Stuffed Animals for Mental Health

four stuffed animals: a tan rabbit, a brown and white dog, a gray tabby kitten, and a golden lab puppy

People use acupuncture for stress, depression, and anxiety all the time. These conditions are widespread in our culture, and heading to an acupuncture clinic can help in a few different ways. The needles are obviously the biggest factor — acupuncture has been shown to be effective with these conditions in many studies. For the people who tend to fall asleep during treatment, the nap has its own therapeutic value. Putting your phone away for an hour and disconnecting from your stressors, letting your body rest in a relaxed position, and being in a space with soothing sounds/colors/textures also contribute to the experience. At Feel Better, we’ve added another option to help chill you out: stuffed animals!

It might seem silly to think about adults snuggling stuffed animals while receiving acupuncture, but if you give it a try, you might find that your treatment is even more relaxing. Most people are aware that interacting with live animals can have a therapeutic effects, such as when they’re used in hospice, with veterans, or as emotional support animals. But studies also show that touching or petting a stuffed animal also can lower stress, depression, and anxiety. Live animals have a larger effect, but hey — when you’re dealing with chronic depression and anxiety, every little bit helps. One study even said stuffed animals can help reduce existential angst!

Stuffed animal dog in the lap of a person receiving acupunctureIs it the reassuring small weight on your lap or under your arm? The feeling of the ultrasoft (fake) fur under your fingers? The brain making an association to  real pets you’ve loved and/or stuffed animals you snuggled with in childhood? Maybe all of the above? Whatever the reason, it really does seem to make a difference.

So! We have a selection of stuffed animals in the clinic — affectionately known as the Feel Better Snugglebuggles — that you can choose from if you’d like to give it a try.

From patients who’ve tried it:

“Wow, that was so relaxing!”

“I thought it sounded silly, and I thought I looked silly, but it was actually really comforting. I’d totally take a nap with that kitten again.”

“This makes me want to get a stuffed animal to hold while I’m at home watching tv or working on my laptop, it really did make me feel relaxed.”

So given them a try the next time you come in for a treatment! We have a couple of puppies, some kittens, and a rabbit to choose from. And you can hide them under a blanket if you’re still worried about looking silly. 🙂