Affection is not a made-up thing by humans to encourage people to buy lavish gifts for their partners. It is a solid and true need that every human being has and it is ingrained into the very fiber of our DNA. The need for affection in humans is so strong that it comes second only to food, water, and rest. We are inherently social creatures by nature, and this is where our need for affection stems from.
What is affection
In its most basic form, it is the act of showing that we care about someone. The level of and type of affection can be seen as a direct correlation to how much we care for that person and the type of relationship. While it is not an emotion itself, it does bring on a strong emotional response for both the giving and receiving parties involved.
The science of affection
Whether it is being given or received, affection increases oxytocin and decreases cortisol levels in both parties. Oxytocin is our body’s feel-good hormone that relieves pain, relieves stress, improves feelings of trust and compassion, and gives us that feeling of overall well being. Cortisol is the stress hormone that wreaks havoc on our nervous system when the levels are too high.
Why do we need it?
While many people might think that their partner just wants more affection, it is, in fact, an actual need. We all have different levels of needing affection with some people needing affection far more than others. This imbalance can lead to tension in relationships and can result in a condition known as “skin hunger” for the lacking party. This is a direct result of not getting enough affection and the lack of oxytocin because of it. Skin hunger can play nasty games with our physical, emotional, and mental well being. It can show up the following ways: aggression, poor body image, high-stress levels, loneliness, depression, anxiety, fear of attachment, and mood swings to name a few. The only real cure for skin hunger is to receive affection from someone we care about and trust.
Who is affection for?
Affection is not just experienced between a husband and wife. It can be experienced between parents and children, other family members, and even between close friends or with our pets. While welcomed affection from someone whom we have a close relationship with will improve our wellbeing and reduce stress, it is the exact opposite that happens when the affection is not wanted from a stranger. Unwanted affection will cause stress, anxiety, and sometimes even fear.
How to show affection
Affection can be shown in many ways and should feel natural. We underestimate the impact that a lingering hug can have and how meaningful it can be to simply hold someone’s hand. Kissing between partners can cause surges of oxytocin and is something that is generally not experienced enough in long term relationships. The everlasting bond between a mother and child is built on those first moments of affection that they share through skin to skin contact at birth.
All scientific research and case studies have shown the same results, couples who show each other regular and genuine affection have greater relationship satisfaction and are happier in general. So build up your relationships by not being afraid to show affection to those you love.