OK. While I am totally aware of what cuffing season is (I even wrote a couple of pieces on it that you can check out here and here), I've gotta admit that I cracked up when I saw someone post an entire cuffing-related schedule.
As you can clearly see, we've already passed by the "scouting" portion of the program. Apparently, we are now in the "drafting" part. Anyway, as I was sharing this data with a male friend of mine, he went on and on about how important it really and truly is to have a "cuddle buddy" during the fall and winter seasons. "It's not even really about sex," he said. "You just want to curl up under someone with some wine and a blanket and watch some movies all day on the couch." Uh-huh. I've known this guy long enough to know that he doesn't just want to cuddle; however, his statement is what inspired me to write this article.
Cuddling. Have you ever stopped to think what that word actually means? When you cuddle with someone, oftentimes, you are giving them an extended and affectionate hug. When you cuddle with someone, you are embracing them to show love and/or warmth and care. When you cuddle with someone, you are expressing that you want to experience a relaxed sense of intimacy with them. Cuddling is precious. And it really is such a perfect physical act for the fall season. Not only that but it comes with some solid science-based reasons for why all of us should be doing it.
So, whether you are already booed up for the fall or you're still scouting some potentials to "cuff", here are eight reasons why cuddling is one of the best things that you can do as we prepare to enter into my favorite season of the year — autumn.
1. Cuddling Reduces Your Stress Levels
Oxytocin is a natural hormone that serves as a chemical messenger to the brain. One of the things that it has a reputation for is it causes people to bond with one another whenever intimacy (like kissing, sex and cuddling) transpires. That's why one of its popular nicknames is "the love hormone". Where I'm going with this is, when you cuddle with another person and oxytocin is triggered in your system, it permeates feelings like comfort, peace and calm which results in your stress levels dropping. A lot of health-related issues including heart disease, asthma, depression, headaches and even diabetes are directly tied to stress. That's why it's a good idea to see cuddling as a way to be proactive about keeping your stress levels way down, for the sake of your overall health and well-being.
2. Cuddling Increases Your Emotional IQ
If someone were to offer you a thousand bucks to define "alexithymia", would you be able to do it? Basically, what it boils down to is not being able to either recognize or define your feelings (I should probably write something on that, huh?). And just what does this have to do with cuddling?
Well, what some researchers have discovered is that when we cuddle, it actually increases our emotional IQ levels. That's because, typically, if we are comfortable enough to cuddle with someone, we're also comfortable enough to share with them our thoughts and feelings.
Hmph. No wonder pillow talk can be so effective in relationships. Interesting.
3. Cuddling Boosts Your Immunity
As we're headed into cold and flu season (especially while we're still in the midst of a pandemic…whew), it's important to be as proactive as possible about strengthening your immune system (check out "Ready To Try 10 Quick & Easy Immune-Boosting Hacks?"). Believe it or not, one way to do that is by cuddling up with someone. I'm not kidding. There are studies citing the fact that people who hug up often are less likely to get sick when they are exposed to the viruses that lead to colds and the flu than folks who don't. So, aside from boosting your Vitamin C intake, cuddling is a proven weapon against sneezing, coughing 'n stuff.
4. Cuddling Aids in Healthy Digestion
Are you someone who battles with bloating, nausea or some form of digestion-related discomfort? Somebody needs to hurry up and cuddle with you. I'm not kidding.
Remember how I talked about how beneficial oxytocin is when it comes to reducing your stress levels? Well, when your system isn't stressed out, that takes some of the pressure off of your digestive tract, making it easier for you to process the food you eat.
Out of all of the health benefits of cuddling, I think this is the one that tripped me out the most.
5. Cuddling Boosts Your Self-Esteem
I'm thinking this particular point is a given. At the end of the day, all of us want to feel wanted and when someone cuddles with us, that message is conveyed pretty well. And when we feel like someone is into us on this kind of level, that can do wonders for our self-esteem. And when we feel good about ourselves, we tend to be more intentional about making decisions that will be good for our mind, body and spirit. Yep, cuddling is an ego booster in the best way possible as well.
6. Cuddling Helps to Block Pain Signals
Most of us have seen a television show or movie where there's a scene that features someone holding another person's hand in the hospital as the patient smiles. Believe it or not, there is actually something quite real to that because there's data to support that when we're feeling bodily pain and our hand is held, pain signals get blocked and we're able to find some relief. If that sounds unbelievable to you, you can check some info on it for yourself right here.
7. Cuddling Makes You Feel Closer to Your Partner
Last year, Web MD published an article entitled, "Need Better Sleep? Get a Partner". Aside from some of the other benefits that I've already touched on, when you're cuddling with your partner, it's a proactive way of spending some much-needed quality time as you express love through physical touch. Yep. The couple who cuddles together has a far greater chance of staying together too.
8. Cuddling Gives You a Better Night’s Rest
Speaking of bonding with your partner, if you like to spoon, I totally get it. Indeed, I do. So, let me just close all of this out by saying that I am in full support of you and your "spooning partner" doing it more often because this type of cuddling actually helps you to remain in your REM state of sleep. That way, you can get more quality rest throughout the night, so that you can wake up feeling more refreshed in the morning. So, what are you waiting for, sis? Get to cuddling.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
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What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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Y’all, I ain’t got no lies to tell you. Personally, I am counting down the days until the obsession with resembling Mr. Snuffleupagus (the real ones know) goes away. Not that I don’t think there is something uber-feminine and sometimes even super glamorous about a long, lusty pair of eyelashes — but as one of my favorite quotes goes, “The excess of a virtue can be a vice,” and lashes are no exception. Lawd.
How To Grow Eyelashes Naturally
Besides, I wonder how many people who go overly long and thick on the extensions tip get that over time, that can do significant damage to their natural eyelashes — sometimes irreparably so. That’s why I think it’s important that, if you’re going to add lashes, you take the “less is more” approach. Oh, and if it’s because you wish that your own lashes were longer or fuller, you learn how to make that happen by taking a more holistic approach (while also being patient; it takes between 4-11 months for lashes to reach their fullest potential).
Starting with the following 10 tips on how to grow eyelashes naturally, you will be batting your natural lashes in no time, chile.
1. Take a Biotin and Collagen Supplement
It probably comes as no surprise to you that a supplement that’s associated with hair growth and thickness is the water-soluble form of vitamin B known as biotin. Skin rashes, brittle nails, and hair loss are all signs of having a biotin deficiency. If your lashes seem to be sparse or thinner than you would like, taking a biotin supplement certainly couldn’t hurt.
Speaking of supplements, you might want to add some collagen to your health regimen, too. Since collagen contains amino acids that help to build hair and can help to strengthen weak hair follicles — those are already solid enough reasons to take them for your lashes.
For the record, foods that are high in biotin include mushrooms, sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados, and broccoli. As far as collagen goes, foods that are high in it include bone broth, chicken, liver, berries, and aloe vera (bookmark that aloe vera point).
2. Keep Your Lashes Clean
So, here’s the thing about this particular point: Although you probably wash your face at least once a day (hopefully twice — once in the morning and again at night), if you’re not being intentional about cleaning your lashes, there could be some leftover mascara and other gunk on them that could end up weighing them down and/or drying them out. So, definitely wash them all on their own. Your best bet would be to use a super mild cleanser like baby shampoo so that your eyes don’t end up getting irritated in the process.
3. Condition Them with Aloe Vera
Since aloe vera is high in vitamins A, B12, C, E, and folic acid, that’s already a good reason to want to use it on your hair — and your lashes qualify. Plus, pure aloe vera gel is made up of almost 100 percent water, which makes it the ultimate conditioner for your lashes if you’re looking for something all-natural that will both soften and strengthen your lashes at the same time. To get the best results, a lot of women like to apply a small amount of aloe vera gel to their lashes before turning in at night and then wash the solution off in the morning.
4. Brush Your Lashes (No, Seriously)
Have you ever thought about what brushing your hair does for it? It removes tangles. It gets out debris. It evenly distributes natural oils. It reduces stress. It increases blood circulation. And for all of these reasons, it’s important that you brush your eyelashes on a daily basis. All you need to do is designate a clean wand for nothing but brushing your lashes. Then, whether it’s right when you wake up in the morning or right after washing your face, use the wand to GENTLY brush your lashes. First, do the top of them and then use the wand to lift them up. After a few weeks, you should notice your lashes appearing fuller. (You can check out a brief tutorial video here.)
5. Pay Attention to Shedding
Just like hair sheds on your head (50-100 hairs a day is considered normal), losing 1-5 eyelashes is the average amount to not worry too much about. However, if it happens to be more than that, lash extensions, leaving makeup longer than you should, or even relying on eyelash curlers too much can play a direct role in lash shedding. So, if you notice that your eyelashes are appearing thinner or parse, do a process of elimination first. If nothing changes, make an appointment with your doctor in order to rule out the possibility of other underlying health issues.
6. Apply a Castor Oil and Vitamin E Oil Blend at Your Lash Lines
I’m gonna be real: even though I know that medical experts have a resume to back up their claims, sometimes I will read articles on certain topics and still think they’re being haters. For instance, after reading that a dermatologist (via a Byrdie article) said that applying castor oil to your lash lines can hydrate your lashes, yet it won’t help them to grow, I have to admit that I rolled my eyes. I mean, if castor oil contains protein, antioxidants, nutrients, and fatty acids along with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and hair can benefit from all of these things, how could your lashes not, too?
And while you’re at it, break open one or two vitamin E capsules and add it to the castor oil. Vitamin E helps to reduce hair loss, increases shine, and helps to lock in hydration — all good stuff to know if you happen to use mascaras that contain some type of alcohol in the ingredients (and many of them do).
7. Put Tea Bags on Your Eyes
The herbs and tannins that are in herbal tea can do wonders for your eyes when it comes to doing everything from lightening the appearance of dark circles and reducing puffiness to speeding up the healing process of styes and even pink eye. So, what about when it comes to your eyelashes? Well, I’ve actually read a few places (like here and here) that green tea especially can do wonders for lash growth, in part due the caffeine that’s in it. Listen, some warm bags on tired eyes are the ultimate kind of low-maintenance pampering hack. Try it a couple of times a week. You’ll feel more relaxed, and your lashes could end up growing longer, too.
8. Have “Off Days”
No matter what you put on your lashes, it’s going to add a bit of “weight” to them — and anything that has weight will start to get worn out over time. That’s why it’s also a good idea to give your lashes “off days” from any kind of mascara, serum, or keratin-infused products. Sometimes, simply brushing your lashes and adding a bit of coconut oil (which adds protein) or lemon peel oil (which could accelerate lash growth) is all you need in order to pamper your lashes without the added stress and pressure of makeup. 1-2 days a week of this should be all that you need.
9. Use a Bit of Shea Butter at Night
Something that I’ve been getting into the habit of doing more and more at night is applying a thin coat of shea butter on my lips as well as on my eyelids. The fatty acids alone that are in the butter do wonders for my skin (especially when I use it consistently). Since shea butter has properties in it like linoleic, oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids, as well as anti-inflammatory properties, your lashes can only benefit from the moisture that shea butter offers as well as its ability to increase collagen production (which, again, is great for hair growth and elasticity) and promote stronger hair.
10. Keep Your Mascara Current
It’s kind of crazy that it was five years ago when I wrote, “When Should You Replace Underwear, Make-Up, Bedding, Washcloths & Towels?” for the platform. Anyway, as far as mascara goes, if you’ve got a tube that has been in one of your bathroom drawers for over six months, it really is time to toss it. Why? Because you really aren’t supposed to use mascara for longer than three months before getting a new tube. That’s how you keep bacteria and germs down to a minimum and the solution from getting so thick that it ends up being heavier on your eyelashes than it should be.
Oh, and if you’re looking for the kind of mascara that will help your eyelashes to grow longer, make sure that keratin is listed in the ingredients, along with peptides, vitamin B, and water (water should actually lead the pack). That way, you can be confident that while your lashes are appearing thick and full, they are receiving just what they need to gain some length over time too. Now wink one time if you feel me. LOL. #wink
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