Many of us may know oxytocin as the hormone that's released after sex that makes you want to cuddle up with your partner, but there are other activities that can encourage oxytocin release as well. There are a number of unexpected ways to increase oxytocin in the morning that don't involve sex, and they can have you feeling just as good. Although the hormone can be useful any time of day, it's nice to start off your morning with feelings of calmness, contentment, and empathy for those around you.
"Oxytocin has been dubbed the 'love hormone' or the 'cuddle hormone' because it’s associated with social bonding behavior," sex and relationship therapist Deborah Fox, MSW tells Bustle. "Oxytocin is released by the pituitary gland when stimulated by various bonding behaviors. Research suggests that its release contributes to feelings of wellbeing, relaxation, and trust, as well as reducing stress and anxiety."
Not everyone is able to fit in a quickie every morning, but even if you are single or don't have time for some sex in the a.m., you can still increase your levels of oxytocin in other ways. Here are seven expert-backed ways to increase oxytocin in the morning, so you can start off your day on the right foot.
1Having A Hot Shower
There's a good reason to hop in the shower when you wake up in the morning. "A hot shower is like a mini massage for a significant level of not only self-regulation and relaxing, but soothing stimulation to all the body parts that require stimulation for oxytocin release," therapist Daniel Sokal, LCSW, ABD tells Bustle. So even if you're the type to shower at night, treat yourself every now and again to a shower in the morning.
2Taking Time For Deep Breathing
Taking some time in the morning to check in and slow down can help release oxytocin. "Guided meditation, yoga, or deep breathing stimulates the secretion of oxytocin and stimulates the euphoric buzz associated with its release," says Sokal. Even taking just 10 minutes to quiet your mind in the morning can help lessen any anxiety, and leave you feeling good throughout the day.
If you and your partner live together, take a few seconds in the morning to look into each other's eyes. "Eye gazing with your partner is very powerful," says Fox. "Look into each other eyes, no more than 18 inches apart, for several minutes. It’s awkward at first, but you’ll feel the benefits quickly." If you're not waking up next to someone, find a friend or a coworker you're close with to help you feel the benefits of human connection first thing in the morning.
4Receiving A Massage
If you're short on time in the morning but want to connect with your partner, consider a quick massage. "When done with an intimate partner, it relates not only to the feel good aspects of stimulation, but the immensely important aspects of love and human bonding that bring a couple together," says Sokal. "This triggers affective and loving feelings towards your partner." Don't have someone to exchange massages with? Consider a self-massage, or a quick morning appointment if it's feasible.
Just thinking about someone you love can release some of this feel-good hormone. "Spend a few minutes visualizing a fond memory you've experienced with your partner or thinking about what you most love and appreciate," says Fox. Better yet, make a list of what you're grateful for about them, and it'll bring up all of those warm, fuzzies feelings that you're looking to capture in the morning.
6Listening To Music
Crank up your favorite playlist, and listen to it in the morning when you first wake up or on your commute. No matter what song you choose, listening to music can have some profound effects on your mood. Research from the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that just listening to music can increase your oxytocin levels and make you feel more relaxed.
7Doing Little Acts Of Kindness
Start off your day by doing something nice for someone, as little acts of kindness can also positively benefit yourself. A study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior found that oxytocin levels spike in people who regularly volunteer. Although you may not have time to volunteer first thing in the morning, giving someone a compliment, or going out of your way to help a person can give you a small lift as you begin your day.
Mornings tend to be hectic and busy, but take some time to engage in these activities, which can help boost your levels of oxytocin, and leave you feeling calmer, and more connected to those around you.