Most children love a good snuggle or two and many parents don’t think too much about why that is, but it turns out there’s a whole lot of biology behind it! Today, I’m sharing a guest post from my favorite PhD candidate…my husband, (almost) Dr. Dan Finkel. I assure you, Dan is a serious researcher so you can trust the info below. Thanks for getting in on the family yoga fun, Dan! Also, some of you may have been wondering why Dan hasn’t been in the pictures so far – he’s our photographer!
Oxytocin is a hormone that many of us associate with either the induction of active labor during childbirth (pitocin, a modern favorite for stimulating or speeding up labor, is a synthetic version of oxytocin; oxytocin comes from Greek roots that mean “quick birth”), or possibly as one of the hormones released during breastfeeding that aids maternal bonding with babies.
Recent studies have shown that oxytocin is involved in a whole bunch of behaviors related to social bonding, and not just between mothers and infants. The evolutionary roots of this hormone’s impact on social behavior run deep; geneticists trace the genes involved to about 500 millions ago, and the system seems to be more or less the same in many animals.
Here is a short list of things we now know (or suspect) trigger the release of oxytocin:
2. soothing music
4. deep breathing (like the kind you do in yoga)
5. touching, hugging, cuddling
Here are a few behaviors and effects that recent studies have shown increase after exposure to oxytocin:
1. faster healing of wounds (apparently it has an anti-inflammatory impact)
2. feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety
3. improved emotion recognition in children and adults with autism
4. increased trust, cooperation, and generosity
5. increased learning and memory for social information (like face recognition)
6. social bonding and attachment, romantic attachment
Nutshell: science just caught up with what ancient systems like yoga knew all along – taking deep breaths, sharing love, and physical closeness are healthy!