Great sex can be gloriously uplifting, whether it’s a heat-of-the-moment hookup or a session with a long-term partner who knows every inch of your body. And if you’re anything like me, the mere thought of it can bring on Real Good Vibes.
It can be a lot more than physical pleasure alone, though. Sex can also benefit your mental and emotional health, as well as your overall well-being.
Looking for more reasons to get busy? We break it down for you below.
If you’ve ever felt like you were in the music video for “Feeling Myself” alongside Nicki Minaj and Queen B after really good sex, that’s because it can boost your self-confidence.
Granted, it takes a level of confidence to hop in the sheets, but sex and masturbation have the potential to return the favor and then some.
Masturbation, aka solo sex, offers many of the same benefits as partner sex. Plus, it has some unique advantages of its own, including:
- higher self-esteem or appreciation of self
- a deeper understanding of your body
- increased possibility of orgasm
- more sexual satisfaction overall
“Learning to orgasm on your own can make it easier to do so with a partner because you can communicate what feels good: fast, slow, the amount of pressure,” explains Onur Bal, a licensed psychologist in Istanbul, Turkey, who works with individuals and couples. “Knowing what you like and where you like it can build confidence.”
So, consider self-exploration a highly worthwhile investment — one that can become a daily delight you look forward to.
“I think he banged the sadness out of me,” a friend told me once. It wasn’t just funny; it also made sense. Sex has changed my state of mind more times than I can count, zapping me into the present.
Amid a dreamy headspace doused in pleasure, worldly troubles often seem far, far away. Turns out there’s a chemical explanation for that.
“We’re programmed to feel good before, during, and after sex,” explains Bal. “Touching, kissing, and other sexual interactions cause the peripheral nervous system to signal the brain [to] release endorphins, making us feel good.”
Sex also triggers a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine, another mood-boosting hormone.
According to Bal, sex is one of the most powerful dopamine-releasing activities, alongside other delights like eating delicious food, learning something new, and listening to music.
Cortisol and adrenaline, two key players behind anxiety,
Coupled together, these chemical fluctuations can be a stellar antidote for stress. It’s basically endorphin heaven, boosting your mood and diminishing pain sensitivity.
It also explains why things that usually hurt — like biting, choking, or slapping — can be hot AF during sex. Pleasure and pain actually activate the same parts of the brain.
To quote Harvard Medical School, “endorphins are the brain’s natural painkiller.” Not only can they provide a general feeling of bliss, but they can also relieve pain in the same way an opioid does.
On top of that, concepts like escapism and dominance are conceptually hot for many. Power play can be a massive turn-on, adding fuel to an already burning fire.
Whether you use handcuffs or ropes or prefer a good old-fashioned bite on the neck, the intimacy of experiencing even the lightest pain with a sexual partner can send you to new levels of pleasure.
The hormone cocktail released by getting it on can send you off to slumber (with a smile, no less). And for what it’s worth, post-orgasm sleep hits harder than melatonin-induced snoozing, in my humble opinion.
Science seems to agree. According to 2016 research from the University of Ottawa, having sex before bedtime can both initiate and maintain a sound night of Zzz’s.
Researchers found that having sex before sleep can immediately reduce stress, thanks to the release of oxytocin and the reduction of cortisol. Not only does this lovely combination help you fall asleep quicker than usual, but it also keeps you in dreamland longer, reducing the chance of waking up throughout the night.
As one of humanity’s most sturdy pillars, sleep can make or break your mental health.
A lack of quality shut-eye is closely linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Our emotional well-being takes a nosedive when we’re sleep-deprived because the amygdala (the part of the brain that controls fear) becomes more prone to overreaction.
So get it on, then sleep it off. Your brain will thank you.
You’ve probably heard it time and time again, but it’s worth repeating: It’s incredible how exercise can boost your mental health.
Sex is no CrossFit, but it still burns a few calories and gets your heart rate going. One
Sex that feels wonderfully safe can be a powerhouse of human connection.
“After sex, oxytocin is released — a hormone that deeply relaxes us and can foster a feeling of trust among partners,” shares Bal. “This plays a role in developing relationships and can give us a pretty euphoric feeling.”
Aptly nicknamed the love hormone, oxytocin can have a positive impact on your interpersonal connections, according to one
Attraction, love, affection — these emotions are driven by oxytocin’s physiological effects.
Of course, this can also mean getting hit with The Feels after an extended friends-with-benefits situation — a common experience many of us have had.
Even if hopping into bed with a total stranger, your subconscious might start to feel trust before your internal monologue does. One
Love it or totally lament it, definitely keep this tidbit in mind during your next situationship.
Ultimately, sex is what you make of it, and it’s crucial to check in with yourself and your partner(s) to maintain a healthy dynamic.
“Sexual health is all about your sexual well-being,” says Bal. “Ask yourself, what is sex for you in your mind?”
If the answer is rooted in pure pleasure and fulfillment, then you’re ready to reap the rewards.
It can become one hell of a positive cycle, where good sex and uplifted mental health feed into each other like a hot game of ping pong.
While it can certainly take time to figure out your own body and how to communicate your needs, it’s the type of gift that keeps on giving. May your sex life age like a fine wine.
Science has your back on this: The mental health benefits of a healthy sex life are abundant, whether you’re getting it on solo or having fun with multiple partners.
Sarah Lempa is a writer and entrepreneur as the founder of Dang Fine Creative, a digital content agency. In her writing, she covers travel, mental health, business, sex and relationships, along with whatever else is currently inspiring. Her words have appeared in Business Insider, VICE, HuffPost, Lonely Planet, and more. While originally from the Chicago area, she’s called multiple countries home and has ventured across six continents along the way. When she’s not chipping away at a piece, you’ll find her jamming out to groovy beats or riding a motorcycle. Keep up with Sarah on Instagram.