Hugs and kisses are great, right? Well, maybe not necessarily from random strangers, but they can mean everything from the people you love. A gentle hand squeeze, a long embrace, a pat on the back — the power of touch may be something we sometimes take for granted, but it’s nonetheless something that can have a big impact on our mental health and happiness.
Why We Need Cuddles
We’re all different, so some people like more touch than others. You may not be the type of person who likes to cuddle, but you might like a high five when you’ve done a good job. It’s all up to personal preference, but touch is one of the many important ways we humans use to connect with others. It helps build trust and emotional closeness, and believe it or not, you may need it more than you realize.
Research On Touch
Touching releases the hormone oxytocin, which is known for lowering stress and increasing happy emotions. Sometimes if you’re having a tough day or feeling lonely, you may feel the need to get close to someone. Research has shown that having physical support during stressful situations can make the threat seem less frightening.
For example, a professor at the University of Virginia told a group of women they were going to receive a mild electric shock and measured their reactions while holding a stranger’s hand, holding their husband’s hand, or no hand at all. Just holding a stranger’s hand significantly decreased the stress response, while holding the loved one’s hand had the most effect.
So don’t be afraid to hug someone you love today, give someone a reassuring handshake, or cuddle with your pets. Even a therapeutic massage, while good for relaxing those muscles, can loosen up your mind as well. Feel free to experiment by paying attention and enjoying each touch of your day. Over time, you might find it lifts up your happiness.