Do you know what the health benefits of cuddling are? Did you even know that there were benefits besides feeling good? Well they are, and so let’s do more hugging people…it’s good for your health!
When it comes to our health, rarely do we stop to think about how important human touch is to our overall well being. Hugging and cuddling can have a big impact on your health and mood. And it doesn’t have to be a spouse or significant other that you cuddle with either (although that can definitely benefit not only your health, but your relationship as well). You can cuddle with your child, spouse, friend, pet, nieces or nephews….or even a complete stranger. Yes, that actually does happen! In Japan they have a cuddle cafe. This cafe is a place where people can go to have cuddle sessions with one of the cafe’s workers, and no hanky panky allowed! And right here in the US, cuddle groups and cuddle parties are a safe way for people to have a chance to connect with others in a platonic way and to experience the power of human touch and connection.
Have you ever wondered why a mother instinctively holds her child when they are sad or upset? Or why it is common to reach out to hug someone after they’ve experienced tragedy or loss? Because we instinctively know that holding someone releases a hormone that help them to feel better. The main hormone released when hugging and cuddling is oxytocin. This hormone has a powerful affect on not only health, but mood as well.
Here are some of the amazing health benefits of cuddling.
1. It is a powerful stress reducer!
If you are stressed our and overwhelmed, find time for a good cuddle session. The release of oxytocin helps to lower cortisol (the stress hormone), which in turn will help you to feel more relaxed. This is particularly important for those struggling with PTSD and Complex PTSD. People in those situations have been shown to have very low oxytocin levels and as a result, experience extremely high levels of ongoing stress and anxiety. Regular cuddling can help to raise oxytocin levels and reduce the stress, even though it won’t take away the memory of a traumatic event.
2. It helps your digestion!
Oxytocin has been show to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, as well as increase digestive functioning. So cuddling can actually help those who have a food intolerance or those suffering with IBD.
3. It boosts your immune system!
This one goes hand in hand with #2 because up to 95% of our immune system function actually takes place in our gut. So if our gut is out of whack, then we will be more prone to illness. So increasing oxytocin improves gut function which in turn boosts our immune system and allows our bodies to better fight off viruses and infections.
4. It is a mood booster!
When oxytocin levels are higher, it is natural to feel more optimistic, more trusting, more generous and more confident. And who wouldn’t want that? So cuddling just helps us to feel all around better…about ourselves and our lives!
5. It can help to reduce pain!
We’ve already looked at how oxytocin can help to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, but did you know that it can help to reduce inflammation throughout the rest of the body as well? It can! As a result, it can help to reduce pain, which is caused by inflammation. That is good news for those who struggle with chronic pain or even everyday aches and pains!
6. It helps you to bond with others!
Oxytocin was originally connected to new mothers as it helped them bond with their newborn babies. But it actually does this with anyone! If you spend time cuddling with your spouse, a family member or friend or even your pet, the release of oxytocin helps you to feel more connected to that person or pet and can deepen your relationships significantly. For those who are married or in romantic relationships, it can increase emotional intimacy and even lead to an increase in intimacy in the bedroom. One piece of advise that I have always given to men who have complained about infrequent lovemaking is that they should always take plenty of cuddle time with their significant other…without the expectation of it leading to more. When they do that, the oxytocin boost is guaranteed to lead to more activity in the bedroom!
7. Can lower blood pressure and reduce your heart rate!
A hug for as little as 20 seconds can help to lower the blood pressure and reduce the heart rate. This is particularly important for those dealing with stressful situations and it’s a great way to reduce the stress on the body and keep that blood pressure under control when stress is high!
Most importantly, spending time cuddling with those that are the most important to you just feels so gosh darn good! And isn’t that an awesome reason to snuggle up to someone you care about all by itself? Add all of these other amazing benefits to your health and maybe it’s time to put down that cell phone, put way your tablet or laptop and have some good cuddle time with someone special! As little as a few minutes of cuddling can get the oxytocin flowing, but it’s good to get at least 15 minutes or more in daily, if possible so find yourself a snuggle buddy today!
If you want to learn more about oxytocin, here is a great TED talk by Paul Zak (known as Dr. Love),