Everyone knows that cuddling feels good right?? We cuddle our loved ones and our pets and it feels so good and very calming. It’s a great expression of love and a way to give and feel love very deeply.
So why does it feel so good, and what’s really going on inside our bodies? Also – does it have any real health benefits?
We can learn a lot from newborns in this regard. Cuddling is a necessary thing – without it they literally, “fail to thrive.” (Stop eating and laps into what appears to us to be a depression.) A lot of research has been done because of this, and we now know…
Oxytocin – the feel good and bonding hormone is released during human touch and especially during cuddling. This hormone has been shown to increase generosity, and makes you feel safe and happy.
Immunity – Immunity is a big factor in infant survival. It was once thought that breast milk alone was what was giving breast-fed newborns all of their amazing immunity, but it was also the cuddling/holding and bonding (touch or massage) during this time that helped out in the immunity of the pre-term infants.
The article that I reference above talks about infant massage. Massages can be great, but they can also be too stimulating to weak or sick individuals. Touch should not be ignored in those individuals however, cuddling or holding my work just as many wonders as a massage would in that case!
Relieves Pain – What is the first response when a child hurts themselves? To hug them or to kiss the pain away. So why?? Because it is actually going to relieve the pain! Oxytocin and feeling cared for can actually cause the perception of pain to decrease rapidly.
In this this study of women experiencing pain and then touching their partner’s hands human touch is shown to reduce stress and give a feeling of well being. Increasing the pain threshold and decreasing perceived pain. And that is just from touching hands. Imagine the increase in effect from a hug or cuddle!
Deepens bonds of all kinds – (It’s the oxytocin again!) Parents and children, Friends, lovers, and married people can all deepen the bond they have with the other person just by cuddling them. You may not think of friends as being cuddle-able, but I do have a couple of friends who I cuddle with and I can say that I definitely feel closer to those people.
Girls have more of a tendancy to feel able to cuddle their other girl friends (or even guys who are just friends) AND there is a recent trend among men to feel more able to be physically close to their other male platonic friends. I have defninitely noticed more men are more apt to hug when greeting than they were a couple of decades ago.
In fact, in young men who are not preoccupied with gender roles I see genuine and very warm hugs when greeting each other. I could not be more happy that men are breaking down that wall. I have often felt like I could cuddle just about anyone I am friends with, but then thought about single guy friends I have that probably don’t have that benefit in this life because of social norms etc…
Reduce anxiety – So if you’re feeling a deeper bond with people in general from cuddling it’s obviously going to spill over into your perception of the world. Through creating meaningful and warm bonds with some people you’ll start to see that possibility with other people and the world is less scary when that starts to happen. 🙂
Reduces stress – Cortisol is lower in people who are releasing oxytocin in their blood stream.
Lowers Risk of Heart Disease – Oxytocin has been shown in many different studies to lower hypertension or blood pressure. Basically if you are releasing oxytocin for any reason your blood pressure is lowering.
Help with Alcohol or other Dependence Issues – When oxytocin was taken during alcohol withdrawal symptoms lessened and also lessened the need for patients to have to take Valium. There is also some indication that Oxytocin taken before the alcohol becomes a problem lessens the likelihood that someone will become addicted.
So instead of taking a medical Oxytocin I highly recommend cuddling! No prescription necessary. 🙂
How To Do It Best
Now that we know we SHOULD be doing this, the next question is, “how to do it ‘better.'” We want the most immunity, oxitocin, bonding, low blood pressure, feel-good warm fuzzies we can get our hands on right!!??
One of the only scientific things I came across for how to do it better was to have skin to skin contact. This also comes from the infant thriving studies that point to the fact that premature infants do dramatically better overall when they have some time each day of skin to skin contact/cuddle time.
This is so beneficial that some hospitals have volunteers come to their neonatal ICU’s to do skin to skin contact time. And they *want* men – they get a lot of women volunteers but who they really want are men because in our culture is it perfectly acceptable for a man to have his shirt completely off – which would allow for more skin to skin availability than there is from a woman in a sports bra or swimming top. I know one hospital here in MN that has a program like this is United Children’s Hospital. Go United! 🙂
So – skin to skin is important for reaping the most possible benefits from cuddling. You be the judge of the appropriate amount of skin for the type of person you are cuddling. 🙂
And You know what I’m going to say right – Make it Spiritual!
The general feeling of being cuddled is of being accepted and loved and cared for. We are perceiving that coming from the other person – even if they are thinking about what to make to breakfast right!?
So why not make it fully present and actually send that message mentally and spiritually to the other person? That way what you’re actually feeling and perceiving from the other person will actually be reality! It doesn’t always have to be this way, but as a practice with your partner you could do it for a few minutes each day.
Both partners should be comfortable. Both partners should be at a good temperature – since cuddling is going to increase this temperature. And neither partner should be experiencing their limbs going numb!
Make sure you are not forcing your partner to smell your under arm.
You can add in other spiritual elements or items that have proven health benefits to augment the experience as well. Soft music and candles would definitely add to the experience if you asked me. 🙂
Please comment below if you have some thing to add to this discussion!
Happy Cuddle Time!!