Easy depression buster number 4: cuddles. Oxytocin, the hormone of love.

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Despite the advert in the clip,  raising oxytocin levels can be done for free.  Oxytocin is a hormone of relaxation, calmness, trust, parenting and love. It is more present in females, but both sexes have it.  It is very close in structure to a  hormone called vasopressin, which is more present in the male, and can lead to aggression.1 More and more is being discovered about oxytocin, but it seems that it promotes social bonding, induces relaxation and gives us a warm glow.  Blood pressure and stress hormones go down, so it aids weight loss and makes us healthier.  It is a great stress and depression buster.

The quickest way of raising oxytocin in both sexes is by cuddles or stroking another person, especially the hands, the neck or the back. The book Made for each other by Meg Daley Olmer points out that we have nerves just under the skin that activate the oxytocin cells in our brains.  The book also points out that stroking a dog or cat raises oxytocin in both pet and pet owner.  And, quite frankly, if we are overpoweringly stressed and we own a pet, it is generally much easier to stroke the pet than a partner or child who wants to be busy doing other things.  And I doubt many 15 year olds will be up for a cuddle from stressed out Ma or Pa.  Maybe someone should start a rent-a-dog/cat stress busting service.  Only easy going pets need apply.

Oxytocin rises with sexual attraction for both sexes and peaks at orgasm, leading to a state of relaxation afterwards.  In the male, the effect of testosterone quickly overcomes the oxytocin, so, depending upon the time of day, he either falls asleep quickly or gets up to get on with other things.  The female experiences an oxytocin high for longer and after sex, and wants to talk and cuddle.  Since the male does not want to do this at that point, this can become a potential flash point in a relationship; his bumbling off to do a bit of car cleaning2 being interpreted as rejection.  So another  another stress busting tip is for both partners to appreciate this big difference between the male and female brain.

I realise that all of the above is fairly hopeless advice for the single pet-less stressed out individual.  In this case, apart from rent-a-dog, we need to find something to nurture, eg plants.  Sighing out loud, the sort of sound made post-coital will also raise oxytocin levels.3  Hey, we live alone.  Who is going to hear us?

  1. In praire voles, an mammal unusual in that it mates for life, it has been found that vasopressin in the male vole makes it bond to the female and also makes it defend her and their young from attack. []
  2. Crikey, it was a minefield thinking of typical Daddy jobs about the house – DIY, hammering, drilling, gardening.  All seemed open for double-entrendre, which amuses me very much, but a reader may think I’m a naive fool. []
  3. Of course, orgasm is orgasm and there doesn’t necessarily have to be anyone else there.  There are numerous jokes on the subject.  Plus, of course, it is a total myth that it turns you blind.  Also, as my forthcoming page on the menopause will say, use it or lose it. []

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