Your smoke alarm goes off in the middle of the night. Adrenaline is pumped into your system. Your amygdala, the area in your brain that processes fear, revs up. At the same time, the hormone oxytocin might also be released, regulating your amygdala's activity. The likelyhood of this hormonal intervention seems to depend a lot on whether you're female.
Some researchers believe response-suppressing oxytocin is produced in women because they are biologically invested in their children's survival, but it's been dubbed "the love hormone" because it's also produced during a number of other behaviors where there's a potential for bonding. Oxytocin is released in large amounts in women during childbirth and breastfeeding. It's also produced in both men and women during sex, evoking feelings of trust, contentment and safety with their mate.
I had my own unique way of discovering oxytocin. After Al passed away I craved comfort, but didn't have anyone to turn to. Listening to my body, I started spending large amounts of time outside, letting the sun warm me. Then I started visiting a jacuzzi at least three times a week, and if I couldn't get to one, I'd soak in a hot bath. I did 'hot' yoga and enrolled in a class to become a massage therapist, giving and receiving at least 4 massages a week. Fortunately for me, my daughters are huggers, so, even though they weren't living at home, I could look forward to hugs and physical contact when they visited.
I guess I wasn't surprised when I ran across the research about "the love hormone". According to Dr. Ray Sahelian, M.D., oxytocin can be released by a variety of sensory stimuli, including warmth and touch. My body must have known that. It's great when science confirms my experience, and hot tea, hot baths, touch, and soft blankets are now an integral part of my daily life.