Cuddlers, rejoice! Today is your day! January 6th is known as “National Cuddle Up Day”. Celebrated annually during what can sometimes be the coldest period of the year, this celebration of snuggling is meant to keep our hearts and our bodies warm. So if you’re like Buddy here, bust out your fuzziest blankets and read on for some of the benefits of cuddling and some fun ways to celebrate Cuddle Up Day, today and every day!
In addition to cuddling being a great way to keep warm and just feeling good, a regular routine of some solid snuggles can actually have health benefits!
Cuddling releases oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love, lust, and labor” hormone. Love, because it produces those same warm, fuzzy feelings you get when watching a Hallmark romance, but that desire to bond and feeling of affection is applied to your partner. Lust, because it boosts our sex drive and gets us feeling a stronger sexual attraction to our partner. And labor, because women in labor get a huge natural rush of oxytocin to help them give birth with less pain. Oxytocin can help relieve other kinds of pain, too, so if those stiff joints and winter aches have you feeling down & out, cuddling may be just the prescription!
Sexy snuggles, especially with our romantic partner, also release dopamine, the reward hormone. Dopamine encourages our brains to seek pleasurable rewards, including sexual pleasure, so a regular boost of dopamine can increase our sexual desire and libido. Once the reward is earned and the dopamine is flowing through our systems, it can provide feelings of satisfaction, and can also increase memory and focus. This cuddling combo cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters that are released actually means cuddling can lower blood pressure and reduce stress and anxiety! If only our health insurance would cover creating time for cuddling, we might all be better off!
While it’s probably not as much of a thing anymore due to Covid, you literally used to be able to hire “professional cuddlers” to help get your fix if you didn’t have a loved one at home for a regular dose of snuggles. It’s THAT good for you! These physical and mental health benefits are still present even when the cuddling is done in the context of a platonic relationship, so whether you get your fill from the love of your life or a cuddle puddle with friends, enjoy getting cozy with someone, and you can reap all the same rewards!
Cuddling is also an important form of nonverbal communication, and a key one to spend time on with our romantic partners. Physical touch, even outside of sexual intimacy, communicates trust & commitment, and also provides a sense of safety and reassurance. Quite simply, cuddling makes us feel cared for and protected, while also knowing we are caring for and protecting our partner. Cuddling is one important type of physical touch which can express these feelings and communicate these things, all of which are vital to a healthy relationship.
Fun ways to celebrate cuddling:
Location, location, location
Cuddling is usually all about comfort, but don’t be afraid to get creative with your chosen cuddle venues, either. If your snuggling is done almost exclusively in bed, switch things up a little and try the couch sometimes. Or the floor. Or a hammock. Or a beanbag chair in the basement. Or those comfy movie theater recliners or cuddle chairs…don’t be afraid to pack a blanket! Or on a beach towel on vacation. You can cuddle anywhere you are, and the novelty of a new location can keep it fun and exciting. While some may cringe at the thought of “PDA” (public displays of affection) cuddling is a very socially acceptable and adult form of intimacy, so you don’t have to be afraid to get your cuddle on anywhere life takes you, even in the public eye. Anyone who would judge you is just jealous! More likely, you’ll make any passersby say, “Awwwwwww!”
Get A Massage
If you don’t have someone around to cuddle with, never fear! Booking an appointment for a massage is your next best option. Studies have shown that receiving a professional massage therapy session is the next best way to experience the physiological and emotional benefits cuddling can provide. The soothing human touch from a massage therapist’s hands produces the same hormone release as snuggling, aiding in relaxation, stress reduction, pain relief, and feelings of contentment. Whether or not you have a cuddle partner at home, receiving massage regularly can provide a wonderful wellness boost. One word of caution: massage can release lactic acid and other toxins from stressed out muscles that can lead to pain or fatigue if they stay in the body too long. Make sure you stay well hydrated with water before and after receiving a massage, or you may wake up with more soreness than you went in with.
Read to Each Other
Whether it’s the latest true crime saga you’re both enthralled with, or a steamy romance that’s sure to give you sexy ideas, reading aloud to your partner while cuddled up can be super hot. Cradle your partner comfortably in your arms with the book in front of both of you. You can take turns reading aloud, have one person read to the other, or if you both read at similar speeds, you can just lay there and read the same pages silently. There’s a reason that many people, when asked about their favorite memories from grade school, talk about remembering their teachers reading aloud to them. Sharing a story is a deep act of caring and communication and it can help us bond with people we’re close to and form positive connections and memories. Reading together before bed can have the added benefits of a better night’s sleep. The simple act of sitting or lying comfortably and reading at the end of a busy day is calming and relaxing, especially if you’re snuggled in close with your lover. Engaging with an absorbing text can also help you tune out other anxieties or racing thoughts that may prevent you from getting to sleep at night.
Experiment with your Cuddles
If you are already a frequent cuddler, you know you love it! Why not start to get curious and creative to find ways to make it even better? You can even treat it like a scientific experiment to begin to learn what feels best for you. Take stock of your physical and emotional state; perhaps rating things like mood, pain, or stress levels on a scale of 1-10 before you get started. Then get comfy in your favorite spot (or a new one) with your lover to begin the experimentation. Change up some other variables like your positions, blanket vs. no blanket, or with TV on or off. You can vary the length of your snuggles sessions, too. After you’re done, reevaluate your mood, pain, or stress levels…whatever you were measuring for…and see if they have changed. These experiments may be a tad subjective, but you’ll still have lots of romantic fun trying them to see if they help! If you don’t have a lot of time to get cozy, even just a quick but tight hug can release some of the same bonding and happiness hormones as cuddling, so sprinkle plenty of hugs throughout your day, too, and see if it leads to a noticeable mood boost!
Don’t forget your Four-legged Friends
Incorporating your pets into your cuddle time is another fun way to make sure you get bonding time with every member of the family! While many cats & dogs will voluntarily sleep with you at night or snuggle close on the couch, if your pets are a little more independent, make sure to pick them up and bring them in for some close, comforting cuddles from time to time. Whether it’s a “three dog night” or just a little chilly, you’ll both benefit from the warmth you’ll generate together. Don’t forget about your buddies with scales or feathers, either. Many pet reptiles and even birds enjoy and benefit from regular close contact with their humans. If animal allergies are an issue, it’s okay to set boundaries, like the dogs can cuddle with you on the couch but not in bed…though once they get used to enjoying extra snuggle time with you, I won’t guarantee they’ll always respect those boundaries!
Implement a Weekly Family Snuggle Session
One of my favorite memories from my childhood was how every Saturday morning, my parents would invite me to slink into bed with them in the morning for “family snuggle” time. There was never an agenda other than taking the time to just lay there close together and catch up on the week. Sometimes we would just talk, sometimes we’d watch TV, sometimes we’d fall back asleep for a bit, and sometimes unexpected tickle fights would erupt. Making time every week for some physical closeness and fun with your family can help you all bond, and allows your children to feel warm, protected, and cared for. This simple routine can even help children develop a more secure attachment style and a stronger sense of self-worth and belonging as they grow up. Figure out a time every week when you can all be together for a bit, then dive into your biggest bed or pile on your coziest couch and get your family snuggle time on!
Enjoy “Cuddles that go Further”
Cuddling is a wonderful and beneficial form of intimacy all by itself; it doesn’t have to lead to anything else…but it can if you want it to! Just like many good romantic relationships may start as friendships, many an innocent snuggle session can take an easy turn into sexy town. If physical closeness is a turn-on for you or your partner, you’ll have no trouble turning a romantic cuddle sesh into the ultimate foreplay. Sometimes cuddling just feels better naked, so if nothing else, it’s a good reason to get each other’s clothes off! Spoon, snuggle, and smooch with your partner ’til your heart’s content, then allow your hands to wander to their favorite erogenous zones when you’re ready to take things to the next level. Adding some other types of intimate touch, perhaps caressing your lover with a sensual massage oil or adding a fun finger vibe, can also help steer your snuggles into a steamy, dreamy time.