By Samantha McKenzie
Have you been touched today? It sounds silly, but there’s a scientific reason why most people like to be hugged, touched and cuddled.
Nestled in the base of our brain lies the posterior pituitary gland which produces a hormone called oxytocin. Known more commonly as the “cuddle hormone,” this miracle peptide is released when people come in contact with doses of warm hugs, loving gazes, or hand holding.
But it doesn’t stop there. The hormone is released in women during and after pregnancy, extends to nursing mothers and is credited for increasing the bond between moms and their newborns.
Nature’s miracle drug is responsible for making us feel incredibly affectionate in our new or existing relationships. It’s no surprise that when the skin is caressed, massaged or simply glided over, we get goose bumps, chills and ultimately experience bursts of joy. My friends and I call it being on “Cloud 9.”
Experts recommend couples cuddle for at least 10 minutes after they get home from work. No talking, no looking at your SMART devices. Put aside dinner and the task list and just hold each other. Hold on to each other. The practice, they say, releases surges of the hormone that helps reduce stress, deepens your relationship and increases your bond.
Touch is one of the five senses that does not diminish in old age.
The hormone also is said to boost your immune system, lower your risk of heart disease, relieve pain and reduce social anxiety. People who are greeted at the door with a hug when they arrive at a party tend to have a more optimistic and pleasant experience. That hug induces the proverbial exhale and lessens nervousness.
Don’t underestimate the power of touch. Next time your child is sick and you snuggle them up in your arms, know that you are helping them release a hormone that makes them feel better and relieving some of their pain. Next time your spouse has a rough day at work, try offering a soft touch to the temples. You’ll be helping them release the stress and promote good feelings.
Hold hands during your next walk in the park.
Give goodbye kisses in the morning and late at night.
Get a massage more often.
Spend time spooning in bed.
Share more hugs with people you care about.