Love & Bonding Boosts Oxytocin for Happiness

In previous posts on Dopamine and Serotonin, it has been pointed out that each person experiences happiness through positive emotional states brought about by a mix of brain chemicals.  Each chemical has an important part to play in happiness.  A major well-being booster of happiness is oxytocin.

Oxytocin has been called ‘the ‘love drug’ by some. An example would be Gary Vey’s blog Understanding LOVE and Oxytocin.  “Bonding provides comfort, safety, security, less anxiety and less fear through the release of oxytocin which inhibits brain centers that usually produce the opposite feelings. Bonding is the behavior that the neural network is hardwired to reward. Bonding also appears to promote health and prolong life.”

One great source of insight on oxytocin is Self-soothing behaviors with particular reference to oxytocin release induced by non-noxious sensory stimulation from Frontiers In Psychology.  “Oxytocin is released in response to activation of sensory nerves during labor, breastfeeding and sexual activity. In addition oxytocin is released in response to low intensity stimulation of the skin, e.g., in response to touch, stroking, warm temperature, etc.” The study goes on to say that “Oxytocin is released in response to pleasant mental experiences. Such a release of oxytocin may, e.g., be induced by seeing, hearing, smelling, or thinking of well known and loved persons…” and so having deep and trusting relations at work where you have bonded with your colleagues is very important.  Another interesting item from this study is the effect of owing and petting dogs which provide for a nice boost of oxytocin…I wonder if it works for cats too?

Effects of oxytocin administration on spirituality and emotional responses to meditation comes from one of my heros, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson.  Dr. Fredrickson and her colleagues published a nice study in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.  This new 2016 research shows “…the first experimental evidence that spirituality, endorsed by millions worldwide, appears to be supported by OT(Oxytocin)” and “…It also boosted participants’ experience of specific positive emotions during meditation, at both explicit and implicit levels.” Yet more research about how great meditation and connectedness are so important.

Oxytocin is awesome stuff for sure.  As Happywork is about workplace happiness, it is worth asking how this applies to a work setting? Well, some key takeaways are:

  1. Create trust and bonding at work through items like brainstorms where everyone is encouraged to speak, all ideas are welcome and no one interrupts to create an open and supportive environment.
  2. Take the time to get to know who you work with on an ever-increasing deeper level.  The time will create opportunities to open up and trust the relationship.
  3. Consider a dog-friendly work space like we have at Avvo!
  4. Meditate, meditate, meditate…it has so many great benefits.  I love to start my day off with some meditation in a park on my walk to work as well as a mid-afternoon refresher.

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