When I’m frazzled by stress and the busyness of life, I turn to family and friends. I gather around my loved ones, call my relatives who live out of town, or just get together with my friends. With each hug, ripple of laughter, and gesture of encouragement, my stress eases and I begin to feel better.
As it turns out, these feelings – and these relationships – have long-term benefits. According to mounting evidence, positive connections create better health, with dividends that include a healthier heart and a longer life.
One reason is that being connected produces a hormone called oxytocin, often known as “the bonding hormone.” We make more of it when we feel love; when we share warm emotional contact of any type; when we give birth and cradle our newborn; and when we have sex. It’s an anti-aging hormone too, vital to healing and restoring hormonal balance.
The less oxytocin we make, the more free radicals we generate, and the more susceptible we are to illness. But the opposite is true too: being connected helps boost the immune system and prevent disease. Oxytocin also causes cells lining artery walls to relax. When this happens, blood pressure normalizes - which ultimately means protection against heart attack and stroke. (Be sure to get my FREE downloadable cheat sheet – 10 Ways to Increase Oxytocin – from my website!)
To stimulate all of these wonderful things, we must be connected to a loving community. Community is where we heal.
Here are some ideas to help you strengthen your connections and make the most of community in your life:
- Pay attention to your loved ones. I spend uninterrupted time with my eleven-year-old daughter before she goes to sleep. I leave my phone outside the room and in airplane mode. This is a very sacred time for us, and I cherish it. Our loved ones need to know we are listening to them and that they have our attention too.
- Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has influenced your life.
- Say yes to positive invitations. Say “yes” to quality opportunities as they present themselves.
- Don’t wait for invitations, either. Take the initiative and invite a new friend over for a cup of coffee or meet up somewhere for a drink.
- Nurture your friendships. Oxytocin promotes a friend-seeking response in women. Women need other women—we guide each other, console each other, and celebrate with each other. The long-running Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study found that the more close friends a woman has, the less likely she is to suffer physical ills as she ages. In fact, not having at least one true confidant can ultimately be as detrimental to your health as being a heavy smoker! (I devote an entire chapter to oxytocin in my book The Hormone Fix!).
- Join a support group. I’d suggest my Keto-Green Facebook community. It is an amazing group of women who share their trials and triumphs, ask questions about hormones and health, and offer support and encouragement to other women practicing my Keto-Green lifestyle.
- Cuddle on the couch with your loved one during a mushy feel good movie—a certified oxytocin-booster. Listen to my Couch Talk podcast with relationship expert Alison Armstrong called Passionate about Partnership for some great relationship advice.
- Hug frequently, but appropriately.
- Care for a pet. Interacting with animals, increases the release of oxytocin. Oooh! I love my animals! Did you know that recent studies show that pet therapy or having a pet increases longevity and quality of life?
- Be generous. Giving is a great way to increase oxytocin. I regularly volunteer at my church with the kids’ groups. I also created a foundation in honor of my late son, called the Garrett V. Bivens Foundation. Through it, we’ve done some very beautiful things including Teaching Tots to Swim programs and helping to found the House of Hope, a safe home and rehabilitation center for girls who’ve been caught up in human trafficking.
So make it your mission to connect more with your friends and loved ones. They’ll give you a big dose of happiness and health – it’s a prescription that works for everyone!
Set the table for conversation with these delicious crispy herb-roasted chicken thighs. This juicy and tender protein makes the perfect shareable meal between friends. Enjoy!
Crispy Herb-Roasted Chicken Thighs
- 4 bone-in skin-on organic or pasture-raised chicken thighs (or breasts)
- 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme are delicious)
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Rinse chicken and pat dry. Place on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.
- Combine softened butter, half of minced herbs, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt.
- Rub approximately 1 tablespoon herb butter underneath the skin of each chicken part.
- Drizzle the chicken with a little olive oil and rub over the skin. Sprinkle with remaining herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F and bake an additional 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reads 180°F or juices run clear.
P.S.- Get a jump start on rebalancing your oxytocin levels!
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