Biology of Snuggling: Serotonin

I've been quiet for a while because I've been busy trying to network and explain to several audiences what it is I do. I found that people largely see what it is I do as solely an emotional support. While that is a huge aspect of the work I cater to (many of my clients are, in some shape or form, misunderstood or isolated), there's a much bigger reason why what I do is so effective for the people I work with.

Don't get me wrong. This work is great for people that need an emotional support, and I do provide that. I know for a fact I'm not the best person for an emotional support though. In fact, when I work with clients I ask questions about the other people they work with because I know I can't replace those professionals. They know so much more about how to work with people's emotional needs than I do, and they're trained to handle it on a much deeper level than I can (I can only help with the initial emotional coping and with starting some emotional guidance. Other than that, I simply point them in the right direction to other incredible professionals).

The work I do is also important for people that need a physical support. You can't get the physical support I give from a therapist, life coach, or a counselor. They aren't there to hug you. They don't sit with you and rub your back. They don't focus their physical touch on you. They don't literally ground you with their hands and body. They don't have a conversation with you about your platonic physical needs in that moment, be it on your back, your chest, your arms, hands, your hair... Those are things I do, and it's not only something that feels good, but biologically it helps your body naturally produce certain chemicals that you need.

It's a biological need to cuddle. People physically need that touch.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the concepts I'm about to talk about are based on some scientific theories and findings. Do note that scientific findings are subject to change as we discover and revise our findings on how the body works, and I am in no way representing a doctor or medical professional as far as this goes. That said, there is information out there I want my readers to be aware of on this level that will help them understand why this profession could be helpful on a physiological level. You're welcome to do more research on these and correct me; in fact, I welcome it (you can email me at sam@snugglewitha.pro with what you find).

And for you readers that think this might be too much info for you to take in all in one go, I bolded the essentials of the article for you so you can still enjoy this article.

When you cuddle, you produce a whole host of chemicals that are super beneficial for very specific body functions and mental regulation that you can't just get from talking out your feelings. But not only does your body produce these chemicals... but cuddling can help you regulate (meaning heighten as needed or lower as needed) production of these essential natural chemicals your body makes.

One of these chemicals made while cuddling that most people overlook is serotonin. Serotonin is most well known for regulating sleep (this is why couples that cuddle together get sleepy at night when they cuddle), but it's also known for helping with regulating hunger, digestion, and bone health.  It's also known as a natural mood stabilizer.

Note that serotonin is something that is produced from an essential amino acid, tryptophan. In order to regulate it, you also need to have this amino acid in your diet. This means you can get the building blocks to make serotonin in foods like nuts, cheese, and red meat. If you're lacking in these foods, chances are cuddling will help a little bit but getting these in your diet first will boost cuddling's effectiveness.

Anywho, serotonin is really helpful for the bodily functions we listed above, but it also has a direct effect on:

Stress: serotonin naturally lowers blood pressure, which means it helps you relax.

Anxiety: Much with stress, lowering blood pressure is huge for those with anxiety. Serotonin can also induce natural and more restful sleep rather than waiting until an anxiety attack exhausts you into going to sleep.

Depression: one theory on depression regulation has to do with new brain cell production, and serotonin helps with producing new brain cells which can help fight depression.

Sexual function: While professional snugglers are not meant to stimulate sexually and our intentions are on a therapeutic and platonic level, studies have shown that those with high serotonin levels that are lowered and regulated have a decrease in libidio (meaning hypersexual people may benefit from platonic snuggling as a way to regulate their urges). It can also work the opposite way: people with low libidios can have it raised through cuddling. (I cannot emphasize enough on this point: professional snugglers do not encourage sexual activity during sessions)

Lastly: There's a few ways you can naturally get some serotonin regulation, and widely accepted methods include exercise and sunlamp therapy. However, it seems that mood induction is also a natural and accepted way to increase serotonin levels. This means that, while not widely recognized yet, professional snuggling could later down the line be widely considered a natural way to attempt serotonin regulation.

Sources:

"Serotonin: 9 Questions and Answers." http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/serotonin#1

"Serotonin: Syndrome and Ways to Boost Serotonin." http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/kc/serotonin-facts-232248?

"Serotonin and Blood Pressure Regulation." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22407614

"Serotonin: Functions, Side Effects, and More" http://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin#what-is-it2