It’s time to get snuggly.
Ever wonder why a good hug can cure a bad mood (or at least lift your spirits)? For many of us, cozying up to someone we love can give us a needed mood boost, reduce feelings of anxiety or depression and produce a calming effect.
The reason it works is rooted in science—specifically, a trifecta of hormones triggered by physical touch. Oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine are all released when cuddling or through other forms of healthy physical touch. Oxytocin is even nicknamed “the love hormone.” “It is known to calm and, when released, it can make it easier to deal with stress. It also [can] block pain signals,” says Alethea Bowen, a marriage and family therapist with Dignity Health Medical Group Behavioral Health.
When oxytocin is released, it can effectively reduce cortisol levels, leveling out stress and decreasing blood pressure. “If a person is OK with physical touch and having a bad day, it can create connection in feeling less alone . . . and give validation and support,” Bowen says. “It can support with creating a safe place without necessarily needing to have a discussion.”
While cuddling has benefits across the board, those benefits can also strengthen a specific bond. In a relationship, cuddling can increase the mind-body connection and actually create more connection. So, whether it’s after a disagreement or just a show of support after a bad day, getting close with your partner can have romantic benefits, as well. “Physical touch is not limited to cuddling and can also be holding hands, kissing, massage or hugging,” Bowen suggests. And in the case where physical touch isn’t possible due to distance, a Facetime or Zoom call combined with the use of a weighted blanket can mimic the effects.