It’s no wonder we love cuddling so much: “Touching and hugging enhance our mood and make us feel protected and safe,” says Manhattan-based relationship expert Elyse Goldstein, Ph.D. That's all the more reason to fire up Netflix and curl up with your sweetie.
And don’t feel left out if you’re single. Studies show mutual hugging benefits can happen with friends, parents, even babies and pets Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N, Dowswell T. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 May 16;5:CD003519 Neurophysiological correlates of affiliative behaviour between humans and dogs. Odendaal JS, Meintjes RA. The Veterinary Journal. 2003 May;165(3):296-301..
Here, we list all of the science-backed reasons to pursue premium cuddles.
1. It can give your immune system a boost.
You already know that when you’re stressed out, you’re more vulnerable to catching a cold or even the flu. But social support, including frequent hugs, protects stressed people from getting sick. And if they do become ill, their symptoms are less severe, according to research published in the journal Psychological Science.
If you can’t cuddle with a friend or significant other, you can always hit the spa: A single, 45-minute massage session not only melts those knotted muscles in your back but also is a boon for your immune system, according to a recent study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
2. It helps you face your fears.
Feeling vulnerable or afraid? Hold someone’s hand. When married women participating in a study were told they might receive a mild shock, their anxiety levels understandably skyrocketed. But their fear dialed back down as soon as they held hands with one of the male experimenters, and especially when they held hands with their husbands.
3. It can save your relationship.
Along with its close cousin caressing, frequent cuddling is essential for long-term relationship satisfaction, according to an international study that looked at relationship happiness and sexual fulfillment in committed couples Individual and Partner Correlates of Sexual Satisfaction and Relationship Happiness in Midlife Couples: Dyadic Analysis of the International Survey of Relationships. Fisher WA, Donahue KL, Long JS, Heiman JR, Rosen RC, Sand MS. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2014 Nov 5..
Amazingly, you don’t even have to be conscious for it to work. Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in England, asked more than 1,000 people to describe their preferred sleeping position and rate the quality of their relationship. His survey found that 94 percent of couples who touched and stayed in close contact while they slumbered were happy with their relationships, compared to 68 percent of those who didn't physically touch while they slept.
4. It makes your sex life better.
We already know sex itself can give you a healthy boost in all sorts of ways. But when you add cuddling to the mix, things get even better. One study found that couples who spend more time showing affection after sex, such as cuddling, spooning, and kissing, are more satisfied with their sex lives, which makes them happier with their relationship in general Post sex affectionate exchanges promote sexual and relationship satisfaction. Muise A, Giang E, Impett EA. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2014 Oct;43(7):1391-402..
5. It lowers your blood pressure.
Frequent hugs between spouses and partners are associated with higher oxytocin levels, lower blood pressure, and a lower heart rate, according to research. Considering nearly one in five young adults has high blood pressure, maybe it’s time to host a nationwide hug-in? (You know, in addition to exercise and eating right.)
6. It reduces cortisol levels.
When researchers at the University of Wisconsin asked young girls to give unplanned speeches and solve a series of math problems in front of a panel of strangers—something that would stress out even the calmest person—their cortisol levels hit the ceiling. Afterward, the girls received a hug from their moms, spoke with their moms on the phone, or watched an emotionally neutral video. Those who received a hug had lowered cortisol levels an hour after the presentation compared to the girls who watched the flick.
Science aside, there are many emotional reasons to cuddle up. “Cuddling is a comfortable way to communicate non-verbally,” says Goldstein. “It makes people feel connected and gives them a sense of understanding. It makes us feel that we’re not alone.” And it comes with loads of healthy bonuses. So give your friend/mom/date/pooch a squeeze, and get your daily dose of the good stuff.