11 Tips to Lower Stress

Hug it out


(Image credit: Crazy80frog | Dreamstime)

Oxytocin, which is also known as the "cuddle hormone," is involved in social bonding, but can also help to lower stress levels. Produced in the brain's hypothalamus, oxytocin is then transferred to the pituitary gland, which releases the hormone into the bloodstream.

Several animal studies have shown that the hormone relieves stress and anxiety in social settings. In a 2007 study, researchers separated prairie voles, which are Midwestern rodents, from their siblings. The isolated prairie voles exhibited signs of anxiety, stress and depression, but these symptoms abated after they were injected with oxytocin. [11 Interesting Effects of Oxytocin ]

The body naturally produces oxytocin during sex, childbirth and breastfeeding. But the "love hormone" can also be released during simple physical contact, such as a friendly hug. Even playing with your dog can boost oxytocin levels, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.