Hugs, snuggle, heart health and oxytocinFall might mean more rain and less outdoor exercise, but it doesn’t have to mean poor health. For those of you who usually turn to running or other outdoor activities for stress relief, you might want to take up snuggling with your loved ones, or at least try getting in as many hugs from friends and family as you can. There’s a hormone called oxytocin that the body releases when it’s under stress, and it actually causes the body to crave physical touch and social interaction. Oxytocin is like God’s way of hardwiring us for community. When we’re under stress, our hormones automatically encourage us to seek out the presence of others.

The cool thing is that while stress causes an initial release of oxytocin, physical touch causes the release of even more, reinforcing feelings of love and well-being. But the benefits don’t stop there–oxytocin is also good for the heart. The heart is covered with oxytocin receptors, and when there’s oxytocin present, the heart rate goes down which is just what’s needed when experiencing threat-type stress.

You ever wonder why children intuitively seek to be held when they’re afraid or worried? It’s all beginning to make sense! Physical touch, specifically hugs, can also have a blood-pressure lowering effect. I doubt you needed another reason to hug a friend, snuggle with your spouse, or cozy up with your kids to read a book, but now you’ve got one!

References: “The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal at TEDGlobal 2013;”“More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women,” Biological Psychology; “Oxytocin exerts protective effects on in vitro myocardial injury induced by ischemia and reperfusion,” Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
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Originally posted 2013-10-03 16:11:09.


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