There's no argument against the fact that cuddling is good for you. Studies show that a good snuggle can relieve pain, lower your blood pressure, boost your immune system, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Essentially, it's proven to make you feel better. So this begs the question: Does cuddling affect depression? While there have only been a few studies aimed at answering this question, so far, the results are promising. It turns out that the chemicals released in the brain while cuddling could actually help those who suffer from depression to seek out help and support.
When you snuggle up to someone, your brain releases a chemical called oxytocin, which is sometimes referred to as the "love hormone" or the "feel good hormone." Your brain produces it naturally when you cuddle, hug, kiss, and have sex (and especially after orgasm). Oxytocin might be effective in treating depression, because it promotes empathetic behavior. This means it could help fight the urge to isolate experienced by many people who suffer from depression, according to a study done by Scientists at UC San Diego School of Medicine. I'll come back to this.
The act of cuddling also lowers your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that makes you feel anxious. So, lower cortisol means less stress. Plus, cuddling triggers dopamine, AKA the pleasure hormone. Essentially, there's actual science to back up the idea that physical contact with another person (or a pet!) makes you feel good.
If you experience depression, then you know that one symptom is that you tend to withdraw from those around you. As I mentioned above, giving oxytocin to people with depression could make them more prone to social activity. Oxytocin can lead to forming bonds with others and asking them for help, according to a study conducted in 2013 by Dr. Mark Ellenbogen. "Instead of the traditional 'fight or flight' response to social conflict, where people get revved up to respond to a challenge or run away from it, oxytocin may promote the 'tend and befriend' response, where people reach out to others for support after a stressful event," Dr. Ellenbogen told The Telegraph. This would be a much healthier way to cope with the symptoms of depression.
Scientists aren't necessarily saying cuddling will cure depression altogether, but they are certainly optimistic about the benefits of oxytocin. Basically, it could be a way to help relieve some symptoms of depression. "It increases overall happiness," psychologist, physical therapist, and author of bestseller A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness Elizabeth Lombardo told Shape.com. As an active proponent of cuddling, I can't argue with that.
If you need ideas, here are three ways to maximize your cuddle time and improve your overall happiness.
1. Have A Sleepover
The only thing better than cuddling is falling asleep while doing so. Invite bae to spend the night and cuddle to your heart's content.
2. Get A Pet
If you're ready for the commitment, consider adopting a dog or cat. Living with an animal is a big responsibility, but it also means unlimited snuggle time and guarantees a friend for life.
3. Cuddle Platonically
Who says you can't cuddle with your friends? Put on a movie and snuggle up to your bestie. You'll both be feeling better in no time.
Cuddling isn't a cure for depression, but it just might help get you out of a funk. Sometimes, science is the real MVP.
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