A few months ago my roommate brought up an article that she saw about how physical touch, even something as small as a pat on the back, is great for your health. We laughed at first, joking that we should be more healthy and hug more, but since then my roommates and I have all developed this simple but awesome habit that truly makes us feel a little better.
According to a 2011 CNN article, something as simple as a hug causes oxytocin to surge through our bodies. Oxytocin is a hormone more often referred to as “the love hormone” or a “bonding hormone” because of the way it makes us feel when we make contact with others. There has been a lot of research done to prove that this can also reduce stress. As a lover of hugs, I was elated to hear this.
There are additional health benefits associated with touch, such as holding hands. The article states that holding hands with someone you feel close to can reduce the amount of stress-related activity that registers in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that registers pain. I guess this explains why I’ve always wanted to hold hands with someone when getting a tattoo or piercing. The squeezing factor can heighten your tolerance to pain.
Of all of these benefits of physical touch, my personal favorite has to be that cuddling with your pet is good for you also. Petting animals reduces blood pressure? COUNT ME IN. I am a huge fan of the petting zoo the Associated Students puts on every spring quarter. Spring can be one of the most stressful times of the year for students, myself included. It’s the end of the school year, finals are nearing, so why not take a minute and pet a bunny behind the ears? This year’s is coming up on May 24. I’m crossing my fingers for some wallabies again this year.
I take advantage of this stress relieving tactic every day when hanging with my cat Fanny B. I noticed that I feel more relaxed when I pet her, or on the rare occasion that she decides she’ll sit on my lap.
The CNN article says petting animals reduces blood pressure and pain because we are more focused on the animal as opposed to ourselves. I can’t complain about that!
So there are little perks here and there from those daily hugs and pats on the back. It’s as simple as it sounds. Next time I’m feeling stressed on campus, I am going to go find a pooch to pet.