It happened enough times that I came to expect it. I would attend a cuddle event and get very blissed out. Then at some point the next day, I’d feel sad. When this happened to me, it sucked, but I didn’t question it. As Cuddle Sanctuary has grown and the number of people who have come through our doors extends into the hundreds, I’ve noticed a pattern. Others experience it, too.
Cuddlers and Lactating Moms Have Stuff in Common
I found an article on a site for lactating mothers called KellyMom. It explained that, “It’s not unusual to feel tearful, sad or mildly depressed after weaning.” This is significant because the hormone released when people cuddle is one of the same ones that’s boosted when people breastfeed: Oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a hormone found in mammals like us. It’s known to generate feelings of relaxation, peace and empathy. The KellyMom article says, “There is very little research on the subject, but it’s hypothesized that hormonal changes are a primary cause of mood changes during and after weaning.” For cuddlers this would mean that after your boost of oxytocin goes away, you may feel sad.
The Plot Thickens
I wouldn’t hear about “oxytocin drop” from every attendee. Just a few. Typically I would hear about it from newer attendees who had been touch deprived for a long time before they came to Cuddle Sanctuary. This gave me a sense that a person can be really low on oxytocin, get a big boost and then feel a crash of sorts. I haven’t heard anyone in the field speak of being “low on oxytocin.” In my own experience, I’ve come to rely on the fact that if I don’t get enough physical connection, I feel depressed. If I get enough, I feel okay, good or great. So is there some minimum amount that’s optimal in the body? Based on my own experience, I’ve begun to use the concept of my “tank” begin empty or full.
Another piece of the puzzle: I used to get the next-day sadness, but now I don’t. Others at Cuddle Sanctuary have also reported their post-cuddle sadness has diminished over time with regular attendance.
If your “touch tank” has been empty for an extended period of time, a boost of oxytocin will result in a drop that feels like sadness. I’ll call it Oxytocin Drop.
If you get boosts of oxytocin regularly, you won’t feel a noticeable drop because your tank is being maintained.
What Do You Think?
Does this sound credible to you? Have you had experiences that support or refute my hypothesis? I hope that if you’re feeling touch deprived that this issue doesn’t keep you from the health and wellness benefits of a boost in oxytocin. If the possibility of oxytocin drop concerns you, read on.
Oxytocin Drop: Solutions
If you experience oxytocin drop, consider it a signpost that you’re on the right track. Your body is craving more oxytocin. I suggest that you honor that. I coined the phrase Optimum Daily Oxytocin to get you thinking about how you might boost your oxytocin as an ongoing wellness practice.
- Attend another cuddle event. Become a regular.
- Hang out with a pet.
- Schedule a professional cuddling session.
- Ask a friend or loved one for a hug. Then ask another. Then ask another.
I wholeheartedly support you in your quest to keep your oxytocin levels happily high.