The Dalai Lama once wrote…

We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.

He’s right. From infancy on, humans need affection in order to live healthy and fulfilling lives. We don’t all need the same amount of affection – any more than we all need the same amount of food or sleep – but it’s a rare person indeed who can survive and thrive without sharing expressions of love.

For people at any age, affection is more than just a luxury. Research shows that giving and receiving expressions of love – such as by hugging, holding hands, kissing, and saying “I love you” – is associated with many benefits to our relationships, our mental well-being, and even our physical health. Here are some of the most important reasons to be more affectionate in our close relationships.

Affection Releases Feel-good Hormones

Physical forms of affection, in particular, feel good to us because they elevate hormones such as oxytocin, which reduce pain and impart a calming sensation.

Affection Lowers Blood Pressure

Especially among women, receiving hugs from romantic partners is related to lower resting blood pressure. Whether the same is true for men is still unclear.

Affection Reduces Stress

Between spouses, increasing physical affection reduces everyday levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Affection Increases Satisfaction in Relationships

When people show more affection to each other, they become happier in their close relationships.

Affection Puts You in a Better Mood

For women, showing physical affection to a loved one results in an increase in positive mood the following day.

These benefits are part of the reason why it feels so bad to be deprived of affection. According to my own research, many people lack adequate levels of affection in their lives, and they suffer as a result. Just as the presence of affection is beneficial, affection deprivation is associated with a wide range of problems, including chronic pain, disordered sleep, anxiety, depression, and even a compromised immune system.

For these reasons and more, it makes sense to take advantage of every opportunity to share affection with our loved ones. Whether with our children or grandchildren, our spouse, or our close friends, sharing affection reconnects us to the people we care about and even helps us become healthier in the process.

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