Hormones control many of our emotional responses. Excitatory hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, add to the discomfort we experience when we endure stress. Battle your stress hormones by increasing the oxytocin in your system. Oxytocin is known as our “love hormone” and can improve our mood, confidence, and mental clarity. Learn how to manage stress naturally by boosting your oxytocin levels!
What Is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that is produced by the hypothalamus. This part of the brain regulates body temperature, emotions, and sleep patterns, to name a few. Uncoincidentally, these functions are also influenced by stress.
The pituitary gland secretes oxytocin when neurons in the hypothalamus get excited. Women commonly release this hormone when they breastfeed. Meanwhile, both sexes experience oxytocin during sexual interactions.
Hormones and Emotions
Hormones heavily dictate our emotions. When we experience fear, discomfort, or anger, it can cause stress. These emotions trigger the release of hormones that keep us on high alert.
As we navigate through our day, “stress hormones” are beneficial. They help retain focus, improve reaction time, and boost cognitive performance.
However, we shouldn’t enter every interaction on pins and needles. Nor should we carry this stress into nighttime. Yet, the average person finds reducing stress challenging.
Why Stress Becomes So Overwhelming
Daily stress that comes from things like work, time management, and bills comes and goes. When you complete a task, the stress should go away. However, many factors trigger the production of stress hormones.
While we focus on the day-to-day items; toxins in the air, media overconsumption, and poor diet can also cause stress. These less obvious factors can make us feel unsettled and overwhelmed long after we move on from stressful situations.
Stress is perpetuated by the unknown. Time crunches, confrontations, and finances all cause us to experience fear. So, we must counteract this surplus of fear by introducing the opposite emotion—love.
How Oxytocin Impacts Stress
Many studies suggest that oxytocin can help manage stress. When oxytocin is present in the bloodstream, cortisol levels decrease.
Research shows that oxytocin’s presence stimulates another area of the brain—the amygdala. The amygdala is a region of the brain responsible for perceiving stress. This brain region triggers our fight-or-flight response that causes emotional discomfort, fear, and irritability.
When we encounter stress, it activates the amygdala, causing the adrenal glands to secrete hormones like cortisol. Oxytocin has the opposite effect, letting the amygdala know that any perceived threat is no longer viable.
In animal studies, oxytocin stimulates the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA). This reaction lowers CeA signaling, naturally increasing local GABA activity. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation.
Therefore, oxytocin mediates the stressful situation, changes the perception, and promotes the production of calming hormones!
There are prescriptions for oxytocin available, namely Pitocin. However, oxytocin is usually prescribed to women in labor to start contractions. It also helps the uterus contract to prevent excessive bleeding post-birth.
Otherwise, oxytocin isn’t usually prescribed for mental health issues. If you believe you need medications to manage stress, please don’t hesitate to contact a psychiatrist.
How to Increase Oxytocin Production
There are a few ways you can combat stress and improve your oxytocin naturally. Here are a few tips for managing stress and balancing your hormones.
Babies and partners are people that we have the deepest love for. They are also our greatest source of oxytocin production. The act of breastfeeding naturally increases oxytocin in the blood, as this hormone promotes lactation.
Having sex, hugging, and kissing also naturally boost oxytocin levels. You will experience even less stress if you are with a trusted partner.
Massages are also a great way to lower stress levels naturally. Consider making DIY CBD massage oils and trading massages with your significant other.
Get a Pet
Many people apply for emotional support animals every year. Our emotional connection to animals creates some of the strongest relationships. Their presence can help lower perceived stress and increase oxytocin naturally.
Even better, dogs also experience an oxytocin increase when they are petted. This symbiotic reaction only confirms that they’re human’s best friend!
Watching your pet’s health decline can be heartbreaking and bring on more stress. Help them maintain an active lifestyle with Joy Organics’ CBD Dog Treats.
These beef-flavored chews are fortified with 2mg of broad spectrum hemp extract that helps with separation stress, supports healthy joints, and maintains a healthy coat. Plus, your dog will love the delicious flavor crafted with the use of natural ingredients.
Listen to Music
One 2003 study measured oxytocin levels of 16 singers. Results found that singing increased oxytocin in the body.
Singing is performed by creating vibrations in our diaphragm. This part of the body intersects with our vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a series of nerves that connect the brain to the colon.
When the vagus nerve is stimulated, as singing does, the vagus nerve activates the hypothalamus-pituitary axis (HPA). As we mentioned earlier, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland are responsible for oxytocin production and circulation.
A 2015 study confirmed the music and oxytocin connection and took these findings a bit further. This study broke jazz musicians into two groups. One group would perform well-known songs, while others improvised.
Results found that those who improvised their music experienced even more oxytocin release than those who played someone else’s work. These results suggest that being creative can increase your oxytocin levels.
Yoga & Meditation
Many people who experience high stress need better ways to channel it. Yoga and meditation are tools to clear brain chatter that promotes stress. They both allow you to tune into your body and address potential stressors.
One 2013 study about yoga therapy and oxytocin found a connection between light exercise and mood. Experts believe that the diaphragmatic breathing implemented in yoga plays a role. Like singing, deep breathing stimulates our vagus nerve, which influences oxytocin production.
Less Stress, More Love
The best way to combat stress is to show yourself some love. Take care of your mental and physical health, and stress should naturally subside.
When stress becomes too much, take a step back. Reconnect with those who matter most to you.
Most importantly, reconnect with yourself. Work on yoga, meditation, and creativity. The more engaged you are, the less stress you will feel.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.