New research shows that reaching out to others improves your mood
Oxytocin could help you reach out to others for support
Instead of turning inward or hiding from a stressor, particularly in the case of social situations, reaching out to other people can be an effective way to improve your mood, say researchers at Concordia University. Their research suggests that the hormone oxytocin may help you accomplish that feat.
“Instead of the traditional ‘fight or flight’ response to social conflict where people get revved up to respond to a challenge or run away from it, oxytocin may promote the ‘tend and befriend’ response where people reach out to others for support after a stressful event. That can, in turn, strengthen social bonds and may be a healthier way to cope.”
Mark Ellenbogen and Christopher Cardoso, researchers in Concordia’s Centre for Research in Human Development are taking a closer look at oxytocin, a hormone now being shown to increase a person’s trust in others following social rejection.
In a double-blind experiment, 100 students were administered either oxytocin or a placebo via a nasal spray, then subjected to social rejection. In a conversation that was staged to simulate real life, researchers posing as students disagreed with, interrupted and ignored the unsuspecting participants. Using mood and personality questionnaires, the data showed that participants who were particularly distressed after being snubbed by the researchers reported greater trust in other people if they sniffed oxytocin prior to the event, but not if they sniffed the placebo. In contrast, oxytocin had no effect on trust in those who were not emotionally affected by social rejection.
This research has ramifications not only for your daily happiness, but Cardoso believes this research could provide future options for the treatment of depression. “If someone is feeling very distressed, oxytocin could promote social support seeking, and that may be especially helpful to those individuals.”