By Mandy Oaklander for Prevention.com
If you’re a hopeless romantic, you might not want to read this. Science is about to dash every fairy tale you’ve ever read.
Turns out, one little molecule might be the biological basis for love. It’s a hormone called oxytocin, and it’s the subject of a new book called The Moral Molecule by Paul Zak, PhD, professor of economic psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University. As a neuroeconomist, he seems an unlikely candidate for the title of Dr. Love—“I’m a nerd and I love to be in my lab avoiding humans,” he tells us—but he’s one of the world’s foremost experts on the love molecule.
Here’s a boost for Team Romantic: Love does lead to happily ever after, says Dr. Zak. “There’s a very clear mapping from positive social relationships back to health,” he says. More oxytocin means less cardiovascular stress and an improved immune system.
But here’s where fairy tales and science differ: You don’t need a thunderbolt to feel the love—there are easy ways to take matters into your own hands and train your brain to release more oxytocin. Sex and cuddling are the ones you probably know about (and feel free to do more of that, too) but if you’re looking for fun outside of the bedroom, here are 10 ways to boost oxytocin:
1. Hug it out. If you meet Dr. Zak, the first thing he’ll do is give you a hug. “I just refuse to handshake at all,” he says. Even among strangers, hugging releases oxytocin, he says. Last year, Dr. Zak spread the hugging bug to hardened New Yorkers at an event called Love Night, where strangers were encouraged to hug one another. “If it works on 500 random New Yorkers, it’ll work for you,” Dr. Zak says.
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