Does Love Heal?
One of the special attributes of the longevity hormone oxytocin is that we never run out, even as we age. Unlike dopamine, our reward hormone, which is easily depleted, our oxytocin supply is limitless as long as we know how to pull the trigger.1,2
Oxytocin is released not when you receive, but when you give, love, touch, and care for others rather than yourself. It is produced when the nervous system feels safe, not in anticipation of the next reward. Ayurveda calls these qualities a sattvic way of life—one that is calm, peaceful, giving, and concerned for the wellbeing of others. Science now tells us that when we give and produce oxytocin, it is better for us than it is for the receiver.1,2
A new study in Psychological Science finds people who feel enthusiastic and cheerful, called positive affect in Western medicine and a sattvic way of life in Ayurveda, are less likely to experience memory decline as they age.3 Their findings show that memory declines with age, but individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep memory decline over the course of almost a decade.3
In another study at the Tokyo University of Science, researchers confirmed that oxytocin production is linked to expressions of love and wellbeing, but also that oxytocin is involved in regulating learning and memory performance.4 The study shows that when oxytocin is introduced to the brain, compromised by amyloid plaque, nerve signaling abilities increase, suggesting oxytocin can reverse memory impairment caused by plaque accumulation.4
Oxytocin production is linked to better memory and reversal of age-related memory concerns. Volumes of studies show us how to produce more oxytocin. We must learn to be giving and care more about each other. Touching, holding, loving, and bonding with each other is the roadmap to oxytocin production and a healthier, longer life.1-5
Let Love Heal
Oxytocin production has been shown to increase during childbirth, lactation, protecting young, social behaviors, and bonding with offspring or mates.
Effects of Oxytocin
- Decreases cortisol and anxiety in response to social stress.
- Reduces amygdala (emotional center) response to fearful or threatening visual images or emotional faces..
- Increases trust behavior in a money-transferring game.
- Increases ability to interpret mental states.
- Increases amount of time spent gazing at eyes when viewing faces.
- Intranasal oxytocin in healthy individuals enhances recognition of emotion and elevates level of trust in established relationships.
- Urinary oxytocin levels decreased in children placed in orphanages shortly after birth.
- CSF oxytocin levels decreased in adult women exposed to childhood maltreatment.
- Men with a history of early parental separation had altered cortisol response to exogenous oxytocin..
- In males classified as having “insecure” attachments, oxytocin increased level of attachment security
Childhood Stress + Oxytocin
As you can see, oxytocin (the trust, bonding, touch, love, and longevity hormone) has much to do with our childhood experiences. According to Ayurveda, a child can do no wrong for the first two years of life. Then, once their nervous system is convinced the world is safe, rules and discipline are encouraged. It seems the more sattvic the childhood, the easier it is to live a sattvic adult life. The more sattva, the more oxytocin. A childhood based on lack of approval and attention will set the stage for an unfulfilled adult—one addicted to the next reward, endlessly needing love and unable to be love.
While this may sound like a life sentence, Ayurveda was created to free ourselves from a dependency on outside stimulation to be happy. Few of us have been lucky enough to have a stress-free childhood and most of us grow up with much to learn. Ayurveda employs numerous techniques, including yoga, breathing, meditation, and a lifestyle that slowly convinces the nervous system to let go of childhood armoring. We can learn to take a leap of faith that it will be okay to be our unarmored selves, being loving and concerned for others, rather than only being concerned about ourselves.
The following questionnaire will help determine in what areas of your life you are living less than a sattvic life. In the interpretation section, I will help guide you to a happier, healthier, more sattvic, and longer life.
We RecommendQuiz: What’s Your Emotional Body Type?
Sattva is when there is no need for the mind to provide protection; you are free to be yourself fully. Rajas is that first attempt of the mind to protect and offer sensory or emotional stimulation, creating a temporary experience of satisfaction. Tamas is a more aggressive, emotional attempt to be safe and secure.
Sattva: If your Emotional Body Type is predominately sattva, then life is good. Remember, one can always chip away at changing some of the rajasic and tamasic qualities that exist. If you scored 100% sattva, this is the score of a saint, and not necessarily the goal.
Rajas: Excess rajas indicates the risk of burning out, or chasing love and satisfaction with activities that may never deliver what you truly seek.
Tamas: Excess tamas usually means you have drifted into a protective cocoon that your mind has convinced you is the safest place to be.
Once you have determined your Emotional Body Type, you can use this information to start moving away from some of those tamasic and rajasic qualities, towards sattva.
This process of self-inquiry can be adapted to any or all of the rajasic or tamasic qualities that may be negatively affecting your life. The goal is not to necessarily score all sattva in this questionnaire, but to become aware of tamasic or rajasic qualities that are not serving you. I suggest starting with the tamasic qualities you checked and work your way into some of the rajasic qualities. This questionnaire provides the first step for change, which is the awareness that your mind has created this rajasic or tamasic illusion in the first place, in the name of safety and security.
While issues like not being able to concentrate or having a poor memory can be caused by a number of physical or biochemical factors, they may also be protective mental traits that can be changed. The mind often uses these qualities to cover up mental clarity, a great memory, or even the ability to forgive someone, because it has determined through a veil of illusion that you are safer without those qualities of clarity or forgiveness.
Your job—if you choose to accept it—is to realize how your mind has hidden the experience of your true joyful, happy, and most powerful self in the name of safety. It is time to take that risk of experiencing life fully by chipping away at qualities that are no longer serving you, one step at a time.