Oxytocin is known as “the cuddle hormone”, it is released from the hypothalamus during sex and breastfeeding and promotes trust and bonding. Now a new study has shown another wrinkle in the nature of oxytocin in that it can promote spirituality.
In the new study, middle-aged men either received a nasal oxytocin spray or a placebo. Immediately after being given the spray, and then again one week later, the men completed questionnaires about their spiritual beliefs as well as taking part in a guided meditation exercise and being asked about their emotions during that meditation.
The results showed that compared to men who received the placebo the men who received oxytocin were more likely to say that spirituality was important to them and that life had purpose and meaning. This was true regardless of whether they were part of an organised religion.
Additionally, men receiving oxytocin were more likely to say they were connected to other people and living things. They were also more likely to report feeling positive emotions during guided meditation such as awe, gratitude, hope, inspiration, love and serenity.
All of these findings proved to be most true for men who had a particular variant of a gene called CD38, which is known to regulate the release of oxytocin from the hypothalamus.
So if you want to increase your oxytocin levels you might try: hugging, having loving sex, crying when you need to, meditating, playing, touching a pet, giving to charity, feeling gratitude or taking part in a community project. You will feel more bonded to life and you will feel more spiritually connected into the bargain.
Source: Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience