When Jason Ambesi is not hugging a pole for his job as a utility worker, he is hugging strangers while moonlighting as a certified cuddlist, or professional cuddler.
The six-foot-one-inch tall, 250-pound tattooed military veteran, who can easily pass for a professional linebacker, hopes his touch therapy can heal those suffering from post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
“It’s proven: One hug a day gives you four days of better healthy living,” says Ambesi, 44. “Hand-to-hand stimulation, communication, talking and just being touched by someone releases oxytocin.”
Oxytocin is the feel-good hormone also known as the “cuddle hormone,” which gives a feeling of well-being when released by the body. A Developmental Review analysis reports that hugging can lower stress, decrease heart rate and blood pressure, boost immunity, reduce fear and pain, improve communication and increase self-esteem.
Ambesi, who spent eight years in the military — four years as an Army police officer and four years as an Air Force firefighter — admits he found it challenging to connect with others once he came back to civilian life.
“I was feeling empty in some scenarios,” he says. “My certification can help those soldiers coming out of the military. They have a hard time adapting to the civilian sector and my training in trusted touch therapy and awareness can help someone live a better day.”
Adam Lippin, a meditation and yoga practitioner for more than two decades, is the co-founder and CEO of Cuddlist, a service founded in 2016 that provides a safe, nonsexual, consensual touch therapy for people to connect in a society where many people are losing touch with others and themselves.
“We’re touch deprived, and most of us don’t even know it consciously,” says Lippin. “We all want love, acceptance and connection with other people. We’re social beings, and this connection with others is part of our emotional, physical and spiritual DNA.”
Before a session is booked there is a vetting process. All cuddlists establish ground rules during the meeting and, if either party feels uncomfortable at any point, they can end the session at any time.
Ambesi offers 30- and 60-minute sessions in his Plainview home. For those who need a hug right away and cannot travel, Ambesi makes house calls.
“I feel the therapy I give to someone else is actually therapy for me, too.”
For more information visit hudlz.net.