Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Just relax, reach out and touch somebody

We all know what adrenaline is (except that we’re supposed to call it epinephrine now). It’s that hormone that makes us want to go, go, go! Lift that car! Jump that building! Pick that fight! Finish that marathon!

When we want to de-stress it’s a good idea to lower the epinephrine levels so we can relax and calm ourselves. But how do we switch off the adrenalin spigot and get some internal peace and quiet?

Ah, Mother Nature never misses a trick, and for once she is on the ladies’ side. Inside our brains is a chemical called oxytocin, which has been called the “cuddle hormone.”

Oxytocin has several important jobs: it causes the cervix to dilate and the uterus to contract at the end of pregnancy. It facilitates milk production for breastfeeding and it is associated with the bonding feeling mothers experience with their newborns.

But there’s more – oxytocin also lowers blood pressure in women, induces feelings of trust and calm, elicits tenderness and affection and even decreases anxiety.

Men as well as women produce oxytocin, but because it needs estrogen to “work” and men make much less estrogen than women, the benefits for men are not as significant.

Touch is the simplest way to raise oxytocin in your blood.

If your relationship with your guy is not what you’d like it to be and you’re feeling some distance there, holding hands while sitting or walking together can change your attitude.

It won’t necessarily change his attitude, since he will not have the same oxytocin response, but you’ll be in a more positive frame of mind, and that can’t be all bad.

A study in which women and men were stroked by their lover on the hand or the back of the neck while watching television showed that the women enjoyed the benefits of the oxytocin enormously – their blood pressure went down and they reported feeling secure, affectionate and peaceful even when what they were watching was negative.

For the men the results weren’t so hot – their blood pressure didn’t go down and they didn’t report many warm fuzzies either.

Women who are touched often by their partners, even just on the hand or back, become so conditioned to the oxytocin rise that they experience it even when there is no physical contact, causing them to want to be with that person even more.

I’d be surprised if some guy hasn’t already written a book on how to get a girl just by shaking her hand several times before asking her out.

If you’re feeling stressed and drawn-out, a massage or shoulder rub from your boyfriend can change your mood.

But make sure he does it for more than two minutes, which is the usual time that men try to do shoulder rubs.

Tell him it’s a good 10 minutes before the oxytocin levels go up, even though that’s not technically true. It is true enough.

There is a book called “The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Love, Calm and Healing” by Kerstin Moberg (DeCapro Press, 2003) that lays out all the layperson needs to know about this exciting hormone and how we can access it to add to the calm and happiness we would like in our lives.

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