In uncertain and scary times—from the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis to an ever-widening wealth gap and a society strife with human rights violations—mental health issues are at an all-time high. Enter Moon Pal, a five-pound anti-anxiety stuffed plushie here to give you a much-needed hug. Moon Pals have taken the internet, particularly TikTok, by storm, but what are they? Why are they so different from any other regular stuffed animal toy? Can they actually help with anxiety? Here’s everything you need to know about the cute cuddle buddy.
As someone who struggles with anxiety, trying to calm myself down (especially in the midst of an attack) does not come easy; I feel constantly stressed and with some of the problems listed above, you can probably relate. A big misconception around anxiety is that ‘it’s all in your head’. Not only does that diminish the validity of such a condition but anxiety also manifests itself in many ways—some being physical symptoms. Some of these include: weakness or fatigue, muscle tension or pain, nausea, trembles, digestive trouble and often, an increased heart rate. Trying to combat such symptoms in the moment can be difficult but Moon Pals may be able to offer that little bit of help.
There has been an influx of popularised weighted products designed to provide relief for anxiety—you must have heard of weighted blankets by now—and Moon Pals are the newest (and perhaps the most effective) rendition of the concept. While weighted stuffed animals have been used to help struggling children cope with any issues they may have, reports have shown that they have also been incredibly powerful for adults too, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there haven’t been any large major studies conducted on why weighted objects—particularly a soft-weighted toy—can help a person feel comforted, there is some research that explains this reaction. Director of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine Center, Chris Winter MD, told Thrive Global, “We are probably programmed to respond to the feeling of pressure from infancy… So when an adult is upset, we put our arms around them and squeeze them.”
“It’s likely that there is a deep-seated reflex and we respond to that tightening and pressure, as babies and adults. The pressure from the blankets can make us more relaxed and secure,” Winter continued. Soft-weighted toys may offer an even better solution to blankets as they are less restrictive in comparison. It may also relate to that inner child in you. Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania Philip R. Gehrman PhD also told Thrive Global that as a child, you may form an attachment to a toy when it’s time to sleep which then triggers that sleep response throughout your life.
“Parents are told that it’s good to build a bedtime routine for children, reading books and taking stuffed animals to bed. These transitional objects are associated with sleep and give off cues triggering sleep—and that applies to adults too,” he continued. There is no shame in having a cuddly toy to help you sleep, no matter your age. I feel slightly less embarrassed about my 20-year-old mangled teddy bear now. In fact, it’s been mostly adults raving about the Moon Pals online. Listen, we are under a lot of pressure, we need this. So, connect with that inner child of yours.
Their popularity seems a result of their unique and improved design in comparison to traditionally soft-weighted toys. Weighing at around 5 pounds, what differentiates them is the distribution of the weight across the body of the toy. The anti-anxiety toys’ weight is described as creating “magically weighted hugs [that] use targeted pressure points to optimally disperse Moon Pal’s weight.” Rather than situated in just the core, some of the weight is felt along the Moon Pal’s long 16-inch arms, placing gentle weight across your shoulders and upper body—feeling like a much-needed real hug. Just lay down with it or wrap its arms around you for an “anti-anxiety therapeutic experience.”
Not only are they functional, but you cannot deny their incredibly cute design—coming in a multitude of colours and names, there’s plenty to choose from. Their plush and soft outer casing, large ears and limbs are described as only further “enriching your sensory experience.” Promoting better sleep, relaxation, emotional support and calming effects, plus they’re cute? I’m sold! I want one. Heck, I might need one, but there are a few downsides. For starters, it costs an eye-watering $95 and only ships to the US. Typical.