Feel free to spend more time spooning. It could actually make you healthier, according to science. Though affection has been known to release serotonin and dopamine, the majority of benefits you get from cuddling comes from oxytocin. Known as the “feel good” hormone, the release of oxytocin from your brain can affect your health for the better.
Don’t worry if your status is single. Snuggling doesn’t have to be just with a romantic partner. You can feel the health benefits of cuddling with your children or pets as well. So snuggle up next to someone important in your life and feel the effects both immediately and in the long term.
Psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina (aka “Dr. Romance”) and clinical psychologist, Dr. Sanam Hafeez give us the details on all the health benefits you’ll feel when you snuggle up close to the ones that you love.
It can reduce your risk for heart disease
Studies show that oxytocin can help reduce the risk for heart disease because it helps lower our blood pressure and heart rate. Dr. Hafeez explains that “cuddling triggers the release of oxytocin, which relieves stress. Less stress, less anxiety and lower blood pressure all mean less strain on the heart.” She adds that “touch is critical to our well being, and it has been said that just 20 seconds of cuddling can improve mood for up to 24 hours.”
It can strengthen your bond
Whether it’s mother-child cuddling, snuggling up with your favorite pet or romantic cuddling, it will all strengthen your bond with each other. “Around six to nine weeks after we are conceived, we develop our first of the five senses, touch, which is the most developed sense,” Dr. Hafeez says. “The first thing that happens in utero and when we are born is that we are touched.” We are literally born to touch each other. “Act on your affection for one another. This will increase the bond between both of you and create a sense of intimacy that can often help you overcome barriers,” Tessina says.
It can help your immune system
Though it’s not entirely understood why, studies have shown that human contact can help strengthen your immune system. Scientists are aware that it has everything to do with the release of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin into your bloodstream, but are still not sure how this can be utilized in a medical setting to cure or prevent sickness. What is clear is that those with a social support system that engage in loving, physical contact do heal faster than those who do not.
It can reduce your stress levels
Studies have shown that oxytocin also can lower our stress levels and help us improve the way we react to life’s stressors. “Life has its unavoidable stresses and strains,” says Tessina. “Affectionate contact boosts your serotonin and oxytocin levels, and will improve your mood quickly. Touch also soothes and calms and gets those happy hormones going.” She also gives suggestions for boosting your mood when you’re all alone. “You always have your arms with you,” she says. “Learn to give hugs at every opportunity, touch your partner lovingly or even sneak a little soothing rub on your own skin. All of it will improve your mood and decrease stress levels.”