Couples Who Create Art or Play Games Together Release 'Love Hormone'

A new study out of Baylor University may have you changing up your Valentine's Day plans. If you're looking to bond with someone, you may want to skip dinner and try taking an art class instead.

According to a new study from researchers at Baylor University, couples who spend their time playing board games or taking an art class together release high levels of the "Hugging hormone" otherwise known as oxytocin.

“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, and with more interaction, they would release more oxytocin,” which is associated with bonding and family cohesiveness, said Karen Melton, Ph.D., assistant professor of child and family studies in Baylor’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences.

The study, "Examining Couple Recreation and Oxytocin Via the Ecology of Family Experiences Framework," recruited 20 couples aged 25 to 40 and assigned them to a 'game night' or art class. Researchers measured the couples' oxytocin levels and asked them questions about things like their familiarity with the activities and their communication. Couples weren't encouraged to get overly physical with each other, with the reported interactions happening without prompting and only lasting a short amount of time.

As it turns out, painting is an especially good way for men to bond with their partners, with researchers finding that men participating in the art class released up to 2-and-a-half times more oxytocin than men participating in other activities. Researchers say their findings suggest that some activities may be more beneficial for men, and vice versa for women. Women playing board games with their significant other released significantly more oxytocin than they did with other types of activities.

“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 — putting an arm around their partner or simply saying, ‘Good job,’” Melton said.

Researchers expected the painting couples would be too busy paying attention to the instructor and what they were painting, but couples in the art class reported having more touching between partners than those couples who played board games.

“This has implications for the everyday family – to find those small, meaningful ways to interact when they’re eating dinner together or going for a walk or doing homework with a child or sitting on their couches with their iPad,” Melton said.

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