As temperatures plummet and the holiday season approaches, singles are on the lookout for a cozy companion to share fireside moments while watching snowflakes dance gracefully. The official kickoff of cuffing season has arrived, and everyone is scoping out potential partners to partake in festive activities.

While cuffing season isn’t a novel concept for the younger generation, the unspoken rules and workings of this seasonal phenomenon remain elusive to many. According to the Urban Dictionary, cuffing season, prevalent during fall and winter, sees individuals who would typically prefer singledom suddenly yearning for a serious relationship. The colder weather and extended indoor hours lead to heightened feelings of loneliness and a desire to be “cuffed.”

But what fuels this sudden urge for companionship? Psychologically and biologically, there’s a connection between cuffing season traditions and the dropping temperatures. Research done by the Baker Medical Unit shows that the brain’s production of serotonin was directly correlated with the amount of bright sunlight present at a given time. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps transmit signals in the brain and is often referred to as the “feel-good” chemical. Imbalances of serotonin directly affect our moods, bringing on serious feelings of depression and anxiety.

cuffing season

According to psychologist Dr. Susan Albers, “When the temperature drops and it gets cold earlier, there is often a change of mood connected with the two chemicals of melatonin and serotonin in your body,” Albers continues to explain how these cold nights often trigger vigorous feelings of loneliness, revealing that there is a correlation between cuffing season and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD, a form of depression occurring during fall and winter when sunlight is scarce, manifests in symptoms such as low energy, diminished interest in activities, and profound loneliness. Many individuals with SAD cope by seeking out relationships, as love and intimacy significantly impact brain function.

While SAD may manifest in warmer months, its connection to winter is often attributed to holiday-related stress and challenging weather conditions.

During the beginning stages of meeting a potential partner, dopamine levels, a chemical associated with reward and pleasure, skyrocket. As the CuriouSTEM article states, “The nerve growth factor, a neurotrophin, increases our emotional dependency on our partners…serotonin levels decrease, which increases desire. Displays of affection such as cuddling, kissing, and hugging increase the peptide hormone oxytocin.”

Oxytocin is another hormone often referred to as the “love hormone.” It is released during activities that foster social bonding, including physical touch and intimacy. Feelings of love have a vast impact on our brains, activating the pleasure center during the moments we experience it.

Research done by the National Library of Medicine also reveals a biological connection to cuffing season. The study concluded that there is a seasonal pattern to testosterone levels in men, “​​[The] lowest testosterone levels occurred in months with the highest temperatures and longest hours of daylight.”

This means that testosterone levels in men peak during the winter months, and with this peak comes a heightened sex drive and energy level. The researchers found a 31% difference between the lowest month (August) and the highest month (December), certainly proving the influence of hormone activity on seasonal dating dynamics.

While love and relationships can be positive, there are downsides to cuffing season. It’s a transient phase, limited to fall and winter, leading to short-term relationships. Although some may extend into spring and summer, cuffing season can prompt individuals to commit to relationships they might not genuinely desire.

The holiday season amplifies societal ideals surrounding couples and relationships. Movies centered on love, family introductions, and partner-dependent activities create pressure for everyone to be in a relationship. This pressure can drive individuals to hastily enter relationships, compromising standards for convenience and availability.

Cuffing season experiences vary widely. For some, it’s a positive venture that may evolve into a long-term commitment or end amicably. For others, it may spiral into a toxic relationship. Participants must establish ground rules, emphasizing healthy boundaries and clear expectations. Honest communication about the terms and conditions of the relationship minimizes the risk of emotional harm.

Above all, self-assurance and contentment with singlehood are vital before entering a relationship. Societal expectations shouldn’t dictate relationship decisions. Embracing solitude and self-discovery during singlehood is challenging but essential. Understanding oneself lays the foundation for establishing relationship preferences when reentering the dating scene.

Whether cozied up with a partner by the fire or navigating chilly winter nights solo this cuffing season, taking time to self-reflect and reassess relationship standards is paramount.

References

Cleveland Clinic. (2023, November 27). 8 strategies for dating during cuffing season. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/cuffing-season

Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal affective disorder: An overview of assessment and treatment approaches. Depression research and treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4673349/

Suet Yann Melanie Kwan- CuriouSTEM Staff. (2021, June 18). The psychology behind love and romance. CuriouSTEM. https://www.curioustem.org/stem-articles/the-psychology-behind-love-and-romance

Dr GW Lambert PhD a, a, SummaryAlterations in monoaminergic neurotransmission in the brain are thought to underlie seasonal variations in mood, Rudorfer, M., & Lambert, G. (2002, December 6). Effect of sunlight and season on serotonin turnover in the brain. The Lancet. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140673602117375

Svartberg J;Jorde R;Sundsfjord J;Bønaa KH;Barrett-Connor E; (n.d.). Seasonal variation          of testosterone and waist to hip ratio in men: The tromsø study. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12843149