Oxytocin is a chemical produced by the brain, often called “the love hormone”.
A recent research has shown that oxytocin may play a role in regulating our moral behaviors. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak, author of “The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity” says that oxytocin affects how we interact with one another, both face to face and online.
Released by the brain’s hypothalamus, oxytocin plays a role in a wide range of prosocial behaviors. It facilitates social bonding and acts as a buffer against stress, anxiety, and depression. It cements attachment between mothers and babies, bathes the brains of couples falling in love, and floods the body during orgasm, strengthening intimate connections.
Researcher Paul Zak adds that there are many other stimuli that cause the brain to release oxytocin, especially when done in the group, like dancing, singing, sharing, praying, meditating. Simple things like hugging raise oxytocin.
A number of years ago Paul Zak decided to hug everybody instead of shaking hands, and in the result people would connect with him better.
Happy social gatherings like weddings, also release oxytocin. The Moral Molecule is a deep part of our human nature, we are social creatures, but to be social, we need to have some indicator in the brain that tells us “This is someone I should care about” and so on, and that’s what oxytocin seems to do.
The best oxytocin releasers are puppies, little kids and people who need our support to survive.
Paul Zak has found that people who release more oxytocin are happier, and they’re happier because they’re in better relationships. A prescription from “Dr.Love” is simple: “Eight hugs a day.” That’s the minimum.
Research shows that proper deep hugs (and also laughter):
– build trust and sense of safety,
– strengthen the immune system,
– boosts self-esteem,
– release tension in the body,
– teach us how to give and receive,
– encourages empathy and understanding.
There is a saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist:
“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
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