5 Surprising Health Benefits of Love & Affection
Valentine’s day may be over, but that doesn’t mean you should cut back on your displays of love and affection. In fact, you may want to start showing more love year-round. According to research, physical affection has several physical and mental health benefits.
In an interesting article from Oprah.com, one expert suspects that as Americans, we may not be getting as much affection and intimacy as we need. Psychologist and director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University, Matthew Hertenstein, said, “Compared with other cultures, we live in a touch-phobic society that’s made affection with anyone but loved ones taboo.”
Here are five compelling reasons to be more affectionate with the people you care about:
- Boost Your “Love Hormones”
You know that “warm and tingly” feeling you get from a reassuring hug or gentle touch from someone you care about? Well, it’s not just in your head. Physical affection stimulates touch receptors under your skin and causes the production of a hormone called “oxytocin.” Oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone,” has been credited for a wide range of health benefits, as well as increasing the bond and trust in a relationship.
- Reduce Stress Hormones
Several studies show that, especially in romantic relationships, increased physical affection can lower the amount of cortisol or “stress hormone” your body produces. Physical affection can actually decrease the negative effects of stressful situations. Next time someone you care about seems overly stressed, in addition to listening to their worries, give them a big hug as well. Note: To fully benefit from the flow of the positive chemicals, oxytocin and serotonin, you should hold a hug for six seconds or more.
- Lower Your Blood Pressure
If you had a hunch that love and affection is good for the heart, you are absolutely right! One study found that women who received more hugs from their spouse or partner (even for only 20 seconds) had lower blood pressure, mostly likely due to increased oxytocin levels. Lower blood pressure has been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease.
- Improve Your Mood
The benefits of love and affection aren’t just contained to the moment that it’s happening. Engaging in physical affection with a loved one can increase your positive mood, not only the day it occurs, but into the following day, according to one study. So don’t skip that hug or kiss goodbye in the morning—it can actually stay with you and improve your mood throughout a tough work day.
- Boost Your Immune System
It’s no shock that when you’re stressed out, you’re often run down and more susceptible to catching a cold or flu. Research shows that human contact and social support, including frequent hugs, can reduce the likelihood that stressed people will get sick. According to a study in Psychological Science, even if they do become sick, symptoms will be less severe.
Regardless of your stage in life or relationship status, you should try to cultivate warm, loving and close relationships with the people in your life.
If you’re not really a touchy-feely type of person, or you feel like you’re not getting your daily dose of oxytocin, have no fear! You can get a similar effect by snuggling with a pet, heading to the spa for a massage, doing yoga, or cuddling up on the couch and chatting with a friend or family member. Even nurturing others or sharing a meal with a group of people can increase oxytocin.
Luckily, in a community like Havenwood Heritage Heights, there is never a shortage of caring relationships and affection for those who need it. Now get out there, give someone a big hug, and then say, “You’re welcome—I just improved your health!”