If you are in a long-term relationship, chances are your partner gets on your nerves sometimes. He forgets to take out the trash for the millionth time, or she fails to put the cap back on the toothpaste, and it’s all you can do not to lose your mind. What if I told you that the benefits of cuddling more could actually outweigh the negativity of all of those annoying habits? Would you try it?

If you’re still with me, I’ll assume the answer is yes – good answer! So, what is it about cuddling that makes it a magical way to see your partner in a better light?

It all comes down to the power of physical affection.

Benefits Of Cuddling: Physical Affection

Physical affection – as in, hugging, kissing and good, old-fashioned cuddling – is one of the most powerful ways to keep the spark alive in a long term relationship. 

In fact, Drs. John and Julie Gottman, world renowned marriage researchers, found that when couples engaged in a 6 second kiss or a 20 second hug, oxytocin was released in the brain. 

When oxytocin, a bonding hormone, is released, all sorts of wonderful things happen. Blood pressure goes down, along with stress, anxiety, and even the risk of heart-disease. This means that hugging, kissing and cuddling don’t just feel good, the benefits of cuddling are actually good for your health!

While hugging and kissing can often lead to sex, the idea here is to savor these forms of physical affection on their own. Without the pressure of a successful night of orgasms, you and your partner can simply bask in the warmth of being together while letting your hormones do the work of bonding you and creating that warm and fuzzy feeling.

A couple exploring the benefits of cuddling

The Science of Cuddling

If you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that our bodies are made to feel better when we cuddle. Remember that hormone oxytocin I just mentioned as one of the benefits of cuddling? 

It’s the same one that gets released when a mother gives birth, allowing her to bond with her child. If you’ve ever seen a new mom cuddling with her baby, you know what I mean – it’s almost like she’s drunk with love. That’s how powerful these hormones are.

But the science of cuddling doesn’t end there. If you are a psychology buff, you may remember the famous research of Dr. Harry F. Harlow. Dr. Harlow used monkeys to demonstrate infants’ needs for physical closeness and affection. In his famous study, the monkeys were either given a wire “mother” or a cloth one. Some “mothers” came equipped with nipples to dispense food and others didn’t. Regardless of whether food was available, the monkeys chose to spend more time with the cloth “mothers,” showing that the benefits of cuddling can even be preferable to food.

The benefits of cuddling can even extend to your overall health and wellness. Studies have shown that the release of oxytocin can improve the quality and amount of sleep in patients with sleep apnea. Other research has found that a boost in oxytocin can even help improve your immune system. And when it comes to cuddling and anxiety, studies have shown that oxytocin can actually help reduce anxiety.

Two women explore the benefits of cuddling.

How to Reap The Benefits of Cuddling In A Relationship

So, now we understand how lovely cuddling really is and have a better understanding of the physical and mental benefits of cuddling. But, what if you are just not a cuddler? 

If you grew up in a family where cuddling wasn’t the norm or have never been in relationships where physical affection was abundant, it might feel awkward or annoying to reach out to your partner to give and receive warmth and affection.

If that’s the case, first, know that you are not alone. Many people who grew up in non-touching homes or who have been hurt in the past, have a hard time showing affection. 

If this is you, start small. Maybe make an effort to hold your partner’s hand more often or put your hand on their knee when you are sitting together. Then, as you feel more comfortable you can work up to the more touchy-feely stuff. Either way, remember that you are doing something good for yourself, your health, and your relationship when you reach out and touch your partner. The benefits of cuddling are simply too powerful to pass up!

A middle aged couple exploring the benefits of cuddling

Get Help Bringing Physical Affection to Your Relationship

If you’re struggling to incorporate physical affection in your relationship or are facing other relationship challenges that are making it hard to connect and reap the benefits of cuddling, an online individual therapist or online couples therapist could be a good fit.

If you would like to learn how to bring more affection in your relationship, contact us. We’re here to help!