Cuddling, snuggling, and hugging: you wouldn’t think these actions could be linked to depression and anxiety, but recent studies have found that the simple act of cuddling can help people who suffer from these ailments. The reason for this is oxytocin, a hormone that your brain naturally releases into your system whenever you engage in cuddling, hugging, or physical intimacy. Scientists already know how oxytocin can make us feel, but recently they have been studying the effects this hormone can have on our behavior over time. For example, if you cuddle your baby enough, it may help to keep them from becoming depressed later on in life.
One of the studies on the effects of this “cuddle hormone” was published in the medical journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. This study involved two groups of people, one of which had been given oxytocin through a nasal spray. The study proved that oxytocin helped people overcome social rejection. However, a later study proved that receiving this hormone via nasal spray could lead to an increase in aggression. The best way to get anything is usually the natural way — in this case, by cuddling.
How Does Cuddling Work?
If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, cuddling will not only release oxytocin to help you feel better, it will also connect you to another human being, which is so important. One of the biggest challenges in treating people who battle depression and anxiety is isolation. It is the natural side effect of these diseases. When somone has an anxiety disorder or is depressed, the last thing they want to do is reach out for help, even though they know they need to. In fact, psychologists will tell you one of the telling signs that a loved one is depressed is how much they are isolating themselves. This can lead to wanting to sleep alone (they may say they are too tired, sore, have a headache, or their partner’s snoring is too loud). If you are depressed or have anxiety, do not get into the habit of sleeping alone. If you are not ready to talk to your partner about it, just tell them you are going through something and cuddling at night will help. Chances are they have already noticed something isn’t right and will be happy to be able to do something to help.
If you suspect your partner is dealing with depression and anxiety, they may say they just want to be alone, but the benefits of being held by someone who loves them outweigh the short-lived irritation they may express at your insistence. Cuddle up to your partner and hold them. You don’t even have to say anything — sometimes the act of cuddling can be all they need at this time.
What if You Live Alone?
Cuddling will be a little harder for those who live alone. One of the best solutions to this is getting a pet. If you aren’t allergic to dog or cat hair, owning a pet has several benefits — especially for those who suffer from depression and anxiety. If you aren’t sure, ask your therapist about it and, unless you are an exception to the rule, it is guaranteed they will recommend a pet. Not only will they cuddle with you, they will give you unconditional love and a reason to get up in the morning. If you cannot own a pet for any reason, consider talking to a friend about borrowing theirs. You could take a dog for a walk each day and spend time petting and cuddling a bit with it afterwards or go to a friend’s house to spend some quality time with their cat so it doesn’t get too lonely while your friend is at work.
Another way to get more physical touch into your life is to talk to your close family and friends about what you are going through. This is a hard thing for anyone battling depression and anxiety to do, but opening up about it and asking for a hug will help. The act of hugging will also release oxtytocin. However, if you really aren’t at a place where you feel that you can open up to the people in your life, you can try telling your loved ones that you don’t think you hug them enough, that life is short and you would wish you’d hugged them more if anything ever happened. Institute a hugging policy with your loved ones and you will be able to hug them each time you part ways. Some people just aren’t “huggers,” but for the most part, your loved ones will appreciate the hugs.
Featured photo credit: Bartashevich Karyna via shutterstock.com