Time for tenderness

By Laura TomassiniGilles KayserEric Engel Switch to German for original article

A firm hug, a teddy bear to cuddle, someone who gives you closeness: security and affection are indispensable for us humans, because if they are neglected, we become lonely. Especially in adult life, however, tenderness often takes a back seat to work and obligations.

When everyday life is stressful or something unfortunate happens, we look for closeness to others, the famous "shoulder to cry on". Physical contact also plays an important role in the happy moments of life, be it a hug between good friends or in the family, an encouraging handshake in the team or a caress from your partner. However, these expressions of security are not a matter of course for everyone, because adults in particular often struggle to give free rein to their feelings – or to find time for them at all.

"We live in a meritocracy and for many it is difficult to admit that they need affection and may not always know how to afford it themselves, " says Elisa Meyer. In her job, the professional cuddler helps other people to (re)find closeness and to reduce fears, stress and loneliness through physical contact. "People come to me who are lonely or isolated in some way. This can be people who have been in a relationship for a long time and have grown apart with their partner or no longer touch each other, singles who want to rediscover their courage to cuddle and date or are too shy to find a partner, people who are very stressed and have either already had a burnout or are on the verge of one, or people with other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and social phobias, " Meyer explains.

There are many reasons why someone would want to be cuddled by a stranger and all of them are legitimate, she says, because: "Cuddling, or positive touch in general, releases oxytocin, a happy hormone that is not addictive and has a relaxing, stress-reducing effect. So when you've had a good cuddle, you see the world, other people and yourself in a more positive light and feel better as a result." For one to two days, cuddled people feel the pleasant effect of the cuddling session, according to Meyer, and the general mood-lifting effect of oxytocin lasts up to two weeks in total.

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