How to self-soothe by generating Oxytocin solo

by Shadows ad Curves

Solo self-soothing : how to generate oxytocin if you are quarantined by yourself :

{From my forthcoming book Corporeal Consent}

Oxytocin is the love & bonding hormone. Oxytocin has been linked to wellbeing and reduced stress levels and stimulating mechanisms related to restoration and healing, and thus, contributing long-term to better health profiles and longevity. Oxytocin reaches several important areas in the central nervous system {CNS} and is involved in the regulation of social interactive behaviors, fear, aggression, perception of pain, calm, wellbeing, and stress reactions (by modulating the activity of the HPA-axis and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system). The half-life of oxytocin in the circulation of humans is 30 min (De Groot et al., 1995). A similar half-life has been demonstrated in the cerebrospinal fluid, but might be even longer in different parts of the brain (Jones and Robinson, 1982). [1]

Low oxytocin has been implicated in attachment disorders, compulsive behaviors such as overeating, addictions to gambling/sex, and substance abuse as a type of ‘self-medication to restore oxytocin function’. Low levels of oxytocin have been demonstrated in individuals with borderline disease, certain types of depression, and schizophrenia (for a review, see Kim et al., 2013). Also, some pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia and recurrent abdominal pain in children are associated with low levels of oxytocin (Alfven et al., 1994; Anderberg and Uvnäs-Moberg, 2000). In addition, previous experience of traumatic events is associated with an increased incidence of low oxytocin levels or stress related reduction of oxytocin levels (Pierrehumbert et al., 2010). [2]

The psychological clinical literature has demonstrated the following as oxytocin-generating behaviors :

  1. Pleasant Mental Experiences

An invitation to daydream, feed your fantasies, and to pursue small pleasures.

“Oxytocin is released in response to pleasant mental experiences. Such a release of oxytocin may, e.g., be induced by seeing, hearing, smelling, or thinking of well known and loved persons, but also by other pleasant situations (Uvnäs-Moberg, 1998; Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 2005).”

2. Activation of the Somatosensory Nerves

Get moving : Shaking, dance, movement meditations, physical activity, being in nature, deep breathing.

“Oxytocin is also released in response to activation of somatosensory nerves, which mediate non-painful and pleasant (non-noxious) information, e.g., induced by touch, stroking, warmth, and light pressure of the skin (Uvnäs-Moberg and Petersson, 2010).”[3]

3. Touch

Give yourself a massage, dry skin brush, apply lotion or oils to your whole body (especially after taking a bath or shower). Also, breast massage specifically has been shown to release oxytocin.

Areas of the body with more receptors to stimulation include the feet, hands, lips, tongue, and face. Thus high-oxytocin releasing activities are : walking barefoot on the ground, manipulating textured objects with the hands, making physical art (pottery, natural/ found sculpture, drawing, painting), building intricate detailed objects, puzzles.

4. Warmth

A warm coat, cozy sweater, blanket, warm bath, sauna, steam bath, hot tub, turning up the temperature.

“Warm temperature stimulates oxytocin release in rats (Stock and Uvnäs-Moberg, 1988; Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 1993a; Lund et al., 2002)”[4]

“As Otto Fenichel has said : ‘to get affection’ means ‘to get warmth’. They are ‘frozen’ personalities who ‘thaw’ in a ‘warm’ atmosphere, who can situ for hours in a warm bath or on a radiator.” [5]

5. Meditation

Gratitude meditations and meditations in which you think of loved ones are particularly effective.

6. Thinking about beloveds

“Oxytocin may even be released by seeing, hearing or by merely thinking of the other beloved person (Carter and Keverne, 2002; Grewen et al., 2005; Light et al., 2005; Holt-Lunstad et al., 2008).”[6]

7. Food intake & digestion

Especially recommended is eating food that is very textually stimulating, or requires a lot of chewing. Foods that involve a lot of manipulation, such as shelling pistachios, or picking up item by item (such as berries) thus involving your hands, doubles the pleasure via the oxytocin released by the numerous nerve endings in the well-innervated fingers.

“Food intake is also associated with oxytocin release and several mechanisms are involved in the oxytocin release induced by ingested food. When food touches the oral mucosa oxytocin is released following activation of touch receptors in the oral cavity and when the ingested food reaches the gastrointestinal tract, gut hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) is released from the duodenum in particular in response to proteins and fat. Sensory fibers of the vagal nerves are then activated by CCK. The sensory vagal nerve fibers relay in the NTS wherefrom neurons project to the PVN, where oxytocin is released both into the circulation and into the brain (for references, see Uvnäs-Moberg and Prime, 2013). Oxytocin can also be released following activation of other sensory nerves originating from, e.g., the oral mucosa (Lupoli et al., 2001), and the gastrointestinal tract (vagal nerves; Stock and Uvnäs-Moberg, 1988)” [7]

8. Suckling / Oral Stimulation / Oral fixations

If you don’t have access to an enthusiastic nipple, some replacements are drinking from a straw, pursing & putting your lips on bottles, pacifiers, drinking warm liquids, bubbly beverages, and sucking on hard candies/lollypops. Other adaptive / neutral activities related to this pathway include chewing gum and applying chapstick / lipstick. 

“Suckling is also linked to oxytocin release as the act of suckling per se induces oxytocin release by activation of touch receptors in the oral cavity (Lupoli et al., 2001). Oxytocinergic mechanisms may be involved in the calming, anti-stress, and growth promoting effects of the suckling in breastfeeding infants, but also in response to sucking of a pacifier (Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 1987). It is even possible that the dependency of other types of suckling related behaviors, e.g., smoking of cigarettes and even drinking of alcohol (Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 1993b), may involve an oxytocin linked component triggered by the suckling itself and not only by the pharmacological effects of nicotine and alcohol.”[8]

9. Interacting with pets

“Oxytocin levels peak significantly in both dog owners and dogs when they interact and in particular when the owner strokes and caresses her dog (Odendaal and Meintjes, 2003; Miller et al., 2009; Handlin et al., 2011). Oxytocin is however also released when the dogs see and want to approach the owner. Pet ownership is associated with lower blood pressure, serum triglycerides, and cholesterol levels (Allen et al., 2002).” If you have severe attachment problems and are too afraid of humans in order to receive any support from them, studies show that you can receive the same oxytocin benefits from interacting with a friendly dog or having a pet.[9]

10. Seeing friends or pets approach

When interacting with other humans or animals, there are two oxytocin spikes that occur. The first oxytocin peak is induced when seeing and hearing “the other individual” (dog or the human) and is linked to active approach. The second peak occurs in physical contact (petting, shaking hands, giving massage). [10]

11. Self-Pleasuring

Not only does self-pleasuring release oxytocin (with a big release occurring at the moment of orgasm), but self-pleasuring also boosts the immune system !

A small 11 person study from Germany found that masturbation “confirmed transient increases in adrenaline and prolactin plasma concentrations” and that “sexual arousal and orgasm increased the absolute number of leukocytes, in particular natural killer cells (CD3-CD16+CD56+), in the peripheral blood.” The study concluded that “these findings demonstrate that components of the innate immune system are activated by sexual arousal and orgasm.” [11]

12. Electrical play

“low intensity electrical stimulation releases oxytocin in rats (Stock and Uvnäs-Moberg, 1988; Uvnäs-Moberg et al., 1993a; Lund et al., 2002)”[12]

13. Eu-Stress

Eustress is non-paralyzing ‘adaptive’ stress. Low levels of ‘beneficial’ stress that is not overwhelming but motivates active coping behaviors (rather then falling into a lethargic / defeated inactive depression). For example, completing a ‘life purpose project’ that you always put off but would want as part of your legacy.

“In addition, oxytocin may also be released by mental and sensory stimuli that are perceived as stressful. In this case oxytocin is activated in parallel with the stress system and the role of oxytocin in these situations may be to dampen stress responses and facilitate coping behaviors (Neumann, 2002).”[13]

{bonus methods for those not sheltering in place solo}

If you have the good fortune of not being solo, you can also enjoy the following interpersonal interactions that release oxytocin.

Now may be a good time to consider a move to co-habitation, via cooperative, community house, or intentional community.

“Many studies demonstrate that the health profile of people, who live in good relationships, is better than for those who live alone. They, e.g., have lower blood pressure and a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease. They have less infections and the risk for some types of cancer is reduced. People who live in good relationships may even look younger and live longer than those, who live alone.”[14]

14. Platonic touch (cuddling)

“Oxytocin may be released when individuals of both sexes and all ages touch each other, given that the relationship is perceived as positive.”[15]

15. Massage

“Treatment with massage is linked to oxytocin release – pulses of oxytocin can be observed both in the individual receiving massage and in the masseur (gathered by repeated blood samples from Uvnäs-Moberg, 2004). Several positive effects occur during a massage session : levels of anxiety are decreased, the perception of wellbeing is increased and that of pain decreased, and both blood pressure and cortisol levels are lowered. Repeated massage treatments are associated with long-term expression of all these effects (Field, 2002, 2014).

Massage also helps in personal relationships – increasing the ability for friendly interaction, and may even be used to resolve marital conflicts (Ditzen et al., 2007)”[16]

Stay tuned, I am going to be releasing context demonstrating self-massage as well as platonic partner massage via the SomaSenZ mutual massage methodology at www.RAZ.MA

I am also working on creating edutainment ‘raps’ covering self-care / psychology principals in an actionable aurally enjoyable form. Let me know if there are topics you would like me to research & create content about or if you are a beat-maker and would like to collaborate!

Wising you wellness.






[5] Touching : The Human Significance of Skin, Ashley Montagu, 1986, Harper Collins Publishers, pg.102-3












Main References :

and Touching : the Human Significance of Skin by Ashley Montagu