The Love Hormone: How to hack it

(Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash)

Prioritizing your mental health comes with a myriad of challenges, especially during exam season. But let’s not forget how important it is to look out for ourselves, both mentally and physically. Here, we’ve outlined three steps to achieving a positive and mindful attitude because, after all, mindset matters.

Step One: Identify the Love Hormone

There are four feel-good chemicals in our bodies: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone, is released by positive gestures.  

According to a 2023 study from Harvard, oxytocin has shown to have a positive effect on social behaviors related to relaxation, trust, and overall psychological stability. Oxytocin levels are controlled via a positive feedback loop, which means the hormone causes an action that stimulates more of its own release. 

Oxytocin levels can be boosted naturally in the body through exercise. One study showed a significant rise in oxytocin levels after high intensity martial arts training. Music has also shown to increase oxytocin levels, especially in large groups, to elevate the element of bonding. The element of touch seems to boost the love hormone as well. Giving someone a hug, holding hands, or cuddling has shown to encourage an overall sense of well-being.

Step Two: Think Positive

To improve overall mood and wellness incorporating a gratefulness practice can be extremely beneficial. Additionally, practicing gratitude can also have positive effects on the mindset. In a study from Psychology Today, gratitude was shown to  affect the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems which are responsible for boosting heart rate, alertness, and sending blood to the muscles. When practicing gratitude, the amygdala under the limbic system exhibited positive change to strengthen the ability to regulate emotion and process memory. 

In the 2017 study by Keong et. al, researchers looked at the quality of the nucleus accumbens which is directly related to motivation and may be affected in patients with severe depression. In this study, it appeared that this area could be positively impacted with the regular practice of gratefulness. Feeling thankful can also improve sleep, mood, immunity, and reduce depression, chronic pain, as well as decrease the risk of disease.

Step Three: Practice Mindfulness

How can we be present when our minds are pulling us in a billion different directions? Let’s start with mental rest and meditation. Negative thought patterns can be rewired through subconscious brain messaging, leading to positive changes over time. Meditation is the greatest tool we can use to free ourselves of the cobwebs taking up space in our minds. 

The Buddha, who lived in Southeast Asia 2600 years ago, founded a path that influenced multiple generations to meditate their way to enlightenment. 

Through the practice of meditation and gratefulness we can rewire the neural pathways in our brains for long term change. Let’s start to live healthier, so we can see the beauty in everyday life.

About the Author

By Olivia Borges

Sports Editor


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