This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of ESSENCE “Hey, stranger.” ’Tis the season for almost baes, brand-new contenders and sometimes even exes to slide into our in-box—and potentially our lives. Along with the arrival of sweater weather comes an increase in dating and hookup activity, a phenomenon commonly known as “cuffing season.” The Urban Dictionary offers this definition: “Usually the colder months; fall or winter, when new relationships start and old relationships turn into engagements. The persons in said relationships are ‘cuffed,’ meaning that they no longer seek nonplatonic relationships with others.” Before you roll your eyes, science actually backs up this impulse to cuddle as the warm days decrease. After a summer of activity, you’ll find that the shortening of daylight hours has an impact on your hormones and attitudes. Melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep, increases naturally as the season changes, making us want to stay inside and hibernate, according to the Mayo Clinic. But many of us aren’t trying to hole up inside all by ourselves. A study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health found that men are more attracted to our womanly form in cooler months. That’s because testosterone levels for men rise as the temperatures drop, while hormone levels for women are also affected. As our hormones and social cues nudge us to couple up, we need to take a moment to determine exactly what we want and how best to feed our desires. We’ll have more time for intro- spection before the holidays bring on prying questions from relatives curious about our romantic prospects. It’s definitely a tricky period: Engagement season kicks into high gear at the end of the year and runs right through to Valentine’s Day, while breakups peak just two weeks before Christmas Day. Either way, there is a lot of action happening in our love lives. “You set the tone on what cuffing season means to you,” says Los Angeles–based celebrity matchmaker Jasmine Diaz, who has helped more than 500 singles change their status. She recently launched a Bae Planner to assist in designing our personal and professional lives around finding a partner: “This time of year tends to remind us more of family, companionship and starting anew. It’s a time when singles are seriously reflecting.” So how do you make the most of cuffing season? Don’t feel pressured to rush one of the most critical decisions of your life: who you choose to share your body and bed with. If you are fine with a midnight lover and no Christmas gift, rock on. But if you are in the market for something serious, don’t settle for less than the commitment you deserve.