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The Power (and Science) of Cuddling


WARNING: This video on the science of cuddling is one of the most awkward things we have ever shot. Graphic cuddling will be shown. May not be appropriate for people over the age of 90.

Did you know you have a secret weapon?

You carry it with you every day. You were born with it. Sometimes it turns red and sometimes you have to get it checked. It’s also your largest organ.

It’s your skin!

Skin-to-skin touch is one of the most powerful feelings on the planet. For many, there is nothing better than getting a shoulder massage from a friend, a foot rub from a lover or a cuddle session from a partner. For some, touch can be terrifying—far too intimate, far too close and far too emotional.

The Power of Touch:

Our skin is our security system, our sensations detector and our gateway to the world around us. Touch is the very first sense we develop in the human embryo– less than eight weeks after being conceived, an embryo is barely 2.5 centimeters long and has neither eyes nor ears, but its skin is already highly developed.

Our sense of touch is also the last to diminish in old age.

In the first few months of life, touch is essential for a baby’s development. In a tragic example, Katherine Harmon found that babies left in orphanages who go without touch from adult caretakers are severely affected and are often unable to function as children.

The Science of Touch:

Touch releases special hormones in our bodies and also inhibits stress hormones. Dr. Tiffany Field found that when we massage premature babies, they gain approximately 45 to 50% more weight and are discharged from the hospital approximately six days earlier than premature babies who do not receive consistent touch. Introducing increased touch into preemie health care would save about $10,000 per preemie baby because the babies would go home 6 days earlier. If you multiply that by the 470,000 preemies born each year, we would save $4.7 billion!

Specifically, the right kind of touch can:

  1. Increases oxytocin—this hormone is great for our heart and makes us feel connected to the world around us.
  2. Drops cortisol—the stress hormone which makes us feel anxious and decreases our cognitive function. captivate, captivate book, vanessa van edwards
  3. Triggers dopamine—the pleasure hormone which makes us feel really, really good.

Want to learn more about the power of touch? Check out my latest book, Captivate:

 

The Power of Cuddling:

Cuddling is one of the most effective forms of touch because you can have full body contact with another human. It is so powerful that cuddle expert, Samantha Hess has made a business out of it.

Hess believes that cuddling—even with strangers can have a multitude of benefits. She has made cuddling a business! Some interesting facts about our visit:

  • At her cuddle studio you can choose a male or female cuddler. They can be same sex or opposite sex cuddle sessions.
  • She is strict. Cuddle sessions are not for sexual pleasure. She ‘has positions’ that can decrease sexual feelings.
  • You can choose from 4 cuddle-themed rooms—the ocean room, the forest room, the outer space room and the red room.
  • Yes, you have to sign a TON of paperwork before a session.
  • Hess has found over 58 cuddle positions that range from the Fortune Cookie (one seated in front and one seated behind) to the Blooming Lotus (cross legged facing each other with your legs intertwined).
  • Attire is “comfortable”—I struggled with this greatly, finally resorting to a pair of leggings and a loose blouse. She wore Lion King pajamas.
  • She asks you to come into a session clean, but free of fragrance. I broke this rule and wore 3 applications of my deodorant and my scented lotion—I was very nervous about sweating from nerves and smelling bad.
  • Sessions range from 15 minutes to 5 hours. Yes, really, 5 hours.
  • Cost: $1 per minute.

Would you try a cuddle session? Let me know! click to tweet

Cuddling Tips:

I did an hour long cuddle session with Hess where we tried a bunch of her cuddle positions. Since cuddling can relax you and connect you to your partner, I was able to glean some helpful tips for you to try at home.

  • Start slow! If you are not very comfortable with touch, but still want to reap the benefits, Hess recommends starting with easier positions—back to back while reading or side by side. Even that small touch can help warm you up.
  • Get creative! There are 58 cuddle positions (see some of the ones I tried in the video). Pick your favorites or try something new.
  • Respect Your Body! Sometimes shoulders can ache or joints can get stiff from staying in the same position for too long. Be sure to change it up.

Ok, that’s all I got for this post. I hope you learned a little more about touch and got a chuckle in from our video. Until next time!

Want to learn more? Read more about my fun (and occasionally awkward) science experiments in my book Captivate:

Book Descriptioncaptivate, captivate book, vanessa van edwards

Do you wish you could decode people? Do you want a formula for charisma? Do you want to know exactly what to say to your boss, your date or your networking partner? You need to know how people work.

As a human behavior investigator, Vanessa Van Edwards studies the hidden forces that drive our behavior patterns in her lab—and she’s cracked the code. In Captivate she shares a wealth of valuable shortcuts, systems and behavior hacks for taking charge of their interactions at work, at home, and in any social situation. These aren’t the people skills you learned in school. This is the first comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on human behavior and a completely new approach to building connections.

buy captivate on amazon

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a published author and behavioral investigator. She is a Huffington Post columnist and her courses and research has been featured on CNN, Forbes, Business Week and the Wall Street Journal. As a published Penguin author, Vanessa regularly speaks and appears in the media to talk about her research. She is a sought after consultant and speaker.


20 Comments


  1. Shana Compton

    Cuddling is becoming very popular! It was even on America’s Got Talent! The power of touch is powerful!

    1. Adam Kirkpatrick

      I saw that too!! Who knew that there was science involved in cuddling? Things like this is what makes the Science of People such a great site and a learning experience every time you visit.
      My thanks to Shana and Vanessa…

  2. Ian Pickering

    Dude, I got this email and had to see what this was all about hahaha.

    One thing I think is super interesting: I was actually watching Stuck – a documentary about orphans and global adoption last night. It is actually kinda hard to watch because you really feel for those.

    The reason I bring it up here is because they were talking about how these kids develop a lot of problems that are mostly due to the conditions in a lot of orphanages. A lot of these actually come down to a lack of stimulation and more so lack of physical connection to a parent. I wonder how much a few minutes a day of cuddling could help these kids.

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hi Ian! Thank you for your comment. I bet 5 minutes of touch/cuddling would do a world of good for those kids. There’s been a lot of research showing that lack of touch when developing can lead to many issues into adulthood–distancing, lack of empathy and lack of trust in both platonic and romantic relationships. I wrote down the documentary to check out sometime!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

  3. Robby Smith

    Anyone with the their primary Love Language as Physical Touch will understand why this article is so important. I always make my nephews and niece feel like they are loved with a hug or a pat on the shoulder.

  4. Bella Perennis

    The science part is pretty cool, but I find it a bit bizarre that there’s business for a cuddling studio. Isn’t it sad that we are cuddling so little that some people need to pay others for a hug?

  5. Bella Perennis

    The cuddling tips are cool. Not just if you want to open a cuddling studio. Would be a cool idea to start a cuddling habit with your best friends.

  6. Liam Hayes

    I’ve already tried one of these recently! It’s the one where the back of your partner’s head rests on your stomach, and you both watch television together.

  7. Nikki Thornton

    Love this! I make sure i give my kids great big bear hugs every single day! It makes them feel loved and it has a knock on affect for me! Cuddles great and maybe I should open up a cuddle workshop 😉

  8. Lauren Freeman

    I love this! I am a huge cuddler myself and a huge proponent of human touch. I definitely learned some new cuddle positions to try out! I feel like people think cuddling and human touch have a sexual element or undertone, which is not definitely not the case as it was mentioned that there are some Hess uses to decrease sexual feelings.
    When it comes to physical touch, one thing that has been an issue is that older people (I’m assuming 60+) start to receive less and less physical touch as they age. It really takes a toll on their mental and emotional health – I’m wondering that if we got the word out about the importance of cuddling/touch or even that there are cuddling businesses, older people might enjoy having that platonic human touch that is really vital to their health!!

  9. Nikki Thornton

    I find this interesting as i am personally not a touchy feely cuddly person… i habe children and i make sure that they get cuddles galore as i do know just how integral touch is to their development and happiness but me personally i can take or leave it. Perhaps i should try it more and i would end up loving it!

  10. Drishti Narang

    I’m a person who has had a ton of physical affection growing up- and I have benefited immensely. Touch has been a big part of keeping me feeling healthy, and I’m glad everyone is discovering the power of touch in our everyday lives.

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  13. Dan

    Wow! Would have never thought of a cuddle studio as a business idea, nice!
    Physical touch is one of my love languages and when I have a girlfriend, I will cuddle her to death 😀

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