Who doesn’t have the desire for a warm, cozy hug on a cold winter day? Having arms around your waist, feeling your partner’s body heat slowly transferring to yours. And even more, being surrounded by a person who gives you the feeling as if nothing bad exists in this world. If you don’t have a partner but still need someone to hold you and give you this exact feeling of security, no worries. A new trend is arising that is getting more popular over time: you can order a ‘professional cuddler’.
Taking a deeper look at this profession, it becomes visible that ‘cuddlers’ can be found anywhere around the planet. Platforms such as Cuddlist or Cuddle Companions give people the opportunity to learn about the advantages of hugging but more important, people can book a cuddle therapy session with a person of their choice.
The mission of cuddlers is to “help people heal, relieve loneliness, listen to your problems, share your hobbies, and provide a comforting and caring embrace to anyone who may need it”, it says on the Cuddle Companions’ website. Cuddling is a non-sexual physical process, giving two people the chance to reduce stress hormones and enjoy the feeling of safety. The most important about cuddle therapy is that the client’s comfort is at the center of the session. The feeling of uncomfortableness is not the purpose of the meeting because everything happening should give the client some company and help out with insecurities.
The list of advantages that cuddles contain is almost endless. Research by the Texas Medical Center shows that hugging releases the hormone oxytocin in the brain which is also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’ or the ‘love hormone’. Especially in the time of Covid 19, researchers looked at the consequences of lacking human touch. They found out that there is a condition called touch starvation which means that the human body and psyche crave touch. A lack of physical company can have major consequences for people’s health. Because of the high production of the stress hormone cortisol, people’s heart rates might increase, and they might have problems digesting; high blood pressure can lead to an increased risk of infection because the whole immune system shuts down. The mental consequences are as important as the physical. Stress, depression and anxiety can affect people’s mental health state, resulting in sleeping problems.
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Since our skin is our largest organ, hugs have an impact on our whole body. According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, there is evidence that hugs have a positive influence on our physiological as well as mental well-being. Through the production of the love hormone oxytocin in the brain, people have the feeling of security and company. Oxytocin decreases the production of cortisol and also activates the pleasure centers in the brain. Hugging does have a therapeutic effect on people because it calms down blood pressure which leads to clients feeling calmer. By activating the reward center in the brain, cuddles can fight depression, physical pain, attachment issues as well as alexithymia. Researchers have also discovered a positive effect on the cardiovascular system because hugs lower people’s stress levels which can endanger health significantly. Hugs have a healing effect on pain and help build a stronger immune system.
In order to become a professional cuddle companion, you need to be trained. The demographic of people who are trained as cuddlers is wide, anyone over the age of 18 can do an online course. The most important to learn is to understand that professional cuddling is an experience of non-sexual human touch with pre-agreed boundaries and the client’s consent. Essential qualities of a cuddle companion are being open, understanding, empathic and non-judgmental of whoever is going to be the client. Every person has their individual reasons for booking cuddle therapy sessions and the cuddler has to be unbiased in order to give the client the right feeling of being there for them and having platonic interaction. Another important requirement for a touch physician is being a good listener. The session is about the client’s needs, says cuddler Trever Hooton at FM104. For him, hugging is one of his “passions for building human connections“.
Trevor charges his clients over 70 € an hour for his service. Often people misunderstand the job of a cuddler as being part of an escort service or even worse, a sex worker. Talking to Kieran Cuddihy at Newstalk, Trevor explains cuddling as a non-sexual interaction even though the bodies are touching a lot, they might be touching the whole session depending on the client’s needs. As a cuddler, he works slowly, he tries to get to know the person he is spending time with and assists them in overcoming the fear of physical touch. There can be a process where the client learns how “to be more comfortable with touch and express their desires to feel into it.”
To have more detailed impressions of what happens in a cuddling session, Saskia Larson explains the benefits of professional cuddles in the following video by Newsweek:
A whole session of cuddling is portrayed in the following clip, where a touch physician shows how she interacts and communicates with her client:
Physical touch can be very powerful. According to cuddler Trevor Hooton, “there is a lot that you can’t express through words but you can feel it through being in contact with another person.” Hugs are beneficial for people’s health since oxytocin counteracts the stress hormone cortisol, it strengthens the immune system, enhances clients’ self-esteem and therefore leads to a reduction of stress. Having a job that helps people through physical touch is special to professional cuddlers. There is no need to feel alone, a helpful hug might just be one click away.