It’s all in the cuddle hormone
Have you ever heard of the ‘love hormone’ or the ‘cuddle hormone’ called oxytocin?
If you’ve had a baby you’ll know all about it. It’s this love hormone that gets you through hours of debilitating contractions, knowing that you have your future offspring at the end of the process. It’s the hormone that triggers and gives you the ‘warm and fuzzies’ in many situations; holding your newborn, staring into the eyes of the one you love, sex, hey even stroking your dog can release oxytocin.
It’s also the hormone that can help strengthen both good memories and bad.
The best day of my life
It’s the reason I’m sat here feeling a little giddy inside, remembering back all the details of my ultimate favourite day from my childhood. Actually if I’m honest, this is my favourite day from my whole life and I have used the memories of this day many many times in my ongoing quest to strengthen my mental resilience and keep anxiety at bay.
Sorry husband and child. I know that’s probably not nice to read that my wedding day, or the birth of my child – usually the top two life events people place as the best day of their lives was not the memory that has stuck out for me. The day we married my darling, I was sadly mostly shitfaced on shots of a god awful liquor called Mickey Finn. The day you were born dear son wasn’t a day – it was 56 long gruelling hours of you staging a sit-in protest in my womb. While both those days have significant importance and despite my drunkenness or intense pain, they still hold top places in my heart for their significance.
My favourite childhood memory
So it was Friday, September 22, 1989. The beautiful but blustery day my mum and dad got married.
They’d had a whirlwind romance before deciding to tie the knot so it all felt very exciting. I might be wrong but I think I recall Mum saying they organised it in around 5 months.
I was 7 years old, almost 8. It wasn’t just a school day and we got the day off – mum had organised for our school choir to come along and sing at the church! (Talk about enterprising with the entertainment budget there mum). It also meant all my school friends got to see me in my dress.
Sod mum’s dress, have you seen mine? It was AMAZING. Mum and her chief bridesmaid Jayne had sewn on little individual delicate silk rosebuds onto it and I felt like a princess. My little sister Rachel had the same dress too. We wore silk ballet pumps and lace gloves that mum had dyed using tea bags to make them the right shade of ivory. We’d had the tiniest individual rose buds on wire twisted into our adorable cherub-like curls.
Yet this day, this most special of days is crystal clear in my head. It’s definitely helped because mum and dad had a wedding video. Something I am so glad they invested in! I ended up working in the wedding industry many years later and so people often turn to me for wedding advice. I always recommend holding a bit of the budget back for a good videographer – not only so you can play out your day over and over for years to come but for your future kids who will love it!
The strength of memories
So even though that day’s memories have been helped by video, I can recall and play out so many details that were not captured on camera. I can remember brushing my teeth with my little pink toothbrush and practicing my smile in the mirror. I’d lost my teeth but I remember feeling proud about this!
I can see my egg cup with dippy egg and soldiers and remember the sweet taste of tea as I excitedly scoffed down my breakfast that morning.
I can remember the smug feeling as I walked down the aisle ahead of mum, checking to see if all the kids at school were watching and WERE THEY LOOKING AT MY PRINCESS DRESS??? They had better be!
I can see every stain I got down that dress and remember every worrying thought that I was going to get bollocked for it – I didn’t though! Mum and dad were too busy having a whale of a time.
I clearly recall hardly being able to sit still at the top table as they speeches seemed to go on and on for a lifetime. I was so giddy I could burst when mum gifted dad with a teddy bear called a ‘heart to heart’ bear. It had a removable heart that thumped and made a sound. I can remember thinking my own heart might come out my chest that day. All I can remember is feeling the most love and the most loved on that day.
And that’s why this day is so important to me. <- As I’ve just wrote this sentence out I have burst into tears and huge fat blobs of salty eye secretions threaten to short circuit my Macbook pro.
This was the day I got a dad. Not just any dad, but the kindest most gentle dad who not only loved my mum so much, he loved me and my sister too.
“My new papa!” I couldn’t wait to scream out as the guests toasted to the new happy couple.
It was also the day I did my first public performance not on the school stage. I loved Sonia the scouse singer and ‘You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You’ was the second song I’d bought from a record shop. Dad took me to buy it a few weeks before the wedding. I’d played it over and over and over again and learned all the words by heart.
I got up on that stage and dedicated the song to my new dad.
“You’ll never stop me from loving you, no matter where you go I will follow you. You’ll never stop me from loving youuuuuu” I crooned, toothless into the microphone and aimed it at mum and dad who scooped me up into their arms at the end of my performance.
I meant every word. I still do.
Awww the happy couple!
I could go on and on about every detail I remember from that day. I partied until dawn and I can still recall feeling the MOST tired I have ever felt in my whole life when my eyes would hardly open the next day. It was over and I was sad but elated.
A year later we were officially adopted and all had the same surname.
My sister Rachel and I continued to play in those dresses and re-enact the wedding at every opportunity. My cousins would come round and play and we’d make everyone play weddings in those dresses until the zip gradually got further and further down my back as it would no longer fasten up and then one day it wouldn’t even go over my head. I just wanted to prolong that memory for as long as possible.
Creating happy memories – what gives you the warm and fuzzies?
I’ve recalled this day in detail many times over the last couple of years to help override the not so great ones. That’s the power of oxytocin – yes it can give you the warm and fuzzies and help you recall loving memories but it can also cause anxiety with the ones that weren’t so great.
I always say I love to make memories. That’s why I like putting videos together for my son as I want him to have lots to look back on and be transported back to that time.
If your life might be lacking the conscious creation of happy memories right now and you’re looking to top up your oxytocin, make a list of all the things that give you the warm and fuzzies;
- snuggles in bed with your kids
- cuddles and long walks with the dog
- getting out in to nature
- traveling to new places
- trying out new restaurants
- date night
- girly gatherings
- tea with your grandma
Whatever your list, go and actively do those things. Top up the oxytocin bank, get flushed with the ‘love hormone’ and strengthen those happiest of memories.