A new shop in Portland, Oregon, has been making headlines for offering a rather unusual service: Platonic touching.
For $60, customers at Cuddle Up To Me get an hour’s worth of snuggly activities, from spooning to hair-stroking. And there are a lot of customers: People craving a good cuddle session are flocking to the shop.
“This business has taken off,” proprietor Samantha Hess told Fox affiliate KPTV. “I’ve gotten as many as 10,000 emails in a week.”
Before she opened the studio, the 29-year-old personal trainer was providing cuddling services at clients’ homes. Now clients come to her and her three employees for sessions in the studio’s thematically decorated rooms. Oh, and they're welcome to wear their PJs.
Hess told KPTV that the business is not sexual in any way: “We just make people feel loved and accepted for who they are.”
Yes, it sounds bizarre and maybe a little creepy. But Hess is on to something: A growing body of research suggests touch is the ultimate mind-body medicine. A little physical contact has been found to lower blood pressure and heart rate, relieve pain, improve your mood—even boost immune function.
The Oregonian reported that Hess's business plan isn't unique: Cuddling services are cropping up around the country, including The Snuggery in western New York and The Snuggle House in Madison, Wisconsin.
Not into snuggling with a stranger? Fortunately, there are other simple ways you can tap into the healing powers of touch without the help of a professional, or even a partner. Read on to learn how.
Learn the art of DIY massage
You know massage helps you relax. But did you know it helps fight off infections? When researchers compared the immune function of subjects who got a 45-minute Swedish massage and subjects who received 45 minutes of lighter touch, they found the massaged group had more white blood cells and fewer types of cytokines associated with autoimmune disease. DIY massage delivers many of the same benefits, says Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine. Try rolling a tennis ball over your legs and arms. Or position it between your shoulder blades and slide up and down a wall. In the shower you can use a body brush to stimulate pressure receptors.
RELATED: Which Massage Is Best for You?
Be a hugger
A warm embrace is a powerful stress buster. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that women who get more hugs from their partners have higher levels of oxytocin (the bonding hormone) and lower blood pressure and heart rates. But you don’t need an S.O. to get the perks of a hug: In an experiment at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, girls were asked to give an impromptu (and stress-inducing) presentation. Those who got hugs from their moms had lower levels of cortisol an hour after the event than those who didn't.
Snuggle with Fido (or Whiskers)
To anyone who has loved an animal, it’s probably not surprising that petting a dog is associated with a drop in blood pressure. But the benefits may not end there: studies suggest petting a dog can improve immune function and also ease the perception of pain. Experts say the same effects should come from other pets too. So go ahead and curl up with your furry friend—it’ll do you both a world of good.
RELATED: 12 Ways Pets Improve Your Health
With additional reporting by Norine Dworkin-McDaniel