How to Utilize the Happiness Hormone: Oxytocin
What if I could tell you that kindness could increase your happiness? While it may seem like a simple Sunday school lesson, there is scientific evidence that the hormone oxytocin is linked to happiness. In this blog, I will share with you how oxytocin relates to kindness, how it works on a scientific level, and more.
The Feel-Good Hormones
You are likely aware of the feel-good hormones of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These hormones are powerful components of our mental and physical health, each triggering and responding in unique ways to internal and external stimuli. Essentially, they are chemical messengers that give you a boost of happiness! Oxytocin is another feel-good hormone you can add to the list.
Oxytocin & Kindness
Recent research suggests that oxytocin is linked to kindness. When you perform, experience, or even witness a random act of kindness, you receive a boost of oxytocin, increasing your happiness. It is that warm and fuzzy feeling that puts a smile on your face. It can even be compared to how a dopamine hit gives you a “helper’s high.”
This tells us that a simple act of kindness affects happiness on three levels of pure goodness. If you were to perform a random act of kindness today, with the expectation that you would get nothing in return, you would boost your happiness as well as boost the happiness of the person you helped and anyone who saw it. As Simon Sinek puts it, “It’s Mother Nature’s way of trying desperately to get us to look out for each other.”
Does this mean that we should go out and commit acts of kindness just to increase our own happiness? No. The stipulation of this is that it must be unselfish. Therefore, acting in kindness should be a part of your regular routine without the expectation of a reward.
How Does Oxytocin Work?
While I won’t delve too deep into the science of oxytocin, here is a brief explanation. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and hormone produced in the hypothalamus that is then released into the bloodstream via the pituitary gland. This hormone is primarily linked to childbirth; it is a critical component of the childbearing process and breastfeeding, especially in those first moments of bonding between mother and child.
However, this hormone isn’t just for mamas and babies; it has even been nicknamed the “love hormone.” Science suggests that oxytocin is present in social situations such as bonding behavior, social recognition, trust, romantic attachment, and intimacy. It also appears to reduce stress and anxiety. While we are making headway in the science of how this hormone works, oxytocin is a part of a more significant and more complex neurochemical system mystery still being unraveled.
Is Artificial Oxytocin a Thing?
Oxytocin as a drug is commonly used as an injection to stimulate childbirth under controlled situations when the mother is having trouble producing enough of the hormone. Due to its success, some research has been testing whether we can artificially enhance our oxytocin levels to increase happiness. Unfortunately, it has been unsuccessful due to the challenge of getting the hormone through the blood-brain barrier, but you never know what the future will bring.
Therefore, right now, we should focus on simply becoming kinder. Whether that is sending a kindness card to a friend, helping out a stranger in need, or helping your parent clean out the garage one Sunday. The little acts we perform to better humankind make more difference than anyone ever thought.
This article is inspired by Simon Sinek’s “The Scientific Power of Kindness” talk. Check it out HERE