Some science suggests that 8 hugs a day is a recipe for happiness. Hugs, as well as physical touch which can or cannot be intimate, release a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is widely regarded as a love hormone. Both a hormone and a neurotransmitter, Oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus.
During physical touch and intimacy, Oxytocin can stimulate feelings of happiness, calm, and peace. Oxytocin is largely responsible for those warm and fuzzy feelings we get when we kiss someone, hold someone in a long embrace, or wake up from a snuggly nap. Acts of the heart like social bonding, altruism, empathy, and compassion, have been linked to Oxytocin.
Duke University researchers have found that oxytocin might have a direct relationship with spirituality. Participants took a dose of oxytocin in medication form and reported feeling a “greater sense of spirituality” as well as more positive emotions, especially during meditation. The lead author on the study Patty Van Cappellen explained that “Oxytocin appears to be part of the way our bodies support our spiritual beliefs.” She added that oxytocin seems to “affect how we perceive the world and what we believe.”
Alcoholism and the disease of addiction are described as being three-prong, infecting the mind, the body, and the spirit. Recovery and treatment centers for addiction tend to include a spectrum of treatment modalities to work on healing each of the three areas of addiction. Making the mind-body connection is important to addiction recovery. Mindfulness and meditation have come under deep scientific inquiry in recent years for the astonishing effect mental and spiritual work has on the physiological body. Stimulating the production of oxytocin in recovery can help support the spiritual program that many find to be life saving in treating addiction. Of course, physical intimacy can come with boundaries. Many people in recovery have experienced physical and sexual trauma in their lives. While persons in recovery do not need to be kissing, hugging, and engaging in physical intimacy with everyone in order to feel spiritual, they can participate in oxytocin0raising activities. A simple handshake, group activities, and meditation can help.
Participants who took the doses of oxytocin viewed themselves as “interconnected with other people and living things.” They experienced more awe, gratitude, hope, inspiration, love, and serenity in their lives.