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:
- Increases oxytocin—this hormone is great for our heart and makes us feel connected to the world around us.
- Drops cortisol—the stress hormone which makes us feel anxious and decreases our cognitive function.
- Triggers dopamine—the pleasure hormone which makes us feel really, really good.
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.
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!
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.
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