The Hormone That Lifts Your Spirit When we are depressed, we often avoid social interactions. We don’t feel like being around others. But studies show that interacting with people actually improves mood. Humans are hard wired to reap the benefits from being in the company of friends or even strangers. That’s because the so-called “love hormone,” oxytocin, is released in our brains when we caress, hug, talk, or even just sit with another person. Oxytocin can reduce the effects of stress, fear, and pain. Oxytocin also triggers our brains to release more serotonin, which can play a crucial role in alleviating depression as well.
Several studies have shown that chatting with a total stranger on a bus or in a store, can lift our spirits too. It can even reduce the amount of pain you feel. In one experiment, participants were placed in two groups. In the first group, people were put in a room on their own and had to plunge their hand in a bucket of ice water and leave it there for a period of time. The second group did the same thing, but they each had a person they didn’t know, sitting next to them. Those who were alone reported feeling more pain than the ones who had company.
Another study discovered that mice that were healing from a minor injury, showed less symptoms of depression and had more motivation to achieve difficult tasks when they were housed with another mouse. Alex, Korb, PHD, the author of “The Upward Spiral” recommends that if you don’t feel like talking, then invite a friend to the movies or play a board game. That way you don’t have to talk so much but if you suddenly feel the desire to have more of a conversation, you can. If not, just being around another person will bathe your brain in oxytocin and lift your spirits.
That’s the miracle of oxytocin.