Could snuggling save the (Western) world?
Having been a single woman for several years and coming from a family where there was a lack of physical touch, I am decisively cognizant of how much having a snuggle with another warm body matters to me.
According to scientific findings, a hug or physical touch can result in the release of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin (the feel good hormones) and a reduction in stress hormones such as cortisol.
Science is also finding that a lack of physical intimacy can lead to increased feelings of loneliness and that without touch babies can actually die of a disease named Marasmus, a Greek term meaning “wasting away.”
At the other end of the life spectrum, when nursing home residents suffering from dementia diseases like Alzheimer’s were treated with therapeutic touch, they had significantly reduced behavioral symptoms such as restlessness, searching and wandering, pacing, walking and vocalization. (Who wouldn’t love to know where one’s keys are?) These changes only required physical contact for five to seven minutes, twice a day for a period of three days.
Along with the increase in feel good hormones such as oxytocin and the drop in stress hormones, our immune systems benefit and our high blood pressure can decrease. Physical therapy has been found to be more effective than verbal social support at reducing the harmful effects of stress. From touch we can experience a positive effect on both our physical and mental health.
Conclusion—the importance of physical touch cannot be underestimated.
The Reverend Mike Young from Palo Alto, California sums up intimacy as defined by North Americans:
“We adults have limited touch to three areas. We allow the handshake and such similar symbolic, but safe gestures. We may touch in sexual intercourse. And we may touch in hostility, where one feeling—anger—protects us from the others that might burst out. That is just about it! So far as a language of touch is concerned, we have condemned ourselves to a sort of Pig Latin where, if we touch at all, our meaning must always be veiled.”
I think this might be about to change. In an era uncannily similar to the 1960’s wave of civil liberties movements, there is a palpable shift to a more feminine paradigm. Check out 1 Billion Rising, Uprising of Women in the Arab World on Facebook, One girl Organization and even John Ibbitson’s article in the globe and mail, the “Rise of women in Canadian politics is unmistakable and unstoppable.”
I am going to add that the urbanized culture plays a part in this current trend. I came to the last conclusion at a public discussion in Montreal called Man Overboard: What do Men Need to Thrive in Today’s Society?
It was clear to me that cities are environments for what is mostly feminine in our natures; we are gathering rather than hunting, cooperating and building community, seeking sensual pleasures such as fine dining and theater, engaging in communal group activities and embracing non-violent cohabitation outside of a family arrangement.
All these require gentleness, empathy and sensitivity in order to function. Hunting is restricted to making money, getting laid and road aggression and let’s face it, these types of activities are no longer getting good press.
A woman in Rochester, New York has jumped ahead of the curve and discovered what is needed in this new paradigm with her business called The Snuggery. For between $50 and $90, you can go to her lovely home and get a dose of cuddling. Just the thought of it makes me smile. No actually grin. And I love what Jackie Samuel says about doing her part to create a gentler world, “one snuggle at a time.”
Some people may think this is a form of prostitution. I will conclude from the introductory research that most of the men seeking the services of a prostitute are really craving the effects of a good, healthy cuddle. And we really have put men between a rock and a hard place without a societal standard to achieve intimacy other than being in an “acceptable” relationship or resorting to an escort.
We have in part the Catholic Church and even Islam to thank for this situation, and it is terribly out of date considering our modern day cities comprise over 3.5 billion people. Within that number, the percentage of single people is larger than ever and constantly rising. Although people are solitary for various reasons, it is no longer a justifiable restriction to not having physical touch in our lives.
What if people could get the physical intimacy they needed even if, God forbid, they had to pay for it? Would the world be a gentler place? I know prayer and meditation have been proven to have this effect and there are oodles of talk therapies, counselors and even sex surrogates to help us with our relationship problems.
The truth in me is that if I spend one more hour in my head talking about my angst with a supportive listener, I may just do something violent or at least stupid, if only because of frustration. I said it already—I was starved for physical touch. There was a lack, the need and when I get it my whole body relaxes.
I feel at ease, I feel nurtured and I feel peaceful.
In my opinion, The Snuggery is what could save a lot of us from ourselves and physical intimacy is what we need. And if we have to pay for it, so much the better for it being accessible. Thank you, Jackie, for having the courage to be a pioneer!
I would love to hear comments and feedback about this idea. Would you pay $60 for the chance to cuddle for an hour with a snuggle provider?
Editor: Jamie Morgan
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