Hugs, not Drugs: Oxytocin and Stress Reduction

Originally posted on April 7th, 2020


I still have some science for you today, but from a little different angle. Many of you know that we make a hormone, Oxytocin, that makes us feel good and is produced when we make physical contact with the people that we love, spouses, family, friends, etc. I was listening to a podcast the other day, in which a scientist was talking about how many of us are experiencing extra stress these days either because of isolation, or perhaps because of overexposure to some of those same loved ones! 😬

This scientist recommended 2 things: First, a 20 second hug every 2 hours! This produces Oxytocin, lowers Cortisol, the stress hormone, and makes us feel better. Your teenagers may think it’s totally weird, but I think they may secretly like it!

Second, he also said that we also get a shot of Oxytocin when we meet an old friend, or simply make eye contact with someone we care about. So when interacting with friends on line, seek to de-emphasize Facebook (yes, I get the irony), email, and phone calls, and emphasize FaceTime, Zoom, or some other tech that allows eye contact! This is especially important for those who are isolated during these times!

I checked all this with Dr. Scott Bunner, a psychiatrist friend of mine, and he said the hugging thing is pretty well known. He hadn’t heard of the eye-contact thing, but that it made sense to him.

So give grandma a FaceTime call! If you’re in the position to do so safely, help an elderly person get set up for Zoom! It will help us all get through this!

Don’t fear, but be smart!

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