Washington: With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, all of us are wondering about our couple goals and how to make relationships last longer. Now, a new study conducted by Baylor University finds that when couples play board games together or take painting classes with each other, their bodies release oxytocin, also known as the ‘hugging hormone’ that may help them bond deeper.
Speaking about it, Karen Melton, Assistant Professor of child and family studies in Baylor's Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, said, “We were expecting the opposite that couples playing the board games would interact more because they were communicating about the games and strategies or because they were competing, but more the interaction, more was the oxytocin released.”
Researchers also expected that painting couples would be more attentive to the instructor and to the canvas than to their partners but instead, couples in the art class reported more partner-touching than couples playing board games.
The study, ‘Examining Couple Recreation and Oxytocin via the Ecology of Family Experiences Framework’, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, the journal of the National Council on Family Relations.
Melton added, “Typically, an art class is not seen as an interactive date with your partner. But sometimes couples that were painting turned the activity into a bonding time by choosing to interact by putting an arm around their partner or simply saying, “Good job.”
Notably, the study is the first to examine how distinct types of leisure are associated with oxytocin release, researchers said. Melton said that the finding showed that all couples release oxytocin when playing together and that's good news for couples' relationships.
"But men in the art class released 2 to 2.5 times more oxytocin than the other groups. This suggests that some types of activities may be more beneficial to males than females, and vice versa," Melton added.
Researchers also identified a significant environmental impact, in that couples in a novel setting and activity released more oxytocin than in a familiar home-like environment. That suggests that novelty can be an important factor to consider when planning date nights with our partners.
In the study, couples were randomly assigned to participate in one of two couple dates, game night or couple art class, for one hour. To measure participants' oxytocin levels, researchers took urine samples before and after the activities.
They also administered a six-item survey about the couple's familiarity with the activities and about their communication, touch and eye contact with their partners during the sessions, which lasted for about an hour. According to Melton, the significance of the study lies in the fact that it helps families find those small, meaningful ways to interact when they're spending time together.