“Hugs are a great way for couples to connect!” Says Sarah Watson, LPC and CST, at Bustle.
And while cuddling during the summer months can make you feel like you’re drowning in sweat, the winter months are mostly for cuddling. Cooler temperatures not only mean you’re more likely to snuggle up against your boo (or, you know, whoever it is), but you probably spend more time indoors. So take your most comfortable sweats, sink into your favorite part of the couch, put something on Netflix and enjoy the hugs.
Things Happen To Your Body When You Cuddle:
1. You feel happier
Paul Zak is a world-renowned expert on oxytocin, or what he calls the “moral molecule”. Oxytocin is essentially a hormone that has long been attributed to helping with childbirth and breastfeeding. However, the hormone also plays an important role in how you feel. “The higher your oxytocin, the higher your happiness,” Zak told WebMD.
Additionally, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, studies have begun to prove that not only does this hormone make you happier, but it also plays a role in other aspects of life – from social recognition to orgasms, yes you heard it right.
Oxytocin is also fairly easy to activate hormones. According to Zak, interaction with others on social networks like Facebook or Twitter leads to spikes in oxytocin levels. Even watching stupid movies will boost this “wellness” hormone. Touch, however, seems to be the best type of interaction. Zak specifically recommends eight hugs a day – minimum.
It’s time to cuddle!
2. Your immunity gets a boost
Imagine entering your local pharmacy and instead of getting the flu shot, the pharmacist greets you with a hug (after asking for consent, of course). Certainly, you would probably be a little surprised – perhaps a little relieved not to have a needle – but you would also strengthen your immune system. Seriously!
In a study published by Sage Journals, more than four hundred healthy adults were exposed to a virus that causes colds. Some of these adults have been cuddled while fighting their colds and, at the same time, watching their illness. Those who received support and were cuddled were protected from the development of an infection. It also seems that the more hugs, the better. Those who received more support and more frequent hugs had even less severe signs of illness.
So the next time your partner tries to get out of your embrace, just tell them it’s for their health.
3. Your libido increases
If you have relegated cuddling to a strictly post-coital activity, you are missing out. Dr. Renee Horowitz, ob-gyn and owner of the Center for Sexual Wellness in Michigan, explained in an interview with Shape, “There is … the release of dopamine, which is an excitatory hormone that increases sexual desire. ”
That’s right – cuddling can actually increase your libido, so there are good reasons to snuggle up with your partner before riding. Having said that, dopamine isn’t the only chemical at work while you snuggle up. “Cuddling, holding, and sex play release chemicals, like oxytocin, in the brain that create feelings of well-being and happiness,” said Horowitz.
Is there really a reason not to cuddle?
4. Your anxiety lessens
If you are among the 40 million people in the United States who suffer from anxiety, rest assured: physical touch can and will reduce your anxiety.
Frankly, in a wild study published by Sage Journals, 16 women were followed during a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. These women were then told that they would experience an electric shock if they held their partner’s hand, the hand of an anonymous man or not at all.
During the anxiety-inducing experience, women who held their husbands’ hands experienced a decrease in stress compared to women who held the hands of a stranger or did not hold them at all. Interestingly, the more the couple’s marriage is held by the hand, the less stress is felt.
If this is the importance of a simple melee contact, imagine the relief that would result from cuddling. But, why the dramatic bodily response to begin with? This is due in part to the hormone oxytocin which is released during physical touches, such as holding hands and cuddling. According to a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there is evidence that oxytocin reduces anxiety, or, as anxiety is difficult to quantify, “anxiety behavior”.
5. Your blood pressure lowers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it can harden your arteries, which reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart. In turn, you could develop many conditions, from heart disease to heart failure. Your heart isn’t the only thing affected by high blood pressure either. Your brain, as well as your kidneys, can be damaged as a result.
Obviously, none of these things is good. If you want extra protection against high blood pressure, you can try another antidote. What is that? Hugs, of course. This is not to say that you should start giving free pills instead of taking your medication – not at all. However, there is a definite link between low blood pressure and cuddling, especially for women.
In a study published by Biological Psychology, 59 premenopausal women had their blood pressure checked before and after being kissed by their partner. The result? The women’s blood pressure has dropped. Likewise, women’s oxytocin levels have also increased. In addition, the higher the frequency of hugs, the lower resting blood pressure. Pretty cool, right?
6. Your heart rate slows
Heart rate changes were also monitored as part of the same study used to measure blood pressure before and after hugs. Just as the blood pressure of premenopausal women has dropped, so has their heart rate.
In another study by the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina (via USA Today), the couples were split into two groups. The first group was instructed to sit next to their partners and to hold hands. Subsequently, the group also watched a brief excerpt from a romantic film and then kissed their friends for twenty seconds. Meanwhile, the other group had nothing physical relation with their partners. They sat alone and did not see the romantic video segment. During this time, each person in each group had their heart rate monitored.
The two groups were then asked to talk about a stressful event or situation, as this type of conversation normally increases blood pressure and heart rate. The results of this experiment?
Couples in the second group, those who had no physical contact with their partner, experienced a drastic increase in their blood pressure – more than 24 points in their systolic (upper) reading! Not only that, but their heart rate increased at a double rate for the first group of hugging partners.
The arguments for hugs – and physical touch in general – are solid!
7. Your pain is relieved
When you were little, do you remember what would happen if you inevitably fell and were injured? You run to your mom and show her your injury. She no doubts embraced your evolving bruise, gave you a hug, and sent you on your way. Here is! You were healed. Perhaps it was her maternal instinct that won her over that made her embrace your pain. All these years, you may have thought that a hug from your parents was just a kind of psychosomatic trick.
Science has found its own explanation. Oxytocin, the chemical nicknamed the “moral molecule” is also known by another name: “the cuddly hormone”. As this hormone is released through physical contact, it is aptly named. Okay, maybe you don’t heal completely, but it can reduce your pain. It turns out that the caress that your mom gave you has literally helped ease your discomfort. Ah, hugs – nature’s Tylenol.
Wondering how this can be true in the world? According to the researchers, the neurons responsible for sending oxytocin through your veins also stimulate cells in the spinal cord. In turn, these stimulated cells increase your levels of oxytocin and bam! You receive “an analgesic effect”.
Unbelievable. Does this mean that we should always ask someone to kiss our hoots?
Men should initiate the cuddle, hate it or love it
If you’re with a man who hates cuddling, it might be time to tell him to tie up and spoon yourself. Of course, you can still be the one to initiate hugs with your partner, but the effects will be much more beneficial if it is his idea. How? ‘Or’ What?
In a study by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, attempts at physical intimacy were analyzed in nearly 400 male / female couples. These attempts – to use Olivia Newton-John’s words – to “become physical” were linked to greater relational satisfaction, better communication between couples and less conflict.
Even more interesting was the impact of the men on the study. Men’s attempts at intimacy with their partners were linked to positive results to an even greater degree. So here’s the problem – we all want to empower women, so we never dissuade you from taking your needs in hand and asking for what you want … but neither can we deny the science. In the case of hugs, if your man initiates, it seems that the satisfaction of your relationship can increase.
No partner to cuddle? There (used to be) an app for that
What if you want all the benefits of cuddling but aren’t currently in a relationship? Canoodling of random strangers is not exactly socially acceptable. Wait, in fact, it is. Well, sort of.
In 2014, an app called Cuddlr was launched. Think: Tinder … but for hugs – platonic hugs.
Also Read: These types of hugs reveal what your relationship is really like
You could just cuddle your dog instead
A better, probably safer, and much less frightening version of “platonic hugs” is to kiss your pets. Remember Zak’s recommendation to increase your cuddle intake? Trying to find a way to squeeze eight cuddles in a day – no pun intended – is no easy task. The good news? Zak wants you to know that pets matter!
“The owner-dog link is comparable to the parent-child link,” Takefumi Kikusui of Azabu University in Japan said today. Researchers in Japan have measured the levels of oxytocin in more than two dozen pairs of dogs and their humans. In 30 minutes, participants talked, petted and watched their pets. When the researchers checked the oxytocin levels for the second time, they found that the people and dogs who looked at each other most often had a substantial increase in oxytocin.
Interestingly, the researchers carried out another experiment in which they divided 54 dogs into two groups – one group received a saline spray and the other received oxytocin via a nasal spray. The result? Females who received oxytocin spent more time looking into their owners ‘eyes, which then increased their owners’ oxytocin.
Let the lesson be: not only do you need to hug your pet more often, but you also need to allow time for serious, though perhaps annoying, eye contact.