Tenderness: na buntáistí agus na hiarmhairtí síceolaíochta

Clár ábhair

Tenderness: na buntáistí agus na hiarmhairtí síceolaíochta

A tender gesture, even for a few seconds, causes the secretion of several happiness hormones such as endorphin, oxytocin and dopamine. Cuddle therapy, an effective remedy against stress and temporary depression?

What is tenderness?

Tenderness is distinguished from sexual desire. It is rather a gesture of affection and benevolence towards another person whom we appreciate, in our friendships or in love. There are many ways to show tenderness, through a look, a smile, a hug, a caress, a kind word or even a gift.

If the social distancing imposed by the health crisis is currently in order, tenderness nevertheless provides many benefits. Cuddle therapy can now be practiced in the middle of the street with the traditional free hugs, a movement created in 2004 in Sydney, Australia by a person depressed at being alone in a city where they didn’t know anyone. There are also cuddle workshops, initially imagined in the United States, which are popping up in many cities. The goal ? Reintroduce tenderness and kindness into everyday life.

Tenderness, a vital need

A hug, a hug or even a caress provide necessary benefits for humans, especially during the first years of their life. Indeed, according to British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby, known for his work on attachment and the mother-child relationship, touch and tenderness are innate human needs. The skin to skin is also quickly put in place after birth to soothe and reassure the newborn.

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In the parent, this tender contact results in the secretion of oxytocin, a hormone of love and attachment, also activated during childbirth and breastfeeding.

In the context of his research, Dr Bowlby observes in particular that, during the Second World War, infants separated from their mother and not receiving affection develop serious disorders such as undernutrition, motor and mental retardation or still trouble sleeping.

A notion observed in primates

The need to touch oneself is also observed in our cousins ​​the anthropoid primates where delousing, that is to say the action of ridding one’s fellows of parasites and impurities, can extend over several hours.

According to Prof. Robin Dunbar, anthropologist and department of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, this social activity aims above all to “show support” and attachment to other members of the group. It is also a way of prolonging contact… and its benefits.

Recognized benefits against stress and depression

The release of happiness hormones into the blood, triggered by tenderness, reduces heart rate and blood pressure. Indeed, the production of endorphin helps fight against the stress hormone, cortisol. Dopamine and endorphin act on the well-being and the feeling of happiness of the individual.

This hormonal cocktail can also be effective in countering a small temporary drop in morale. It is not for nothing that World Hug Day is January 21, in the middle of winter, a period during which the risk of seasonal depression is increased.

Tenderness, necessary to develop attachment

If oxytocin, the attachment hormone, is secreted by the body during the various stages of motherhood, it also interferes in couple relationships.

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Proof that reciprocal tenderness is one of the pillars of a fulfilling romantic relationship, in a study published in the National Library of Medicine, Karen Grewen, psychiatrist and member of the University of North Carolina in the United States, observed that happy couples had higher levels of oxytocin in their blood.

A hug to boost your immune system

In addition to making people happy, tenderness would be effective against colds. In any case, this is shown by a study carried out on more than 400 people by the American psychologist Sheldon Cohen, of the University of Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburg in Pennsylvania. By voluntarily exposing volunteers to one of the common cold viruses, he observed that cuddling five to ten minutes per day increased resistance to seasonal viruses.


Boost the benefits of tenderness thanks to animals

To compensate for the lack of tenderness and contact of isolated or elderly people, some therapists or retirement homes use animals.

An animal mediation which allows to bring tenderness, to develop the exchanges and to decrease the feeling of loneliness. For example, the 4 pattes tendresse association offers animal-assisted visits to “create social and emotional ties” in a hospital institution.

Cuddle therapy soon to be prescribed by prescription?


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