Some call oxytocin “the cuddle hormone” or the “love molecule” ascribing it almost magical powers to create affection, trust, and love.
These nicknames may not even be an exaggeration of the bonding power oxytocin possesses as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It facilitates communication and it boosts the desire to belong, to connect, and be touched, hugged, understood, and contained in another. The production and release of oxytocin stimulates empathy, generosity, and even the orgasm.
The levels of the precious oxytocin, like those of other neurotransmitters in the brain, are fluctuating in accordance with changes in the environment and the organism, and can not be kept permanent. It is more accurate to say that oxytocin levels are changing in the brain second by second – as a response and consequence of social interactions and inner feelings.
Certain actions and practices, though, can boost oxytocin production in the blood and brain. Here is a simple list of three of them.
1. Be present.
Being present is a present – for you and for the person in front of you. Presence means that your eyes, senses, ears, and body are completely invested into the present moment. Presence means that your thoughts, fears and expectations are not obscuring the reality of what is going on now – of what is being said and revealed, of how it makes you feel.
When you communicate wholeheartedly and mindfully, you do not simply express yourself fully, but you also notice things that you would otherwise miss. Presence is gratifying because it helps any small event in life – like mowing the lawn or drying your hair – become meaningful and enjoyable. Presence also teaches us to delay gratification, to lower our expectations, to let go of fears and just be there for the ride. The freedom, humility, and resilience that come with the practice of being present inevitably lead to personal growth and help us accept life more than control it.
2. Make a present.
In a world which teaches us to be frugal, to save, pile, take, receive, and conserve, giving has become an obsolete talent. We want to get a deal, to get a discount, to get away with, to get a promotion, to lose weight without working out, to get a proposal. We want to receive. While giving has shrunken to the tiny proportions of a rare practice saved for compulsory occasions like Christmas or anniversaries.
The irony here is that the act of giving actually gives back to us. It gives us the joy of having made another happy. There is also superiority in being the giver. Because you must have in order to give. And abundance is superior to shortage. So giving also stimulates our confidence and creates a feeling of having enough. These simple feelings of joy and enough-ness emanate inside as gratitude, serenity, strength.
So giving does make us richer in a way that can not and should not be measured with digits or graphics. Because isn’t it a huge deposit in our personal happiness to feel complete and grateful, and connected and generous?
3. Love. But really love.
Several years ago, while reading The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey I read an eye-opening definition of love. The exact words go like this: “My friend, love is a verb. Love — the feeling — is a fruit of love, the verb.”
All the movies about the self-maintaining power of “real” love teach us that attraction, understanding and bonding must happen naturally and even against our will. So smittening the might of “real” love must be. But when you come to think about it, turning love into a spontaneous feeling actually dooms love to have an expiry date – and a short one! Because when the magic of the feeling gets worn out by consumption, knowing, living through the banalities of everyday life, you are actually left with nothing. With an empty tank of life-giving water, you already drunk to the last drop.
On the other hand, if we take a different, a little less-Hollywood-like perspective on love, we might find out with joy that love can be prolonged, transformed and perpetuated. Love is not simply following your desires and enjoying the ride. Love is the hard work of learning, of being open when you want to shut out, to forgive and understand when your ego is shouting “Fight back”, to allow yourself to be amazed by the personality of your loved one every day – to actively get fascinated with them not because you are dictated to do so by infatuation but because you are willing to create love. To know. To see. To be enchanted. To grow together. To find things to love.