Cuddling and hugging is a great way to relieve stress. A cuddle, which is just an extended hug, is relaxing and has health benefits such as lowering your blood pressure.
Extended and long hugs can increase the release of serotonin which eventually increases happiness and promotes a joyful mood. Paul Zak a Neuroeconomist recommends at least eight hugs a day to be happier and enjoy better relationships.
We list below just some of the great benefits you can get from cuddling. But first, the science!
The reason cuddling is so beneficial is that it releases Oxytocin.
The Cuddle Hormone: Oxytocin
Oxytocin is known as the “cuddle hormone” because it is released when people snuggle each other or bond socially.
The reason cuddling makes you feel so good is that it stimulates the release of oxytocin into your system.
What are the benefits of a cuddle?
- Cuddling and prosocial behaviours
- Helps you to relax and destress
- Improves social skills
- Helps you go to sleep
- Makes you more generous
- Cuddling increases bonding among friends
- Boosts your Immune System
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Improves communication
- Helps relieve pain
Cuddling and prosocial behaviours
Increases in prosocial behaviours such as altruism, generosity and empathy are linked to Cuddling. We also are more willing to trust others because cuddling helps remove the brakes on social inhibitors such as fear, anxiety and stress.
Cuddling and women
The release of oxytocin in women, caused by giving or receiving a hug or cuddle has particular importance for women. Oxytocin plays a key role in the birth process and also in nursing.
When an infant suckles at his or her mother’s breast, oxytocin is produced. It helps in promoting mother-child bonding.
Men like to be cuddled too
Honestly, men like cuddling just as much as women, if not more. To quote the Urban Dictionary:
MEN Love to cuddle with their girlfriends when their friends aren’t around. They love to snuggle with their girlfriend and hold them close.
Example: will you cuddle with me please
In men, like women, a cuddle promotes bonding.
Cuddling, snuggling and hugging that produces oxytocin can act as a fidelity booster for men. In a study, men in relationships who were given a spray of oxytocin stood further away from attractive women. Single men were unaffected.
The results suggest the hormone promotes fidelity in humans, said study researcher Dr. René Hurlemann, of the University of Bonn.
Previous animal research in prairie voles identified oxytocin as major key for monogamous fidelity in animals. Here, we provide the first evidence that oxytocin may have a similar role for humans.
René Hurlemann, MD, PhD, University of Bonn
Cuddling reduces stress
In a study conducted at the University of Zurich, oxytocin was shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol and regulate interpersonal relationships in a positive way. In both romantic relationships and more professional partnerships, oxytocin can help to build trust and intimacy. It also fosters more cooperation and keeps the workplace more harmonious, whether a virtual one or a brick and mortar office.
At a meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Phoenix, it was reported that “a brief hug and 10 minutes hand-holding with a romantic partner greatly reduce the harmful physical effects of stress.”
Hugging, kissing, or more physical acts of touch increase oxytocin levels, which is a ‘bonding’ hormone—this chemical reaction can help to reduce blood pressure, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease, but it can also help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Catherine A. Connors, Stress management coach and holistic therapist
Cuddling improves social skills
Socially, oxytocin is known to dial down your fear response and increase your emotions of trust, empathy, and the urge to bond with others.
When you lose relationships or do not adequately maintain your social networks, your oxytocin balance may be disrupted – putting yourself at higher risk for the inflammatory effects of stress and fear.
The active nurturing and strengthening of relationships within your social network can have positive effects on your health.
More of the neurochemical oxytocin can be created by giving platonic hugs or cuddling up with someone. After all, everyone wants to feel appreciated. Oxytocin might just be the way to keep relationships strong and positive.
Are you socially anxious? Many people are but the good news is cuddling will reduce your social anxiety.
When you get a hug from someone you know at a party, it reduces your anxiety and makes you feel good. With oxytocin in your system, you’re going to have a more fun and relaxing time than you would otherwise.
Cuddling induces sleep
Oxytocin released in the brain under stress-free conditions naturally promotes sleep. Oxytocin counters the effect of cortisol, the stress hormone, so be reducing stress and boosting calmness it has a sleep-inducing effect.
It leaves you feeling tranquil and naturally leads to sleep.
Not getting enough sleep? Cuddling will help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
Cuddling makes you more generous
In a 2007 study, participants inhaling oxytocin were given a decision on how to split money with a stranger. Those on oxytocin were 80% more generous than those given a placebo.
Oxytocin specifically and powerfully affected generosity using real money when participants had to think about another’s feelings. This result confirms our earlier work showing that oxytocin affects trust, but with a dramatically larger effect for generosity.
Paul J. Zak, Neuroeconomist – Claremont Graduate University
Cuddling increases bonding among friends
Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone”, gives a feeling of being loved and connected. There’s a social bonding aspect to oxytocin, too. Research suggests oxytocin helps you bond with those in your inner circle. In other words, the more you cuddle with your closest friends, the tighter your bond will be.
Every hug, every touch triggers an emotional connection that strengthens your relationship.
People often forget just how meaningful touch can be. Touch is a form of communication and building and strengthens friendships is about communication and connection.
It builds trust and makes you feel valued.
Here are some other benefits:
- more curiosity
- social interaction is amplified
- increased pain thresholds
The release of oxytocin can generate sentiments of comfort and security which enables trust. Leading to people being more trusting of each other.
Recent evidence has suggested that trust contributes to social success.
…we show that intranasal administration of oxytocin, a neuropeptide that plays a key role in social attachment and affiliation in non-human mammals, causes a substantial increase in trust among humans, thereby greatly increasing the benefits from social interactions.
Oxytocin increases trust in humans, Zak PJ – Nature 2005 Jun 2
Cuddling boosts your Immune System
Adding some massage techniques and strokes to your cuddling routine will seriously up its game. Swedish massage is a massage technique that uses long, gliding strokes, firm kneading, and tapping. According to a 2010 study, people who received Swedish massage had:
- more white blood cells that fight disease
- less of a hormone that increases the stress hormone cortisol
- a decrease in the level of the stress hormone cortisol
- a decrease in substances that may cause inflammation
Frequent cuddles and hugs can boost your immune system.
Improvements in your immune system when you cuddle or hug people regularly:
- Heart disease risked lowered
- Prostate cancer decreased
- Lowers blood pressure, almost as much as prescription medicine
- Reductions in inflammation and the time it takes to heal a wound
Cuddling lowers Blood Pressure
Touch has a calming effect which may lower blood pressure. Research has shown short periods of hand holding and hugging lowers blood pressure. Reduce the chance of heart disease and stroke by regular cuddling.
…Brief warm social and physical contact among cohabitating couples and blood pressure (BP) reactivity to stress in a sample of healthy adults… Prior to stress, the warm contact group underwent a 10-minute period of hand-holding while viewing a romantic video, followed by a 20-second hug with their partner, while the no contact group rested quietly for 10 minutes and 20 seconds. In response to a public speaking task, individuals receiving prestress partner contact demonstrated lower systolic BP, diastolic BP, and heart rate increases compared with the no contact group… These findings suggest that affectionate relationships with a supportive partner may contribute to lower reactivity to stressful life events…
Warm Partner Contact Is Related to Lower Cardiovascular Reactivity, Karen M. Grewen PhD, Bobbi J. Anderson, Susan S. Girdler PhD & Kathleen C. Light PhD
Physical contact with others reduces stress. Hugging or other acts of physical touch help to reduce blood pressure levels resulting in a reduced risk of heart disease.
Cuddling helps you communicate better
Non-erotic touch such as cuddling or hugging is a form of non-verbal communication. It conveys the “I know how you feel” sentiment.
Most people want to feel understood, and communication is the vehicle by which they transmit understanding and empathy. Non-verbal communication can be a very powerful way to say to your partner, “I get you”. Cuddling is a way of saying, “I know how you feel.” It allows us to feel known by our partner in ways that words can’t convey.
David Klow, marriage and family therapist in Chicago
Cuddling helps relieve pain
Oxytocin released when cuddling reduces pain levels – great news for people with chronic pain problems. When you have a pain in the neck or other areas, what do you do? Rub it, right? Rubbing the area releases oxytocin.
So just imagine what cuddling can do!
Cuddling has many emotional and health benefits.
- Less stress
- Better sleep
- More relaxed
Hugs, snuggles and cuddles release feel-good hormones that give you a natural high and a feeling of closeness to those around you.
Physically, your muscles will relax and you will release tension.
Cuddling builds trust, strengthens your emotional connections and makes your healthier.