Oxytocin rocks! It’s the neurotransmitter most often associated with reward and bonding. (when it doesn’t rock it can create addictions . . . but that’s another story)
We’re sharing Loretta Breuning’s* short-cuts to oxytoxin, the feel-good drug, you don’t have to buy, smuggle or steal.
NOTE: This post focuses on just some short-cuts and is NOT Breuning’s main point in her book. She emphasizes that taking shortcuts instead of developing trusted relationships with people is not good for the long run. Short-cuts are short-lived, often addictive, sometimes negative and do not sustain us in the healthiest way. Read her book:
“14 Days to Sustainable Happiness, A workbook for every brain”.
Research shows when we are involved and connected to others – family, friends, social networks, business partners, team sports – our oxytocin is increased. Deep connection to others often takes time and/or energy to build and maintain. However there are oxytocin shortcuts everywhere.
We enjoy a large “herd” because we evolved to seek safety in numbers. That’s why we seek “herds” to feel bonded with hundreds or thousands of people for our oxytocin “fix”:
- Attend a sports game and root for a common team
- Attend a concert and cheer for an entertainer
- Affiliate with a political party or politician
- Become involved in charity work
- Volunteer to work in a non-profit organization
- Join a synagogue, church, temple
- Play on a sports team, and feel a bond with thousands of people.
These shortcuts to oxytocin are real but temporary and often leaving us wanting more of that good stuff. The best way to bond is with people who are permanent or constant in our life. With trusted family and friends we are assured of getting the connections and support that are meaningful and loving. No need to spend money on tickets!
Pets are another popular shortcut. Research shows pets stimulate oxytocin, lower our blood pressure and theirs too. Animals have a unique connection to us but do have their limitations. Don’t give up on humans for your extra dose of oxytocin and support.
Another popular oxytocin shortcut is bonding with politics or politicians because it meets our mammalian need for support. Politics focuses on common enemies, which builds instant oxytocin bonding among everyone on “our side.” It’s not necessarily a good loop because to keep the neurotransmitters flowing we have to continually fear our antagonists.
The benefits of oxytocin from “belonging” has to be weighed against the release of stress cortisol when focus is on a perceived “enemy”.
Spending money is another well-known oxytocin shortcut – money goes out, and oxytocin flows in. That’s why we can become addicted to shopping, whether it’s in a store or on-line.
An interesting research finding is we actually get a better dopamine boost when we gift others than when we purchase for ourself.
- Contribute to charities.
- Tithe to religious institutions and causes
- Buy small gifts for friends
- Drop money in Santa Claus’ bucket
- Purchase from free trade sites
- Support National Public Radio and TV stations
- Buy from industries that promote reducing our carbon footprint