Very few things in life are as wonderful as snuggling up with someone you love. When you look at the anatomical image of a human heart, it looks nothing like the heart symbol we all adore. But, when two people meet chest to chest, their hearts come together as one to form the familiar heart shape we often use to depict love. It’s as if our hearts are puzzle pieces that fit perfectly in the embrace of one another.
In fact, a warm embrace does more for your health than you might think! Taking another person into your arms sends a signal to your pituitary gland that releases a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone is often called the “feel-good hormone” because of the comfort, connection, and relaxation it brings. But there is more to this cuddly little hormone than the sense of comfort it evokes. Oxytocin is an incredibly powerful compound that can improve several aspects of your health.
Here are ten reasons why you should embrace snuggling this Valentine’s Day (and every day, for that matter!):
1. Protects Your Heart
Beyond a gesture of love, snuggling has also been shown to physically protect your heart. Researchers have found that wrapping your arms around a loved one can help to lower your blood pressure and decrease your heart rate. The more frequently hugs are given and received, the more stable blood pressure and heart rate become. These protective benefits are believed to be caused by an increase in (you guessed it) oxytocin levels! Oxytocin is a cardiovascular hormone, which means it is known for having heart-protective properties.
2. Relieves Chronic Pain
Nearly 25.3 million adults in the United States have reported experiencing chronic pain for longer than three months. Many of my clients who struggle with chronic pain have shared that it disrupts their daily lives and ability to function normally. I often share with them the importance of physical touch. Studies have shown that the oxytocin released during a comforting embrace can bind to specific sites along the central nervous system and significantly reduce chronic pain.
3. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Not only do you feel your stress and worries melt away, but a good cuddle can aid in the reduction of anxiety by helping you reconnect to the present moment. In addition to releasing oxytocin, physical touch also helps to lessen stress by reducing the level of cortisol secreted by the body. Cortisol is our body’s designated stress hormone. Therefore, hugs prove to be an effective way to cope with stress and anxiety.
4. Helps With Weight Loss
This benefit may surprise you, but snuggling up often can help reduce your cravings! Yep, you read that right. Close contact with a friend or your significant other can help your body release hormones (hello again, oxytocin) that keep you fuller for longer. In turn, you end up eating less, which can help with weight loss. So, bring on all of the hugs for appetite control and improved weight management!
5. Boosts Immunity
At this point, is there anything that a comforting hug can’t do? That’s what the pathogens you are exposed to may think to themselves – because they don’t stand a chance against a cozy snuggle. In fact, research shows that when individuals are exposed to a cold virus during periods of heightened stress, hugging results in less severe illness signs. Therefore, physical touch may play an important role in boosting the immune response and preventing infectious diseases.
6. Reduces Inflammation
In addition to boosting your immunity, hugs from a friend, family member, or romantic partner may also lower your risk of elevated chronic inflammation. More specifically, daily snuggles have been shown to reduce pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. This finding is important because inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases, including heart attacks, diabetes, stroke, mortality, as well as viral infections.
7. Aids in Digestion
Snuggling doesn’t only release the hormone oxytocin – it also releases serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and hormone that is predominantly found in the gut. Therefore, it plays a vital role in proper digestion. It mainly aids in gastrointestinal motility, helping to speed up digestion and rid the body of toxic substances. With more frequent snuggling, the more serotonin you produce to aid in digestive functioning.
8. Speeds Up Wound Healing
The serotonin and oxytocin released during cuddling also help to speed up wound healing! Certain bacteria in the gut, namely Lactobacillus reuteri, may be able to utilize oxytocin to produce wound-healing properties. In addition, the platelets in your blood release serotonin in order to decrease blood flow and form blood clots to help with the wound-healing process.
9. Improves Sleep Quality
It is no surprise that snuggling up with your significant other also improves your sleep quality. During a cuddling session, the hormones serotonin and dopamine help to improve the duration and quality of your sleep. Serotonin is also essential for producing melatonin, a hormone that encourages rest and controls your sleep cycle. One study revealed that the longer you spend time in bed cuddled up with your partner, the better your sleep quality will be.
10. Builds a Better Bond
Of all the benefits of snuggling, an improved bond with your loved ones has to be the most rewarding. Not only do cuddles help build a better bond with your significant other, but research has also shown that it improves the bond between a mother and child. Oxytocin is the primary hormone released during breastfeeding and skin-to-skin cuddling. For both mother and child, oxytocin is able to reduce stress, as well as produce feelings of comfort and connection – all of which contribute to improved health.
As you can see, snuggling is an exceptional way to improve your heart health, reduce stress, aid in weight loss, boost your immune system, help with digestion, alleviate inflammation, speed up wound healing, improve sleep quality, and connect with your loved ones. If you are looking for additional ways to support your overall health, feel free to book a one-on-one session with me here.