The Link Between Affection and Stress

Stress is everywhere, and each person copes with it differently. Some people seem to be able to go through life without worrying excessively or sweating about little details. Others experience a great deal of emotional distress whenever they encounter the changes and problems of life. There are many factors that determine how a person responds to stress, and scientists believe that affection is one element that helps buffer the harmful effects that stress can produce.

The Importance of Affection

Studies show that people who give and receive affection frequently are less susceptible to the negative effects of stress. This may be because affectionate people release higher levels of oxytocin, which is a hormone that controls pain levels and that has a calming effect. The amount of oxytocin in their bodies gives them a sense of calm when they are faced with stress and anxiety. People who give and receive less affection still release oxytocin but their levels are lower and may not provide as much assistance in helping them cope with stress. Affection may also lower levels of cortisol, which is a hormone that is released when the body feels as though it is under pressure.

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Long-lasting Effects

The effects of a simple hug may last a lot longer than the embrace itself. Hugs may help people have a sunnier outlook and a better perspective the day after the physical affection occurred. This may be due to the release of oxytocin, but it could be because of the positive effect that physical affection has on a close relationship. When people who are close to each other show affection, they appear to be more trustworthy and are highly satisfied with their relationships. This allows them to experience an overall sense of fulfillment and joy, which can help them cope with the stress that they face each day.

Reaping the Benefits of Affection

Physical affection is best when it is exchanged in a close relationship because stress levels may actually increase during affectionate encounters with strangers. In order to benefit fully from the stress-reducing and long-lasting effects of affection, you should regularly hug a friend, kiss your spouse or snuggle with your children. You may find that you are less likely to worry excessively the next time you experience stress in your life.

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