The touching – and proven – power of cuddle therapy

How a hug can change your day – and your wellbeing.

The power of cuddle therapy

Are you a touchy-feely type? Do you love to give and receive a good hug? 

YourLifeChoices member Linda forwarded a video recently that rammed home the power of touch. Animals don’t lie! But there are groups in Australia – and across the world – that have taken the power of touch to a whole new level. It’s called cuddle therapy and involves professional cuddling ‘parties’ and one-on-one sessions.

Fairfax Media recently reported that massage therapist Jasmina Bacic was moved to investigate the health benefits of cuddling after moving from Serbia and leaving behind her widowed 71-year-old mother. Skype took care of the communications but warm embraces could not be duplicated – and their importance particularly for older people cannot be underestimated. Ms Bacic then discovered professional cuddling.

“I thought, ‘Oh my god, what are they doing?’ but then I eventually realised it was a great idea," she told The Canberra Times.

She did a course with Cuddle Professionals International, and is now a ‘professional’ cuddler.

“At my sessions, some clients prefer just a quiet hug session, while others prefer to chat while we hug,” Ms Bacic said.

“Some clients cry most of the first few sessions, but once their pain is cried out, they become very chatty and happy.

“I have an autistic client, who also has many other issues, and it is really a pleasure to work with such a client, because normally they struggle making eye contact with other people – but (they) snuggled up close to me right at the start of the first session.”

She explained that there were clear rules about cuddle sessions, such as wearing practical, comfortable clothes – no lace, nighties or short shorts – but that it was not uncommon for patients to get aroused. 

“When that happens, it's normal. It's perfectly okay and there shouldn't be any concern as it's the body's normal reaction.

“When people relax, their bodies do, too. It's a safe environment, so the client knows they cannot act on it. So it goes away. And we will re-adjust positions for less intense contact.”

Group cuddle sessions can last up to an hour and costs vary between providers.

US Touch Research Institute CEO Dr Tiffany Field says it has been proven that touch calms the nervous system and lowers blood pressure and levels of stress hormones.

A recent study published in scientific journal PLoS One investigated the effects of a good hug and found those who were hugged were less affected by ‘conflict exposure’ or interpersonal conflict than those who weren’t hugged. The gender of the huggers didn’t matter, and neither did the context of the relationship (romantic, familial or platonic).

The study said that touch deactivates the part of the brain that responds to threats; in turn fewer hormones are released to signal a stress response, and your cardiovascular system experiences less stress.

Need any more convincing? 

Are you a hugger? Do you believe touch has a big role to play in wellbeing?

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