Hugs and Kisses: the oxytocin connection

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Hugs and Kisses: the oxytocin connection

When you cuddles you pet, you and the pet are both flooded with oxytocin, the calming, bonding hormone.

So you’ve had a really hard day, and your stress levels are way up.

Or a major disappointment and your spirits are falling fast.

Or just an ordinary, low-to-medium-level conflict with your partner and that familiar cold lost feeling is settling in.

Enter Hugs and Kisses: the oxytocin connection..

No, not the xoxoxox at the end of a text message.  Or a string of emoticons. The real thing.

Relationship Insights: Kissing releases the hormone oxytocin and helps you to bond as a couple.

Kissing releases the hormone oxytocin and helps you to bond as a couple.

Hugs and kisses release the “happiness” hormone oxytocin.

(There are 4 hormones which together contribute to “happiness” in various ways: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins.  But that is a much bigger story.)

Oxytocin has acquired fancy names such as “the bonding hormone,” “the cuddle hormone” and even “the love hormone.”

With oxytocin release, you feel more trusting and intimate. It builds the feelings you need to form a relationship. Oxytocin is the hormone that bonds a mother and her newborn, and floods them with joy and contentment.  When you cuddle your child, both you and your child are bathed in oxytocin. Fathers know all about this too!  

Oxytocin calms you and counteracts your stress hormones.  Oxytocin is the mysterious glue that brings you together in the first place and keeps you together. The more oxytocin you and your partner have, the stronger your bond. Oxytocin is a continually renewable resource.

Dialogue can be distancing. Talk can keep you apart and push you further apart, especially when you hold opposing views.  But a hug can move you from the isolation of dialogue to actually feeling close to your partner. You can stop an argument mid-sentence with a hug. And then return to a calmer discussion. See also “Managing conflict with your partner”.

Relationship Insights: A 20 second hug releases lots of oxytocin, helps you to feel warmly towards your partner, and to relax.

A 20-second hug releases lots of oxytocin, helps you to feel warmly towards your partner, and to relax.

Let’s try a hug first.

A 20-second full-body hug releases lots of oxytocin.

Hug until you can feel yourself soften and relax.  And wait for your partner to relax into the hug too.

Aim for 8 hugs of 20 seconds duration every day for full access to your free wellbeing hormone. **

And access well-being in your relationship.

Next, try kissing. A 6-second kiss floods both of you with oxytocin.

Kissing is a ritual of connection loaded with pleasure and closeness.  John Gottman calls the 6-second kiss “a kiss with potential”. Indeed.

Holding hands releases oxytocin – no wonder it is so enjoyable!

Holding hands stimulates oxytocin, the bonding hormone, so you feel calm and soothed. And close!

Gender diversity welcome. Everyone yearns for a loving relationship. Relationship Doctor

Everyone yearns for loving touch.


There’s even more good oxytocin news. ANY loving or neutral human touch releases oxytocin. (Touch which is violent, hostile or compromised obviously does not.) Massage, for instance, releases oxytocin.

Cuddling and patting your dog will also create a rise in your oxytocin levels. 

Even more amazing, your dog’s oxytocin levels will also rise. No wonder the bond between you and your dog is so strong! Even looking into the eyes of your pet, whether cat of dog, will increase your oxytocin levels –  and the oxytocin levels of your pet!

Do you hug your dog more than your partner? But that is a whole new story.

High oxytocin levels reduce food cravings and other addictions.

As an added bonus, “latest research shows” (don’t you love “latest research”?) that your high oxytocin levels reduce food cravings and other addictive behaviours!   But didn’t you know that all along?

So, hug and kiss your partner when he or she has had a really hard day. Or when you have had a really hard day. Or for no reason at all.

Hug and kiss rather than escalate that fight.

Administer hugs as the balm for many disappointments.

So, when in doubt hold hands, cuddle the kids – and pat the dog.


**The Gottman institute has been studying relationships for 40 years.  John Gottman estimates they have put 30,000 marriages under the microscope. The couples participating in this study not only filled out questionnaires but were medically monitored, and observed for a weekend. For years.

The Gottman’s have distilled the resulting vast amount of information into some useful statistics. To be honest, I have quite a bit of resistance to analysing a relationship statistically, but the Gottmans claim 94% accuracy in predicting if a couple will stay together or not, based on their observations. That’s impressive predictability.

Copyright © Kaye Gersch 2017

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