From the moment I discovered the power of touch decades ago, it remains on the top of my ‘self-care’ list and something I have chosen, that I will not do without.
For me, cuddling, hugging and touch are like air; without them, I wouldn’t survive. Not very well, anyway. Limiting myself to share only nine reasons for my love of cuddling is going to be difficult and I’ll confess that I considered adding a few more … sneaking them in amongst the nine reasons. What harm could come from doing that?
Then I considered one of the first reasons having to do with my love of cuddling; the rules of boundaries and consent in place for both parties involved.
Now this places my short-lived plot to slip in a few more reasons in a different perspective. If I were to ignore the boundary set for this post without requesting the consent to add more, I would be doing a great disservice not only to my blog host, but to myself.
Honestly, it’s a relief at having to only consider nine reasons why I love cuddling. Now a reasonable boundary is in place and with this, a rather welcome structure to the project, much like a cuddling session where both parties know that they won’t have to do more than they’re comfortable with. This opens me up to truly enjoying the task at hand without needing to worry that it’ll go too far.
Needing to take a break from the stifling heat and humidity that’s seemed to permeate our lovely Garden State of NJ, I slip into a local Starbucks to treat myself to an iced coffee, opting to take advantage of the unusually small crowd and stay a while to work on my blog post.
A group of at least eight twenty-somethings are gathered together, taking up all the best seats so I choose a quiet table towards the back. As I begin to make notes for my post, I can’t help but people watch; something about this group draws my attention.
It’s obvious they’re here together but as I look closer, I realize they aren’t truly ‘together’. Physically, yes, but only three of the eight seem to be mindful of one another and fully present. The others are either on their phone or tablets, occasionally looking up at the person talking but it’s clear they’re not truly ‘hearing’ them.
One woman in particular catches my attention as she gazes almost longingly out the window and I wonder what she’s thinking. The look on her face seems to say that yes, she’s here with her friends so she’s not alone but in the same respect, she’s lonely. She sighs deeply.
“I’m still learning … still trying to be brave … still struggling to step outside my comfort zone and cross into a territory many might be uncomfortable with.”
Suddenly, I feel the heartbreaking disconnect of our over-connected society and have the sudden urge to stand up, walk over to her and ask her if I can give her a hug.
I stay seated, warring with the introvert within about stepping outside my comfort zone and going back to what I was originally here to do and mind my business.
Too often that’s the choice we make, the choice I made today, and one I still feel regretful for. I’m still learning … still trying to be brave … still struggling to step outside my comfort zone and cross into a territory many might be uncomfortable with.
This brings me to the second reason I love cuddling – it offers a forum to truly connect with another human being in a warm, safe, mutually welcoming space. To be present and mindful during the time spent together assuring that for at least that hour, neither of us feels alone or lonely. In this space and time, we are not; we have one another … unconditionally and without judgment or fear of rejection.
The third reason I love cuddling – the personal growth I gain each and every time I step outside of my comfort zone to contact a potential client. In doing so, I share a part of myself as we get to know one another, open myself to being awkward and vulnerable, setting the space for a mutual experience of exploration of touch and connecting as we embark on a session.
“With cuddling, though, I can choose who I want to cuddle with; not because of their gender, sex, age, orientation or any other societal based judgment quotient, but simply because their energy feels good to me and I know we’ll both benefit from a session.”
Time to stop people watching and get back to work. Six more reasons to go. As I’m jotting down a few notes, I feel a presence and glance up. An older gentleman is standing over me and asks if he can join me. A moment passes before I politely say no, stopping short of explaining.
I hold my breath. The world didn’t come to an end. An uncomfortable scene didn’t ensue. He seems nonplussed at my response, gives me a smile and walks away.
Before training to be a Cuddlist, I would have felt uncomfortable saying no to his company, fearing I’d offend him if I were to listen to my body and mind, actually take care of myself, and just say no.
The fourth reason I love cuddling – learning to say no and not feel guilty nor feel the need to explain. No. It can be a sentence. And learning to do so is having a positive effect in nearly every aspect of my personal life, as I imagine it does for my clients.
Feeling empowered, I focus on my list.
Considering what just transpired, I realize that the fifth reason I love cuddling is having the opportunity to meet and spend time with other human beings looking for a similar connection. With cuddling, though, I can choose who I want to cuddle with; not because of their gender, sex, age, orientation or any other societal based judgment quotient, but simply because their energy feels good to me and I know we’ll both benefit from a session.
“Knowing that one can explore and enjoy the delicious pleasure of touch and all the sensations doing so can bring, without the worry or pressure that it will go anywhere other than the strictly platonic boundaries already in place, is a freedom like no other.”
Which brings me to the sixth reason I love cuddling – The health benefits of physical touch. Our skin is the largest organ of our body and is very responsive and sensitive. Even a gentle touch releases the hormone “oxytocin” – the feel-good hormone – which helps relieve stress, lessen anxiety, depression and creates a sense of happiness and well being.
Benefits of Physical Touch
- Improves Mood: Platonic touch has been proven to release oxytocin in the brain, the feel good hormone, and studies show the giving or receiving of affection in ways such as hugging, cuddling, holding hands, etc. can help us feel better, relieve physical pain, reduce anxiety and instill a sense of calm.
- Lowers Blood Pressure: The feel-good hormone released during physical touch has been proven, over time, to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Reduces Stress: By having daily physical contact with someone, you can decrease stress, increase relaxation, and improved sleep.
- Improves Self-Esteem: Individuals who are touch deprived are usually less satisfied in their lives and relationships and may suffer from reduced self-esteem.
- Improves Sense of Well-Being: Touch deprivation can leave a person feeling disconnected and lonely from people, and society in general. By engaging in regular physical contact with others, one can significantly increase their overall sense of well-being.
The seventh reason (and perhaps one of my favorite reasons to love cuddling) is quite simply the pleasure derived from the touch and feel of another human being. With boundaries in place, consent having been discussed, and both parties in agreement, the cuddling can begin. Knowing that one can explore and enjoy the delicious pleasure of touch and all the sensations doing so can bring, without the worry or pressure that it will go anywhere other than the strictly platonic boundaries already in place, is a freedom like no other.
Human beings thrive on contact – physically and mentally. Cuddling helps individuals find relief from everyday stress, anxiety and even the loneliness induced by our virtual world with platonic physical interaction – cuddling, holding hands, conversing or any combination therein, all while in a safe, warm and confidential environment.
Knowing I am a helping introduce and perhaps instill in others all of the above benefits of cuddling (and those yet to be shared) is one of the most profound and humbling realizations of all and the eighth reason I love cuddling, for all it does for others and all it does for me. There’s no better feeling than that of my client letting loose a deep, content sigh and relaxing fully into my arms.
Gathering up my things, I head towards the door and head out into the fading sunlight. A few doors down, I see a man collecting money for a veterans organization. Walking over, I make a donation, noticing he, himself, is a veteran. I thank him for his service and ask if I can give him a hug.
He smiles in surprise and quickly says yes, so I give him a good, long hug … one filled with gratitude, unconditional love and genuine warmth. He hugs me back, returning the sentiment and commenting that I certainly know how to hug. We laugh, parting gently. He thanks me and I walk away feeling warm and elated.
This is the ninth and one of the best reasons I love cuddling. The human connection.
Karen is a Professional Cuddler with Cuddlist.com and she is based out of New Jersey(Hunterdon County, NJ / Lebanon and Clinton). Karen is a student member of the National Health Alliance, studying towards a ‘Cuddle Professionals International’ diploma & a sustaining member of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT). View Karen’s profile and book a session with her here.