If you thought Social Distancing is tough, spare a thought for Puerto Ricans. In a public setting, such as a cafe, they would typically touch each other 180 times per hour! In case you wonder, in France it’s 110, and in England… zero. Really? Did they not count these long bear hugs even the French started copying? Also surely Twickenham must be above the average, aren’t we?
Well, let’s hope we can soon make a new study of this type because, for the last nine months and counting, we’ve been severely restricted on the haptic (i.e. touch) front. The consequence has been a drop in our level of oxytocin, a powerful hormone linked to social bonding.
Oxytocin is the chemical that shoots up after giving birth, making love, but also generally rises when touching others. Its level will affect
• how we speak to people
• our ability to listen and relate to others
• feeling safe and supported
• providing a sense of belonging
As human beings, we need a sense of belonging, and our bodies need community, acceptance, and trust.
Could lower oxytocin levels explain some of the unkindness, anger and resentment we’ve seen around us? According to a Doctor I heard on a podcast, yes.
The great news is that even with social distancing, we still have many ways to boost oxytocin.
If you are lucky to have other people in your household, then hug, kiss and massage generously. By the way, one type of massage called ‘effleurage’, gently skimming the skin with the tip of your fingers, is a great way to release another hormone: Endorphins. Its principal function is to inhibit the communication of pain signals. Beyond soothing, it can even produce a feeling of euphoria, because it binds to our opioid receptors.
You can also raise oxytocin by stroking pets and touching your own body.
Reaching beyond the purely physical, all the following will release oxytocin:
• Laughing, of course: so keep watching those funny videos. My personal favourite is Snowball, the cockatoo with 14 dancing moves.
• Being compassionate, first with ourselves (it always starts within), and then with others.
• Empathising with someone
• Sharing positive stories, memories and feelings.
• Simply thinking about people you love, as long as you genuinely feel it.
One way to induce your brain to make specific chemicals is using Hypnosis; in fact, I often teach self-hypnosis to my clients to help them control their feelings.
Next month I’ll discuss other essential hormones you can control.
Therapist, Coach, Trainer
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