Jemastock/ShutterstockMillennials are the happiest generation, and that may be because they know how to take care of themselves. Recent research takes an even closer look at one seriously intriguing way that millennials are nurturing themselves: teddy bears.
In a survey of 2,000 adults conducted by Build-a-Bear-Workshop, it was revealed that 99 percent of all adults had a stuffed animal as a child. That’s not too surprising because, according to Shefali Tsabary, PhD, a Columbia University-educated clinical psychologist: “For children, a stuffed animal symbolizes warmth, comfort and playfulness.” But what might be more striking is that at least 53 percent of the adults surveyed still have at east one stuffed animal, either at their home or at their parents’ homes.
But not all of us put away such childish things: The survey discovered that one in three adults who have a stuffed animal today plan on continuing to do so indefinitely. And millennials form a large contingent among those on #TeamTeddy: One in four sleeps with a stuffed animal—they report that it provides them with feelings of comfort and security. And finally, yes: Ten percent of all men in their 20s admitted to still sleeping in bed with a stuffed animal.
Dr. Shefali (her preferred designation) traces this staying power of a stuffed animal all the way back to early childhood. When children form a bond with a stuffed animal, that bond helps them feel secure even as they begin the lengthy process of becoming autonomous from their parents, she explains. “In adolescence, as our bodies and our identities begin to change, we search for something that brings us comfort and reminds of a simpler time. Stuffed animals remain a steadfast object of comfort.” And clearly, that remains the case even beyond the teen years.
More than half of the adults who have stuffed animals say they’ve been holding onto them for at least 20 years. “Stuffed animals can hold memories that are extremely special for us and can remind us of an ideal time period in our life or relationship,” Dr. Shefali explains. “A teddy bear’s comfort may have helped us get through a difficult time, so it continues to represent an object that served an important role in our lives.”
If you don’t have a stuffed animal already, it’s not too late. Even with a new one, the soothing benefits remain, Dr. Shefali says. “Although the stuffed animal might be new, it’s symbolic of childhood, a time where we felt special and secure. The stuffed animal continues to be associated with these qualities and for this reason, old or new, the relationship continues to hold a special place in the adult’s life.”
The one time you might not want to keep a teddy bear is when it’s a leftover from a relationship you’re trying to get over. Here are some other ways you can help yourself get over a breakup.