A cuddle shop has opened in Portland, Oregon, where customers can purchase one hour of cuddling with owner, Samantha Hess, for 60 US Dollars (£40). The shop has already proved popular and received over 10,000 emails in its opening week, with owner Samantha taking on three new employees to accommodate.
The cuddle sessions at Cuddle Up To Me are strictly platonic and non-sexual. Before a session starts the client signs a waiver in which they agree to behave appropriately and remain fully clothed. Sessions are also filmed to further protect the safety of the professional cuddler and the person being cuddled.
This Oregon shop is part of a larger emerging trend in which cuddles are being sold as a commodity. Cuddle workshops and cuddle parties are springing up around the UK and therapists are offering cuddle therapy from their homes.
One cuddle workshop listing reads: ‘Cuddle Workshops are bursting with fun, connection, deep relaxation, laughter and healing. We include playful light exercises to get everyone in the mood, boundary setting practice, some real heart-warming exercises and of course our famously popular Cuddle Pods (where you get to receive your own cuddle wishes from your small group).’
Kitty Mansfield, therapist and owner of BeSnuggled, offers cuddle therapy to patients from her home: ‘While holistic massage has certainly helped my clients deal with their aches and pains, I always felt that there was a part of the jigsaw still missing. After much research into touch, its benefits and the impact of deprivation, I decided to open BeSnuggled.’
Whilst this may strike you as a bit of silliness and something to giggle or cringe at, human touch is essential to wellbeing and we are living in a society where platonic touch is in limited supply. Whatever the reasons to blame; stigma around touch, fear of reprimand, professional sanctions in the education and care sectors or online communication, in modern societies today we are touching each other less.
Be it a pat on the back, goodbye hug or simply holding hands, the US and UK are two of the most touch deprived societies in the world. Touch deprivation can contribute to depression and feelings of separation, aggressive behaviour, delayed development in children and adolescents, sleep problems, cardiovascular disease, a compromised immune system and a multitude of other health problems.
Research by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami shows that touch can reduce aggression, decrease prenatal depression and lower associated pain in conditions including arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain and headaches. Touch increases levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making us feel calmer and more positive. So powerful is the effect of touch that preterm babies receiving infant massage are proven to gain more weight and develop more healthily than preterm babies who do not receive massage.