Posts tagged with "Oxytocin"

Facing the music: Why it feels so good to sing in the car

November 2, 2018

There’s nothing like belting out a song in the car to brace you for a hard day ahead—or to bring you back from the doldrums. You’ve probably experienced the euphoria of hopping into the car, turning the volume up on your favorite tune, and singing along like you’re performing at the Grammys. But you might not realize that it’s actually good for your health, the Huffington Post reported on November 1.

In fact, according to findings by researchers at Ashford University— an online for-profit school based in San Diego— music, alone, can increase antibodies that boost your immunity and protect your body against bacteria.

What’s more, the HuffPost reports, singing can induce a bunch of feel-good mental health effects—among them:

indeed, Connie Omari, a licensed professional counselor practicing in North Carolina and owner of Tech Talk Therapy, told the Huffington Post that she suggests singing and driving to her patients. The practice can be its own form of meditation and can help to quiet a racing mind. “By listening to music,” she said, “drivers are [given] an opportunity to replace negative thoughts with more [positivity] through the use of rhythm and beats.” she said.

And because driving alone for long periods of time can have negative effects (some research has found it increases the risk of depression), Omari said singing and driving on a regular basis can help to slightly alleviate some of those issues.

“Most people feel the effects of oxytocin when they’re hugging someone or in the beginning stages of a romantic relationship,” Ziskind noted. “Oxytocin initiates emotions like trust, a sense of stability, and even relaxation.

“It boosts mood and uplifts mood,” she said, adding that oxytocin isn’t the only happy hormone that is released when you’re blasting your favorite tunes. “Studies have shown [e.g., a study published in the journal Nature in 2014] that simply thinking about listening to your favorite song, before you actually listen, releases serotonin, another feel-good chemical in your brain that reduces anxiety.”

  • The dopamine released when you sing can reduce your road rage. In addition to the other feel-good hormones mentioned above, you’re also releasing a hefty dose of dopamine. Kristen Fuller, a physician and clinical mental health writer for Center For Discovery, a treatment center in California, told the HuffPost that dopamine is the kind of neurotransmitter you want if you face a lot of traffic during your commute, because it has an effect on your emotions—producing sensations of pleasure.

“Dopamine boosts your motivation and drive,” Fuller said. “This happy mood can result in less road rage and friendlier driving — which can potentially lead to [fewer] accidents.”

  • Singing releases tension in your diaphragm more naturally than taking deep breaths. When you are anxious, a good remedy is to take long, deep breaths—bBut singing along to your favorite song might be even better than inhaling and exhaling.

Loretta G. Breuning, founder of the Inner Mammal Institute in San Francisco, told the daily news outlet that singing actually relieves tension that can build up in your diaphragm. Tension happens when your body believes you’re being threatened, even if the only danger is being late for work.

“Shallow breathing is a common response to tension,” Breuning said. “It can become a habit, and even though you’re not doing it consciously, it reinforces the sense that you’re threatened. Deeper breaths feel good, but natural ones feel better than forced ones. That’s what singing does.”

  • Singing can help you with unprocessed emotions. Even if the song you’re listening to happens to be sad, it can still help you process your emotions in a healthy way. Depending on your mood, different kinds of musiccan feel almost therapeutic, according to a course taught at Penn State University.

Music is emotionally evocative and helps bring up emotions you might have otherwise avoided for a long time, said Nick Hobson, director of science at the coaching service Psychology Compass, an online “cognition calculator.”

“It’s for this exact reason why music therapy is showing promising results for helping people deal with anxiety, depression and PTSD,” Hobson told the HuffPost.

Research contact: @emilyblackwood

 

Why pet owners will risk their own lives to save Rover’s

March 2, 2018

It’s a scenario that played out recently on the NBC-TV series, This Is Us: Having heroically saved his family from a fire that was quickly engulfing their home, Jack Pearson ran back into the blaze to save his daughter’s dog. He later died at the hospital from a cardiac arrest brought on by smoke inhalation.

In real life, this episode plays out fairly often, Yahoo Lifestyle reports: This past November, a 61-year-old Florida man was hit by an Amtrak train, after running onto the tracks to save his beloved dog, Astrid.

One month earlier, a California woman succumbed to a wildfire while trying to rescue her border collie from a car. And in September, after Hurricane Harvey, a 25-year-old Texan was electrocuted after trying to save his sister’s cat from her flooded home.

Why do people take these chances for their pets? A Harris poll has found that 95% of pet owners consider their animals to be family members.

In a New York Times opinion piece, Dogs Are People, Too, written in October 2013, Professor of Neuroeconomics at Emory University Gregory Burns explained that this may be truer than most of us think.

“For the past two years, my colleagues and I have been training dogs to go in an MRI scanner—completely awake and unrestrained. Our goal has been to determine how dogs’ brains work and, even more important, what they think of us humans,” Burns said. “Now, after training and scanning a dozen dogs, my one inescapable conclusion is this: Dogs are people too.”

Of course, Yahoo points out, Burns wasn’t suggesting that dogs are actual humans, but rather that the activity in one specific area of the brain where enjoyment is felt suggests that they are more emotionally intelligent than we give them credit for.

“The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child,” Burns concludes.

This theory, as well as research into our co-evolution with dogs, might help explain why 40% of men who responded to a study by Georgia Regents University and Cape Fear Community College would save the life of their own dog over that of a foreign tourist. That number is higher for women, at about 45%, a story in the Huffington Post reported.

Dogs may not just feel like family; in an evolutionary sense, they truly are family. Yahoo reports that our close genetic ties to dogs also might explain why scientists find an increase in oxytocin (the love hormone) when owners gaze into their dogs’ eyes—the same hormone that increases when a mother looks at her baby.

Indeed, in a 2006 study conducted by the Fritz Institute, 44% of those who had chosen not to evacuate from a recent hurricane said it was because they didn’t want to leave their pets behind.

According to Yahoo, this finding served as a wake-up call for the federal government, which passed a law authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to include pets as a part of its rescue plan.

The law may save many households during upcoming natural disasters: According to the American Pet Products Association’s latest survey, 68% of U.S. households own a pet—a number that hovers around 85 million American homes nationwide.

Research contact: @abbyhaglage