It’s the idyllic cold-weather, cuffing-season scenario: You’re laying on the couch by a toasty fireplace, donning your favorite fuzzy socks, sipping some hot cocoa (spiked, perhaps?), and cuddling up to the person you love. Everyone enjoys snuggling with their special someone — or, heck, even their special pet — but aside from the warmth and love we feel as a result, there are a few notable health advantages of the act as well. Rebekka Mikkola, a cuddle therapist (yes, this exists!) and the founder of Nordic Cuddle, a London-based cuddle therapy company, knows a thing or two about canoodling, and she shared with us what it can do for our well-being.

Couple cuddling on couch

When we’re feeling a little tense, touch can do the trick. During moments of stress, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol, which can diminish immune function, hence why we often get sick during these bouts. However, when we cuddle up with someone we care about, oxytocin is released. According to Mikkola, the oxytocin has calming effects and, for this reason, can reduce feelings of stress. Oxytocin also fosters feelings of trust and happiness, which not only aids in stress reduction but also helps boost self-esteem and empathy skills. Now that’s a triple threat!

Moreover, hugging, specifically, has been known to come with its own slew of advantages. (Read: You don’t even need to be lying down to experience the perks of cuddling!) Hugs alone have the ability to lower heart rate and blood pressure, which helps to protect against heart disease. The University College London published a study in 2017 that suggested affectionate touch can alleviate feelings of social isolation. Mikkola interprets this to mean that hugs could help people suffering from loneliness.

Lastly, snuggling is what Mikkola calls a “natural analgesic,” which means it can help minimize pain. “That’s why when a child hurts themselves, a parent often provides a kiss and a hug to make them feel better,” she says. More than just easing physical pain, cuddles provide comfort in the face of emotional pain too. Touch deprivation, a condition that occurs when someone has been deprived of necessary physical contact, can manifest as aggressive behavior, body image issues, mental health problems, and a poorly functioning immune system. By nature, cuddling is able to mitigate some of this trauma.

Mikkola is a proponent of family therapist Virginia Satir’s famous concept that a human needs four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth. “What we can be certain of is that hugs are important at every stage of our lives and can help us become happier and healthier as a result,” Mikkola states. Yes, this translates into lots of snuggles throughout our lifetime, but, hey, we’re not complaining.

Who will you be cuddling with this upcoming season? Let us know @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)