Dr. Sharolyn Dihigo, DNP, RN, CPNP // Feb 14, 2018

Do you remember what it was like to cuddle with a baby? To snuggle under
the covers with your partner? Or simply get a nice, long hug? All of those things
release the “love hormone,” oxytocin! So, was that the one you were thinking of?
Oxytocin has been nicknamed the hug hormone, the love hormone, and the cuddle chemical. It’s even been called the trust hormone.

This powerful messenger called oxytocin is released during hugging,
cuddling, and touching. Although the hormone is released from the posterior
pituitary gland, we have oxytocin receptors all over our bodies and in our muscles
and tissues. Oxytocin’s primary function is uterine contractions during childbirth,
lactation, and orgasms, but it also plays a role in social interaction and the feeling
of connectedness.

The most recent research on oxytocin suggests hugs stimulate our own built
in cannabinoid system. Yes, our brain actually does have naturally occurring
cannabinoid which increases our sense of pleasure when we are touched. This is
why hugs or cuddling a baby makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

The release of oxytocin is just one reason we should all be giving out more
hugs! Hugs are heart healthy, relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and they just
feel good. So don’t forget to trigger your oxytocin as you celebrate this
Valentine’s Day! (And if you don’t have anyone to hug, a dog will work just fine,
too!) A hug is a hug!


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