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Exploring the playful world of slime therapy

TextKristen Bateman

Make it, run through it, get drenched in it Nickelodeon style – the sticky substance is now being used to help treat anxiety and depression thanks to its exciting colours and soothing sounds

Walking through New York City’s brand’s new slime institute Sloomoo, a man pours a waterfall of sticky coloured slime over a willing couple. Others run through a makeshift valley of puffy slime barefooted, and more people make their own batches of slime from Elmer’s glue and glitter. In the store, people of all ages are stocking up on different pots of slime, complete with colours and beads of all different varieties. 

The obsession with slime isn’t new. Just look at Instagram for example, where slime focused accounts rack up literally millions of followers. YouTuber Karina Garcia makes millions selling slime and slime supplier Zimpli Kids revealed it grew over 300 per cent in 2016, 60 per cent in 2017 and around 35 per cent towards the end of 2018.  The oddly satisfying sounds, shapes, and colours are no doubt transfixing. Because of this, slime easily lends itself to ASMR properties. 

But can slime itself actually help relieve anxiety or depression? Slime therapy is a big part of licensed therapist Katie Lear’s work with children and adults. “I find that even the most withdrawn, hesitant children in my office are captivated by slime. It’s the great equaliser: kids of all ages love it,” she explains. “Slime is a form of sensory play: play activities that engage all five senses. Sensory play is a grounding experience for children, helping them to develop an awareness of their bodies, become more mindful, and focus on something outside of themselves and their worries.”

Lear uses the practice with adults, too. “I sometimes hear that adults feel a little embarrassed by their interest in slime or other sensory play, but these sensory experiences don’t have an age limit,” she explains. “Lots of mindfulness practices for adults focus on awareness of our five senses. I keep lots of sensory toys like slime and sequined pillows in my office and find that adults are as drawn to them – if not more so – than kids. ”

Sloomoo is also capitalising on adult interest. Recently, Sloomoo hosted a CBD slime night, where people over the age of 21 could experience the wellness benefits of CBD and slime together. “Both slime and CBD are known for their stress relief and healing properties so it made sense to pair them,” explains co-founder Karen Robinovitz. 

Before creating the slime paradise with three other women, Robinovitz herself worked in a high-stress media job as the founder of Digital Brand Architects (DBA), the first talent management agency for digital influencers. She was inspired to create Sloomoo after making slime with her friend's daughter and her friend. “I’m speaking from a personal place. Slime helped me with terrible depression after experiencing excruciating loss,” she says. “Playing with slime engaged my senses in such a way that while I was experiencing it, it was nearly impossible for me to be in my sadness. That was how I fell in love with slime.”

Sloomoo works with a psychiatrist to understand the different benefits of slime and often posts about the mental health benefits of playing with slime on its Instagram account. The institute also donates proceeds to three mental health charities.

“Slime helped me with terrible depression after experiencing excruciating loss. Playing with slime engaged my senses in such a way that while I was experiencing it, it was nearly impossible for me to be in my sadness. That was how I fell in love with slime” – Karen Robinovitz, co-founder, Sloomoo 

It’s no surprise that using slime as a way to achieve wellness is becoming popular. After all, it falls under another trend we’ve seen lately: adult play. Grace Harry is leading the way in this field as a former music industry vetern in New York City. To cope with the stress, anxiety and depression Harry experienced while working,, exacerbated by multiple divorces, she tried pretty much every form of therapy, from life coaches to traditional therapists. 

Harry finally asked herself the question: “When’s the last time I felt so good snorted when I laughed or enjoyed walking around for no other reason than enjoying the day?” It dawned on her that she hadn’t felt that way since she was a kid, so she decided to start injecting a sense of youthful play into her and her friends’ lives. She set up mini easels in her living room and did extensive test play dates on everyone she knew (with colouring books, hula hoops, singing and dancing) before deciding she had something worth bringing to the masses. Harry coined the title ‘Joy Strategist’ for herself and has been helping adults “play” ever since.

Yet clinical psychologist Dr Christopher Ryan Jones cautions that while slime can help adults with mental health issues, it’s not a “miracle” solution. “Basically, the idea is that playing with slime can help change the focus of someone’s cognition,” he explains. “For example, someone with anxiety, who is overly worried about something that could happen in a few days, could, in theory, begin to play with the slime, and by doing so, become more focused on the activity than the faulty cognitions, thereby reducing their symptoms. This is very similar to other tools that are often employed by therapists, most commonly journaling.” Ultimately, though, it depends on the personality of the person and whether they like the fluffy, sticky texture, and sounds. “Some people could be grossed about by slime and in their situation, it increases their anxiety.”

“Slime has the potential to help people who suffer from anxiety, depression and other disorders.’ adds GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC. “The tactile sensation of playing with slime can serve as a temporary distraction from a person’s emotions and stress, which helps them to take a break and regroup, so they are better equipped to handle their stressors.”

At Sloomoo’s store, after watching people react with pure joy from getting slimed and making their own creations, I’m unable to leave without purchasing one of my own jars of slime. I choose a bright pink option, with hundreds of colourful tiny beads and a big plastic Takashi Murakami Flower charm in the middle, called Ginza Disco. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I haven’t been able to put it down since I bought it a week ago. The strangely satisfying tactile feeling of playing with it and watching all the pretty colours and textures is surprisingly calming.

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