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Snuggle Science: Why Hugs Are Good for Your Brain and Your Family Bond

Photo by Sally Anscombe / Stocksy United / 1044371
Photo by © sally anscombe/Stocksy United

We all know that nothing beats cuddling under the covers a snuggly kid and a good book. But did you know that cuddling with your kids is actually good for you?

Hugs actually help us form lasting bonds with our children—which is why we definitely recommend a daily dose of closeness.

Here’s why hugging is good for your health:

1. Hugs up levels of the love-and-trust hormone.

Even before a baby is born, a pregnant mother releases the hormone oxytocin into the brain and bloodstream. (Oxytocin is what causes contractions to move labor along, gets breast milk flowing, and helps create an intense bond between her and her child.) But this bond isn’t exclusive to the mom. Dads, partners, and adoptive parents can get a rush of oxytocin when they hug and cuddle with their children.

2. Hugs cement the parent-child bond.

When you cradle and hold your children, your brain releases dopamine—the pleasure hormone that signals reward. This cuddling “high” helps infants and children recognize your smell, and vice versa, which is important for bonding. The more you snuggle, the more you experience dopamine’s effects, which creates a cycle that makes you want to snuggle more. How great is that?

3. Hugs are good for your heart.

Snuggling—and the brain chemicals it releases—have been linked to health benefits for parents and children alike. A higher level of oxytocin has been shown to reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Yes, love and kindness may be the key to a healthy heart!

4. Hugs can make a boo-boo feel better.

Oxytocin and dopamine can even have an effect on pain. Cuddling with babies and children who are teething can cut down on irritability by making them less stressed and releasing brain chemicals to reduce inflammation and heal faster. Cuddling and kisses may not ease every kind of pain, but they can certainly help calm your little one, which is always a good idea.

In other words, when it comes to hugs and kisses, the more the better. So go ahead, open up your arms and your heart!

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