Any good romantic partner knows that chocolate, flowers, a dinner date, and jewelry are good go-to’s on Valentine’s Day. But a lot of people don’t know that Oxytocin, the official Valentine’s Day hormone, is largely why being in love feels so wonderfully fantastic.
Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is associated with loving touch, empathy, trust, bonding, and relationships. It’s released at higher levels for women during labor, so researchers have historically focused on Oxytocin’s role in female reproduction and breastfeeding. Dubbed the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone,” Oxytocin is enhanced in our system during physical and intimate contact (and even mental contact) with our significant other.
Here are 4 Oxytocin boosting tips to consider this Valentine’s Day:
Touch your partner. Holding hands, hugging, massaging, kissing and being intimate with your partner will serve to make you feel better about yourself and your significant other and closer as a couple. Research has shown that holding hands for 10 minutes or hugging for 20 seconds not only increases levels of Oxytocin and positive emotions in relation to your partner, but it also reduces stress (i.e. lowers blood pressure) and stress-related hormones such as Cortisol.
Express yourself fully with your partner. Sharing a meal with good conversation, saying “I love you,” communicating via texting or social media or simply thinking about your partner will also increase Oxytocin and closeness. So, why not take your partner out on a date this Valentine’s Day where together you can let your shared brain chemistry flow by expressing your thoughts and feelings meaningfully.
Give your partner a gift. Giving gifts creates a host of positive emotions; and, those emotions are truly science happening in your head. Research has shown that gift giving produces higher levels of feel-good neurotransmitters like Dopamine, Serotonin, and yes, Oxytocin. It turns out that the old adage, “It’s better to give than to receive” isn’t just Biblical wisdom but also a scientifically supported fact. So, big or small, giving your partner a gift with loving intent will pay back in dividends when it comes to feeling loved and close.
Listen to your partner with your eyes. Research has shown that the meanings we derive from communicating with others is mostly learned non-verbally. How a person sits, their tone of voice and mood, their eye contact, etc., altogether helps to influence how we interpret what we are hearing. Empathic, reflective and deeper listening – when we listen with our ears, eyes, and hearts and with full attention – increases Oxytocin and feelings of closeness and love. So, put down your phone and be with your partner on Valentine’s Day. Facebook, CNN or Fox News isn’t going anywhere, and looking at your screen when you’re with your significant other isn’t going to do much for your relationship.
Okay, okay so Oxytocin may not be the official Valentine’s Day hormone, but its role in how you feel in relation to your partner is an important one. Keep in mind too that Oxytocin is also present in your other important relationships – that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you hold a baby or pet your dog, that thrill of excitement you get riding a rollercoaster with your family, the joy you get when you spend time with your children, etc. I invite you to be mindfully present this Valentine’s Day and beyond to enjoy those Oxytocin surges that contribute to the love you feel with others in life.
Oxytocin connects us to other people; oxytocin makes us feel what other people feel. And it’s easy to cause people’s brains to release oxytocin. Let me show you. Come here. Give me a hug. – Paul J. Zak
Dr. Michael Oberschneider is a highly accredited clinical psychologist and the founder of Ashburn Psychological and Psychiatric Services. Dr. Oberschneider has spent the past 12 years working as a psychologist in a variety of capacities with children, adolescents and adults. Dr. Oberschneider has practiced as a staff psychologist at an in-patient hospital unit, the United States Justice Department, the City of Alexandria (Youth and Family Services) and in private practice.
Dr. Oberschneider has published several articles in prestigious academic journals including: Clinical Child Psychiatry and Psychology, the Archives of Sexual Behavior, and the Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. Dr. Oberschneider has also written numerous articles as a mental health expert for several newspapers, including the Washington Post. Dr. Oberschneider has been featured on CNN Nightly News, Good Morning America, NPR, News Channel 8, as well as other media spots, as a mental health expert. He has presented at national conventions, such as the American Psychological Association, Division 39, Annual Meeting, and he has received honorary awards for his published work. Dr. Oberschneider is frequently invited to present on various mental health topics by local and national agencies and organizations.
Dr. Oberschneider received additional psychotherapy and assessment training at the following locations: Children’s National Medical Center, The DC Superior Courts, Howard University Counseling Center, the Speech and Language Center of Northern Virginia, the Center Clinic of the George Washington University, the N Street Village Residential Facility, the Baltimore Washington Center of Psychoanalysis and the Pennsylvania Center of Psychoanalysis.
In 2009, Dr. Oberschneider was awarded the esteemed “Top Psychologist” ranking in the Washingtonian Magazine for his outstanding work with children and adolescents. Dr. Oberschneider is the only clinical psychologist in all of Loudoun County to receive this honor.