Here’s Why Cuddling Feels So Good, According To Science
It can literally reduce your stress levels.
Some people absolutely hate both the thought of cuddling and the actual act of it. They view it as way too personal and emotional, and they appreciate their private space more than you can imagine. Others can't get enough of it. They want to do it all the time and will take any chance to cuddle practically anyone. They love that sense of intimacy, and it just makes them happier. If this is you, you might be wondering, why does cuddling feel so good?
Some say human beings are natural-born huggers. We spend our entire baby years in the arms of either our parents or admirers, and many people feel the safest in the arms of their loved ones. If you're a hater and don't believe people out there love doing it, understand this: There are places where you can pay to have hour-long cuddle sessions. The world's first cuddling convention in Portland, Oregon made headlines in 2015, so I guess that pretty much says it all.
And what’s more, there's science behind it. For those who enjoy cuddling, it can foster feelings of closeness, bonding, and relaxation. So, go ahead and snuggle up to your SO — it’s good for you.
Why Does Cuddling Feel So Good?
Cuddling releases a special hormone called oxytocin, a powerful bonding agent that increases when you kiss or hug a loved one. Moral of the story: It makes you feel really good.
Dr. Marisa Cohen, Ph.D., MFT, relationship scientist, says cuddling can reduce stress and encourage intentional breathing. “Touch is powerful. Not only does it mitigate negative feelings, but leads to positive and loving experiences as well,” Cohen tells Elite Daily. “Research has demonstrated that touch can reduce stress and reactivity to stress, as well as promote feelings of security and trust. Cuddling can convey feelings of love and connection, and as such can increase well-being and relationship satisfaction.”
Couples therapist Krista Jordan, Ph.D., says the science behind cuddling stimulates your hormones and increases positive physical reactions. “Oxytocin is our ‘bonding’ hormone and helps us feel close, connected, and safe,” Jordan tells Elite Daily. “Oxytocin is also a pain reliever, so it can literally make us feel more physically comfortable. This hormone is naturally released during breastfeeding to help moms bond to their infants. We also release it during positive physical touch and during orgasm.”
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Because oxytocin makes you feel happy, it helps increase the hormones that fight off infections. So in a way, you're improving your immune system by cuddling. “Research done on touch has shown that just 30 minutes of positive physical contact can reduce circulating cortisol levels by as much as 50%,” Jordan says. “Cortisol is a stress-related hormone that, if left circulating in the body, can damage cells. So at the end of a stressful day, 30 minutes of cuddling is actually just what the doctor ordered.”
The strength of cuddling also lies in the way it can replace communication. You don't always have to talk or express your emotions verbally. A good cuddle can literally replace 1,000 words.
The oxytocin hormone makes you feel happier and, in turn, this leads to positive thinking. It lowers stress, anxiety, and fear. Who doesn't want that in their life? All of this will obviously lead to you in conquering the world. (It's not like you weren't going to, anyway. But this is like a little helping hand.)
Can Cuddling Make You Fall In Love?
Cuddling with your partner also often leads to sexy time. Seriously, you cuddle, you give a small kiss, you give a bigger and better kiss, and then bam. You're undressed, and before you know it, you’ve just had an amazing orgasm.
A 2014 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that couples who cuddled after sex tended to have higher levels of appreciation for their sex lives. Also, if you're looking for round two, there's no better way of getting it than cuddling after round one.
Jordan explains that cuddling by itself isn’t enough to fall in love with someone. “Cuddling alone isn't enough to induce a complex feeling like love. Falling in love with someone involves many different processes, from oxytocin to pheromones (which our brain uses to figure out our genetic compatibility for healthy offspring), to early childhood experiences of our first caregivers (attachment theory),” Jordan said. “Things like touch and smell and taste all contribute to feeling that this is the right person to make a long-term commitment to.”
So, don’t think that because you cuddled with that one Tinder date, you’re going to fall in love right away. It takes a lot more than just a good cuddle session.
Is It Bad If I Don’t Enjoy Cuddling?
Jordan acknowledges the trauma that some people associate physical touch with, so cuddling might be triggering rather than calming. “Interestingly I have found that people who are ‘touch-adverse’ often can tolerate some touch, often on their feet or back. So we start there, having their partner massage their feet or putting a hand on their back for a few minutes at a time. Gradually you can increase the person's capacity to receive touch so that they can derive the physical benefits from it,” Jordan says.
Of course, don’t force yourself to be comfortable with cuddling if it causes you anxiety or discomfort. But also don’t be afraid to open yourself up to new physical connections, romantic or otherwise. Cuddling is not for everyone, but the benefits, both scientifically and emotionally, are undeniable. If you’re up for it, give it a try, whether it’s with your cat, dog, or next Tinder date. It might be worth it for you to become a cuddler.
Muise, A., Giang, E., & Impett, E. A. (2014). Post sex affectionate exchanges promote sexual and relationship satisfaction. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43(7), 1391–1402. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0305-3
Dr. Marisa Cohen, Ph.D., MFT, relationship scientist
Krista Jordan, Ph.D., couples therapist
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