Oxytocin brings balance and health to your physiological state. While the closeness of a mate and a family can create the calm and connection we need, there are many other ways you can evoke the oxytocin response — whenever you need to. Try some of these scientifically proven methods to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and induce the three Rs of rest, relaxation, and repair.
Comfort food: There's evidence that eating stimulates an oxytocin release that closely mimics that of being fed at the breast. Therefore, you can and should eat to comfort yourself — but in the right way. Try a balanced meal that includes limited carbohydrate and some fat to stimulate the release of leptin and cholecystokinin. These digestive chemicals stimulate the brain's reward, emotion, and memory systems, causing the release of oxytocin, as well as exciting dopamine and rewarding opioids.
Love yourself: The release of oxytocin at orgasm benefits you no matter where that orgasm came from. If you don't have a trusted and trustworthy sex partner, consider masturbation. Like intercourse, masturbation to orgasm produces an oxytocin release in both women and men.
Tend and befriend: UCLA psychologist Shelley Taylor identified a feminine alternative to the fight-or-flight response: tend and befriend. Taylor and her colleagues realized that while fight or flight is the primary response to stress for both sexes, in times of danger or fear, women instinctively move to gather the family together and protect their children. Taylor's hypothesis is that the oxytocin released along with the other stress chemicals interacts with estrogen and natural opiates in the brain to drive women toward their friends in times of need.
Sing it up: In one study of eight amateur vocalists, they experienced an oxytocin boost after a half-hour choral lesson. The women in the study also lowered their levels of cortisol, the fight-or-flight chemical. We're not all singers, but we can be chanters, dancers, marchers, or drummers.
Get a massage: In a UCLA study, people who got a massage experienced elevated levels of oxytocin when they interacted with others.
Keep the home fires burning: If you're lucky enough to have a mate, he or she becomes one of your most reliable sources of oxytocin. Sex and orgasm stimulate a powerful release of oxytocin that calms the body and reinforces the bond. Sex does indeed make love.
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