What is it that you think of when you hear the term ‘cuddling’? Do you think of romantic excitement? Perhaps a warm feeling of security, safety, or contentment. It is probable that some would think of the term as strange, alien, or uncomfortable. But beyond that, what is cuddling?
The act of cuddling, when examined through a literal and secular viewpoint, is the physical, soothing contact between one and another. You can cuddle another person, a pet, an inanimate object, whatever soothes you the most, or a combination of it. There is, however, a certain emotional aspect to cuddling. When one ‘cuddles’ in a soothing way, the act usually generates a sort of inexplicable feeling. A natural comfort, or I could say a sort of contentment. But rather than just an emotional benefit, cuddling provides numerous little quirks and bonuses to those who do so happily.
The most physically visible effect of cuddling regularly, for the sake of enjoyment and contentment, is seen within the balance of a few different chemicals. An article byVanessa Van Edwards, written for the Science of People, explains these three in conjunctions. The main three effects upon hormones within the body are an increase in oxytocin, a reduction in serotonin, and an increase in dopamine. Strange words, so allow me a little of your time to explain.
Oxytocin is a hormone within the body researchers have been frantically researching for the past 20 years upon it’s beneficial effects to the human instinct of social interaction and ‘love’ when administered as a treatment. So far, researchers have concluded the chemical is a major influence upon someone’s proclivity to being social, to forming a bond, as well as the ability to pick up on social cues. Serotonin is a certain chemical that many would appreciate having less, however is still a necessary part of the psyche. Serotonin allows us to form anxious responses, and feel stress in times of… well… stress. Dopamine, a powerful substance, is responsible for pleasure; satisfaction of the self. When you generally feel a sense of having fun, you feel a release of dopamine. It is exciting, but too much for a harmful substance can form a dependance, also known as an addiction. It is best to obtain increases in dopamine through healthy activities such as exercise, cuddling, hobbies, etc.
Do not be ashamed of the desire to cuddle, even when an adult. Cuddling promotes safety, well-being, and good health for all, and even newborns or sick children. It aids in recovery, and helps mental health. When one inhibits the desire for contact, it suppresses these feelings into pent-up stress. This is no different than when told to ‘suck it up’, or denied the ability to release emotion. There is no shame to be had in the relieving contact with another, or another comfortable entity, for it is healing and allows you to perform your absolute best.
What if you do not have a Cuddle Buddy?
Stay tuned to Part 2 of this series on Cuddle Therapy.