk your hopes and dreams for the future. Each of these will move you toward a deeper emotional connection with your spouse. (This might be a great time to take A 30-Day Marriage Challenge.)
- Listen to your spouse. While you converse with your spouse, intentionally and sincerely listen. Listen to hear the intent of their message, the meaning beneath the words. Listen to understand their perspective and emotions. Ask questions to clarify what they mean. In so doing, you will learn more about your spouse and their emotions. (Learn more about The Art of Listening here.)
- As you listen and talk, look at your spouse. I don’t mean glance at their face now and again. Really look at them. Notice their eye color and the twinkle in their eye. Notice the shape and features of their face. Pay attention to their facial expressions and their gestures. Look deeply into their eyes to notice the emotions they feel as they talk. There is power in seeing and being seen by one another.
- Tell your spouse “I love you.” Tell them with words and actions. Whisper it in their ear. Let them see it in your eyes when you look at them. Say it by remembering what they like and don’t like. Show it in your actions by doing a chore they dislike. Love them by expressing gratitude and remaining polite.
- Give one another a good night hug and kiss (as long as neither is sick, of course). Don’t just give a quick hug. Dwell in the hug. Make it an “oxytocin hug.” Give a generous kiss goodnight, not just a simple peck on the cheek.
- Recall your story. Talk about the time you first met, your favorite dates, and your vacations. Remember the struggles you have overcome together—whether they be as simple as putting up a tent in the rain or dealing with the death of a loved one. The “story of us” is a great emotional connection. (And your children will love it, too.)
These six practices will help you build emotional connection. No matter what is going on in the world around you, keep practicing them and enjoy a growing emotional connection in your marriage.
PS–may we can begin talking about “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing.” Then we can focus on maintaining “social connection” while keeping a safe “physical distance.”
We often get caught up in the seemingly urgent needs in life and so neglect our true priorities. We become overwhelmed by the crises—like broken water heaters, sudden car repairs—and pressing problems—like paying bills or caring for our home. We also become distracted by the daily activities that become all-consuming when we haven’t prepared for them. For instance, our children’s bedtime can become an ordeal when we haven’t developed a healthy bedtime routine. Without a menu, mealtime become a pressing need that requires us to devote thought, time, & energy to it every day…time & energy we could devote to other priorities like our marriages.
Or, we get carried away with distractions, those things we really don’t care about but “suck up our time” nonetheless. You know what I mean…things like video games, phone games, videos, or binge-watching Netflix. We start off with the goal of relaxing for 5 minutes in front of a screen and suddenly realize we have neglected our families and marriages for the whole evening.
Or, we let lesser priorities squeeze out our most important priorities. For instance, we let work or self-care squeeze out our family time.
You get the idea. Amidst our crises and distractions, our marriages often get neglected. Arguments over crises and pressing problems begin to form a wedge between us and our spouse. Distractions drive that wedge deeper. We grow distance as more distractions come between us and our spouse. The arguments grow as the distance increases. Lesser priorities push our marriages further out of focus and replace them in our lives. Why does this happen? Because we failed to make our marriages a “daily lived priority.” We did not think to make our marriages a daily lived priority amidst the crises, pressing problems, distractions, and lesser priorities that flood our lives. Healthy marriages require action, intention, investment…even amid life’s distractions.
So, what can you do to make your marriage a “daily lived priority” rather than a “believed priority”?
- Put your marriage on your calendar. You can tell a lot about a person’s “daily lived priorities” by what makes the calendar. Wherever we invest our time is a “daily lived priority.” So, put your marriage on the calendar. Invest time. Go on a date. In fact, whether it’s a weekend trip or a quiet night snuggling on the couch after the kids go to be, enjoy a date night every week.
- Hug every day when you go your separate ways. Yes, physical affection is crucial investment in your marriage. Don’t limit your hug to a simple “bro-hug” type. Give one another a big hug, a bear hug, an oxytocin hug. Hug it out big!
- Kiss and hug every night before you go to bed. I think it important to enjoy physical affection at the end of the day. No matter your mood. No matter your energy. Take time to wish each other a good night’s rest with a sincere hug and kiss.
- Find a way to eat at least one meal a day together. My wife and I enjoy lunch together because we work evenings. Perhaps you and your spouse will enjoy supper or breakfast or even a “brunch.” Whatever meal you can schedule together, do so as often as you can.
- Put the kids to bed. In fact, put them to bed early. Get your children on a schedule that allows them to have a good night’s rest and allows you and your spouse alone after they go to bed and before your bedtime. This will be a great time to talk and catch up. (Even your teen needs sleep!)
- Spend at least 20 minutes every day talking to one another about your day. Healthy marriages thrive on open communication, the sharing of ideas and plans and the “what-happened-today” interactions. Set aside at least 20 minutes every day to enjoy this conversation with your spouse. Your children will get used to you having this conversation and will “entertain themselves” while you do it. They will also enjoy the security of seeing their parents enjoying conversation with one another. Take 20 minutes and savor your spouse.
- Find a hobby to share together. After all, families that play together stay together. Get out there an enjoy a hobby together.
Life seems stressed these days, doesn’t it? Turn on the news…stress. Try to manage your schedule…stress. Weather…stress. Work demands, school demands, extracurricular demands, church demands, demands, demands, demands…stress. All that stress is bound to impact our marriages and our families. It robs us of mental clarity and patience. As a result, we have a greater chance of conflict with our spouses and our children.
But there is good news. I have discovered a way to reduce stress and improve mental clarity. Not only that, but this activity will increase a sense of closeness and intimacy, especially in your marriage. It’s true. A study showed this activity reduced stress and improved mental clarity after only one time. And, the reduction of stress accrued over the 9 times couples did it during the 3 week study. In other words, stress continued dropping with each time the couple engaged in this activity. What activity did all this? Massage. Yes, massage. In this study, 38 couples took a massage class each week for 3 weeks. Each class focused on massaging one part of the body (back, arms and shoulders, legs). Then, they practiced giving each other a massage three times a week (Yes, they had homework). Both the giver and the receiver of the massage experienced a reduction in stress and an improvement in mental clarity…BOTH the giver and the receiver! I like a massage…and I like the sound of reduced stress and improved mental clarity.
Although not part of the study, I believe this likely improved intimacy as well. Taking the time to massage one another means more time focused on one another—quality time focused on the one we love. Giving a massage means increasing our awareness of the one we are massaging (our partner). Massage reduces stress and that means greater patience. Greater patience means less conflict. In addition, touch releases oxytocin and oxytocin increases a sense of connection. Massage involves a lot of touch. Your spouse will appreciate your massage and appreciation build deeper connection. So, why not take the time this weekend to give one another a massage. In this world of stress, we all need a little haven of relaxation and intimacy. Enjoy!