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Goodbye, Stress! A Doctor Shares How To Increase Your Levels of Mood-Lifting Oxytocin Naturally

Simply singing along to your favorite songs helps boost your levels in minutes

If you’re like us, you may find yourself scrounging for a cookie or scrolling social media when you feel frazzled. And while this may bust stress and lift your mood in the short term, there’s a better strategy for longer-lasting results. The next time you feel your stress levels creeping up, think about how to increase oxytocin instead. Lifting your levels of this feel-good hormone can tame tension naturally, plus help keep it at bay. Here’s how to do it.

The benefits of oxytocin

Oxytocin is a hormone that plays a key role in promoting feelings of trust, bonding and attachment. You might’ve heard about it with regards to mothers and infants. That’s because childbirth, nursing and newborn snuggles all flood our systems with oxytocin. But the truth is, anyone can reap the benefits of oxytocin at any stage of life, says Justin Mazur, MD, a functional medicine practitioner with Health Meets Wellness in New York City.

You instantly start to relax when your hypothalamus (a small gland in your brain responsible for making hormones) starts to pump out oxytocin. “A boost of oxytocin can help with stress relief,” says Dr. Mazur says. What’s more, “it directly modulates pain receptors in the brain, raising the pain threshold. It can also influence the vagus nerve, which can slow heart rate and breathing as well as blood pressure.”

In addition to melting away stress, oxytocin has been shown to fight inflammation, reduce chronic pain and even give your immune system a boost, reveals research in Comprehensive Psychoneuroendocrinology. In other words, getting more of it really does help you feel better all around!

See also: Top Doctors Say Toning Your Vagus Nerve Undoes the Toll Chronic Stress Has Taken on Your Body — and All It Takes Is Cold Water

How to increase oxytocin naturally

Research shows that it only takes a few minutes to increase your oxytocin levels. Next time you need a smile, try one of these tricks.  

1. Give some skin

mature woman hugging her husband while on the couch to increase oxytocin levels naturally

Skin to skin contact, where your skin is touching the skin of a loved one or friend, is a no-fail way to increase your oxytocin levels fast, Dr. Mazur says. Holding your partner’s hand while you watch TV or hugging a close friend is enough to get the feel-good hormone flowing.

If you’ve got a little more time (and energy), try treating your partner to a 15-minute massage — and asking them to do the same for you! Your oxytocin levels go up when you’re on the receiving end and on the giving end of a soothing massage, a Frontiers in Psychology paper shows.    

Related: Hugs Have Been Study-Proven To Boost Immunity & Dramatically Lower Stress But Only If They Last *This* Long

2. Rub your head

Need a quick boost when you’re on your own? Spend two minutes giving your scalp a slow, gentle rub with your fingertips, recommends Dr. Mazur. Aim for the same kind of pressure and speed that you’d get when your hair is being washed at the hair salon. Gentle, massage-like head stroking is a proven strategy for boosting your body’s levels of oxytocin, found a study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.

3. Sing, sing, sing

mature woman singing in her kitchen while holding a spatula to increase oxytocin levels

Crank up your favorite song and sing along (or go a capella) the next time you feel yourself getting aggravated. Participants in one Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science study had a noted uptick in oxytocin after belting out a tune. Bonus: Singing novices reaped bigger benefits than those who reported singing frequently. That’s all the more reason to give it a try if you tend to be tight-lipped!

4. Race your grandkid

Challenge them to a sprint across the park or down to the end of the block (even if you know they’ll win!). Just a few minutes of jogging can increase your oxytocin levels, according to a Psychoneuroendocrinology study. And if you’re not the competitive type, no biggie. Any kind of moderate exercise can lift your oxytocin levels and give your mood a pick-me-up, says Dr. Mazur. He recommends aiming for 20 minutes of movement per day.

More ways to balance your hormones for health and happiness:

The 5 Easy Tricks Experts Say Balance Your Hormones + Tame Menopause Symptoms Naturally

Top Docs: Easy Ways to Lower the Stress Hormone Cortisol in the Morning So You Feel Peaceful All Day + Lose Belly Fat Fast

Serotonin Boosting Foods Take Your Mood From Blah To Bliss — In 30 Minutes or Less!

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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