5 Backed-By-Science Ways Hugs and Cuddles Are Healing
I love hugs.
Besides, there’s nothing like the warmth of an embrace from a loved one. It makes you feel good and the amazing things it does for your health is staggering. In fact, there is a biological reason for the feeling of affection all thanks to a hormone called Oxytocin.
This hormone is released from the brain’s pituitary gland and is commonly referred to as the “love hormone”. It is the hormone that peaks during orgasm and encourages bonding between couples. But, oxytocin does a lot more than that.
Studies have revealed that this potent hormone is responsible for multiple health benefits. Below, I list five ways how a hug or cuddle can enhance your health:
1. Oxytocin to the Rescue
Oxytocin is a mighty hormone that acts as a neural messenger in the brain. It supervises social interaction and releases behaviors such as generosity, empathy and orgasms. When we hug and/or kiss, oxytocin levels increase making us feel good. It is the medicine to hopeless and worthless feelings.
On the opposite end of the high-low spectrum, people with chronic pain typically have low levels of oxytocin. A study performed on children with recurrent stomach pain had low levels of oxytocin than children without the stomach pain. According to research, oxytocin was able to decrease the pain in people who were struggling with cancer, IBS and lower back pain.
Oxytocin is capable of reducing inflammation by boosting the T-regulatory cells and reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines. The T-regulatory cells are vital to the maintenance of the immune system balance. Boosting these cells aids in the prevention of autoimmune diseases and hyperimmune responses.
In addition, one of biggest signs and symptoms of increased heart disease risk are stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, and chronic inflammation. All of the preceding signs and symptoms are significantly lowered, thanks to oxytocin. So, be sure to hug it out on a regular!
2. Physical Touch Lowers Anxiety
Oxytocin potential to remarkably reduce lower anxiety can be beneficial in critical anxiety disorders like social and generalized anxiety disorders.
Dr. Eric Hollander of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, has had success in lowering stereotypical behaviors and enhancing sociality when administering intranasal oxytocin to high-functioning autistics. His findings revealed that oxytocin lowered the activity of brain regions that created the anxiety (1).
Physical touch has the ability to calm your nerves, so grab your darling’s hand and reach in for a hug to quell the anxious vibes.
3. Curb Cravings and Weight Gain with a Caress
Studies has revealed that oxytocin has the ability to lower the need to eat for pleasure and can increase the feeling of being satisfied and full (2). This allows you to make better food choices thus leading to weight control.
Oxytocin generally lowers your appetite and can possibly reduce your desire for sugar, but studies are pending to confirm it.
In a study conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, mice subjects was given oxytocin after being exposed to chronic stress (3). The findings concluded that oxytocin can help restore the normal gastric function.
Stress is a significant cause of gastrointestinal pain and appears that oxytocin may be the medicine for it.
4. Boost immune system with a Warm Cuddle
Cuddling releases serotonin also known as the “happy hormone”. This neural messenger is produced and has a home in your gut. It also works to keep your immune system happy and healthy.
One cool thing about the gut is that its home to about 75 percent of your immune system. It communicates with the brain and is known as the “second brain”. Those giddy feelings or butterflies in your belly are thanks to the oxytocin that is released and felt when you are around your honey.
Speaking of boosting immunity, people who hug often are least likely to get sick and even if they were sick, their systems are less severe. Cuddling boosts the regulatory t-cells which keeps your immune system stronger and well-balanced.
5. More Cuddling, Better sleep
It’s a struggling problem most Americans have: lack of sleep. In fact, close to 3 million Americans struggle with insomnia. Insomnia is a condition where a person has difficulty falling asleep which then results in drowsiness during the day.
A study has revealed that oxytocin increases the quality and the amount of sleep (4). Although research is still being evaluated in regards to how the hormone improves the mechanisms, cuddling up with a loved one seems to be very helpful in sleep restoration.
The benefits of hugging, cuddling and the powerful oxytocin remind us that human connection is an essence factor towards a collective wellness journey. When we take care of ourselves, we take care of each other.
(1) Psychology Today. The Oxytocin Cures. 10 Nov 2008.
(2) NCBI. Oxytocin and potential benefits for obesity treatment. Oct 2017.
(4) Psychology Today. Oxytocin, Sleep and Dreams. 27 Aug 2011.