The Science Behind My Emotional-Support Blanket

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While some people have an emotional-support water bottle, I have what I like to call an emotional-support blanket. Not to be confused with a “blankie” gifted at childhood, my emotional-support blanket isn’t just one singular blanket I carry around everywhere. Instead, it’s any blanket that I can get my hands on.

It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 degrees outside or I’m visibly sweating after just finishing an intense HIIT workout; when sitting down, I will always place a blanket over my lap at any opportunity that presents itself.

Similarly to how people may enjoy placing a pillow over their lap when they sit down, a blanket provides an indescribable comfort for me. Psychologist Barbara Santini, a sex advisor at sex retailer Peaches & Screams, says that blankets can “increase the production and release of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins. Higher levels of these chemicals can make you experience emotional comfort.” This makes sense.

A blanket also keeps me warm and has become a safe barrier between my skin and the outside world. If my dog wants to jump on my lap, it’s a layer of protection from his nails. If I want to eat food in bed, it becomes a crumb catcher so I can sleep on sheets later that night without the tater-tot remnants. If someone in the room wants to sneeze without covering their mouth, it shields me from the gross, germy particles that could land on my skin. (Though this is not fact-checked, I shall continue to believe this even if it’s not true.)

“A blanket has become a safe barrier between my skin and the outside world.”

Clearly, a blanket for me serves many different purposes. But even more so, any blanket I place over my lap also offers tons of anxiety relief — more than any sort of herbal supplement I’ve ever taken. And because of that, you can bet I have a blanket placed across my lap during any work-related Zoom meetings or whenever I’m watching a scary movie in order to self-soothe.

Child psychologist Helen Egger, MD, cofounder of children’s mental health app Little Otter, believes my attachment to blankets could be similar to the benefits of using a weighted blanket, which “provide pressure stimulation that will relax the nervous system and is reputed to help people feel calm and content.”

“The idea is that the extra pressure stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and modulates the autonomic nervous system,” Dr. Egger says. In other words, this means by having a blanket over me, I could potentially respond better to stressful things as they arise — at least in a calmer manner.

Though there’s no definitive evidence that states that weighted blankets (or anything weighted, for that matter) is beneficial, there have been many claims that they can “reduce anxiety, insomnia, and other sleep dysregulation,” Dr. Egger says.

That said, I don’t need science to confirm what benefits a blanket provides for me — I know what to be true. And if you, too, want to try a blanket out for all the reasons above, allow me to put you on to two of my personal faves: the Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Throw ($147) and the Pottery Barn Faux Fur Ruched Throw ($143-$299, originally $179-$299).

As Dr. Egger points out, if you find something healthy that helps you feel calm and relaxed (just as a blanket does for me), you should keep using it. And you bet I will. Because for me, a blanket, all by itself in its ever-amazing glory, somehow does it all. Maybe after reading this article, it will for you, too.

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