When You Cuddle With Someone, This Is What Happens To Your Body

We know not everyone is the affectionate type. Raise your hand, loud and proud, if the side hug sometimes feels like a little too much human contact for you. Look, there's no shame in that. But even the frostiest of the emotional ice queens have to admit that a good, old-fashioned cuddle from the right person just does something to you.

Science backs up the claim that cuddling gives you the warm-and-fuzzies. Penn Medicine confirms that oxytocin — aka the feel-good hormone — is released by the pituitary gland when we give and receive physical affection. One of the many magical things about oxytocin is that it is compounded by nature, which means that the more oxytocin you release the more you want to show love to your people. It creates this kind of snowball effect that can deepen relationships in positive ways and, believe it or not, improve your overall health.

Cuddling your way to better health

Good love is good for you — body and soul alike. Psychotherapist Dr. Dana Dorfman and holistic integrated medicine specialist Dr. Eudene Harry sat down with Well+Good to detail the very real benefits physical affection can have on the body. Much of it comes down to those sweet, sweet hormones, oxytocin and serotonin. Aside from making you feel good, Dr. Dorfman says that oxytocin can quite literally counteract the effects of cortisol, the stress hormone. When cortisol levels are lowered, it promotes feelings of security and relaxation that lends to better sleep. She goes on to note that better sleep, lower levels of cortisol, and higher levels of serotonin mean your immune system is getting what it needs to do its best work, warding off illnesses that might otherwise have snuck up on you.

Dr. Harry noted that cuddling can even reduce physical pain. Another one of oxytocin's magical powers is that it can act as an antidote to physical and emotional pain. A 2015 review published in Current Pharmaceutical Design found that oxytocin was able to decrease chronic feelings of pain in people experiencing migraines and irritable bowel syndrome.

Live your best life, no matter your relationship status

Life is all about the change of seasons. Sometimes we might have someone we're happy to come home to, and other times we might find we're happier focusing on ourselves. But no matter what camp you're currently in, you can get all the health boosts of physical affection without a partner. Dr. Harry told Well+Good that snuggles and smooches from your fur babies can do the body good, too. And if your allergies don't allow you to house animals, Dr. Harry notes that while a weighted blanket or a stuffed animal isn't a substitution for human connection, they might be able to stimulate similar brain activity and provide you with feelings of comfort and well-being.

Hugs from friends can also give you the goods, says Healthline, as oxytocin and serotonin are also released when we give our loved ones a good, old-fashioned hug hello. According to Forbes, family therapist Virginia Satir says that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and 12 for growth.

So cuddle your partner, friends, cat, or toy squishies — who cares! Just cuddle. Doctor's orders.