Whether it’s your favorite cute unicorn or your cuddly oarfish plushie (because who’s judging nowadays), there’s always a soft companion for everyone. To the adults of the world, it goes without saying that picturing anyone of age with an army of stuffed animals thrown all over their rooms may be a little bit weird. However, maybe it’s just about time to toss judgment out the window and let go of unwanted bigotry. In a community where people have taken hundreds of steps forward for their mental health, perhaps recognizing the benefits of sleeping with stuffed animals is something all of us can finally take seriously.
For all the children who love their sleeping companions, you’re already on the right track. With that being said, here are the benefits of plushies to children and adults’ mental health!
Plushies are Not Just Toys
For starters, plushies aren’t just cute toys––they mean more than that. In 1953, thanks to Dr. Donald Winnicott, stuffed toys have been deemed as transitional objects––objects that can help children become independent from their caregiver’s comfort. An object that can teach the value of own perceived strength, in other terms.
Tsholofelo Jood, a Joburg-based psychologist, built on the statement and continued explaining how these toys allow the children to “explore receiving support outside the bounds of their relationship with the primary caregiver.” If anything, the child imprints their safety into the object––making it more than just any stuffed toy sitting on the side of the bed.
Sense of Security
It’s not at all surprising to know that adults and children use plushies in the same manners during times of change. Moving from one life stage to another can prove to be too much for an individual. As kids, letting go of your parents’ hands was enough to make you ball up and cry. As adults, moving from college to the working force, transferring to one job from the other, or living in one city to another––it undoubtedly comes in all shapes and sizes.
“In most instances, adults sleep with childhood stuffed animals because it brings them a sense of security and reduces negative feelings, such as loneliness and anxiety,” therapist Margaret Van Ackeren says. It is this sense of security––this one consistent thing––that has helped people to move gracefully from one place to another. If not gracefully, then slowly. All that matters is moving forward no matter the pace. In times of stress, it is the soft animal body pillows and the likes that have helped us navigate to our next direction.
Cuddly Stress Reliever
Cortisol (the stress hormone) has its way of infiltrating the body. If anything, this can be the match that can ignite the fire that is your mental health. By the time it comes to your attention, you’ll notice that you’ve already gained some weight, lost some hours of sleep, and maybe even burnt some bridges.
However, it doesn’t take a genius to know that animals like dogs and cats have the innate ability to counteract and reduce stress. In fact, petting these animals causes an admirable reduction in levels of cortisol in the body. In the same way, touching and cuddling plushies counter cortisol too. Who would’ve thought that a full-size whale shark plushie wasn’t only a known enemy to the planktons, but also to the pesky cortisol?
The best thing about reliving the past is the feeling of nostalgia––a psychological state of sudden and pleasant remembering. Sometimes, however, the past isn’t a good place to dwell on. It wasn’t just home to good memories but it has also sheltered some of the worst, most embarrassing, ones. On the bright side, nostalgia has made us happier and has given us something to be grateful for. According to Dr. Christine Batcho from LeMoyne College, being nostalgic of the past reminds us that we have no idea of what the future has in store but ”what we do know is that we know who we have been and who we really are.”
As kids, our vessels for nostalgia are simple––toys. It was the plushies, the action figures, the LEGO bricks, the dollhouses, and everything else in between that brought, and will still bring, our memories of the past. They are granted the powers to bring memories of parents and caregivers, playtime with the brothers and sisters, and all those nights we slept snuggled to our plushies.
Child Best Friends
A childhood brought by the internet isn’t the healthiest. Not only is it unhealthy for the eyes to look at tablet screens all day but it pays to nurture children at a young age. Plushies are toys that encourage children to be nurturing. If they are treated right and well taken care of, it is only innate for children to act gently and carefully on their stuffed toy bears through instinct.
In observation, many kids prepare beds for their plushies, host tea parties, and even feed them on some occasions. However, when children are scolded, afraid, tired, or really just overstimulated, the softness of a plushie proves to be an appropriate pacifying aid. According to Tsholofelo: “Stuffed toys are soft and cuddly for a reason; they are useful for kids to negotiate difficult developmental challenges. Parents are encouraged to collaborate with their children when choosing these meaningful toys.”
One thing we can’t forget is a plushie’s sentimental value. A number of adults still have their stuffed toys from their childhood days. When people grow older, anything can be sentimental and hold a very specific symbolic meaning. Whether it be as simple as a rock, a beachside shell, jewelry, and even plushies.
Most of the time, it isn’t the actual object that we hold near and dear to our hearts––but what it represents and symbolizes alongside all the memories it continues to conjure all throughout the years. What makes it different from nostalgia then, you ask? Well, the feeling of nostalgia surprises you––making it an unavoidable outside force. Sentimentality, on the other hand, is a choice. It is where one voluntarily keeps something for the sake of remembering.
Plushies will always be the knights guarding our beds. It doesn’t matter what age you are or where you are in life, what matters is what you’ve embedded in your soft and cuddly best friends. From helping you relieve your stress to making you remember the most innocent years of your life, your plushie has fought alongside you against your demons.
To the plushie that stayed through it all and will stay through everything else, thank you for being there on the loneliest of nights and the happiest days. The emotional support you have given is unimaginable considering your lack of, well, life. But rest assured that we will still be practicing wrestling moves, accidentally pushing you off the bed while half-asleep, and having long conversations––just like how we always do.