Guilty pleasures are usually bad for the health: junk food makes you gain weight, TV-watching promotes inactivity, too much wine is bad for the liver, and so on, so forth. However, sex – everyone’s favorite – falls into a category of its own. While irresponsible sex will cause health concerns, frequent safe sex is chalked full of psychological benefits, in addition to the physical ones.
While it is widely publicized that frequent sex helps one maintain ideal body weight, lower cholesterol, relieve aches and pains, and encourage prostate and genital health, the psychological benefits of sex are less advertised. The most prominent psychological health benefits of sex include the reduction of stress and a subsequent increase in relaxation, as well as an improvement in sleeping patterns and feelings of depression.
Sex and stress
Whether you have had a long day at the office, a tiresome day with the kids, or you suffer from general everyday worries, having sex can often be last on your list of priorities. In fact, many men and women complain that their sex drive takes a back seat when they are feeling stressed. Most people do not know that the one thing they are too tired to attempt is actually what can help the most.
Studies have shown that sex can be an effective stress-reliever. The deep breathing, the soothing touches and the release of endorphins (aka “feel good” hormones) contribute to improving the physical and psychological manifestations that are caused by stress.
If stress is affecting your libido, there are a variety of techniques to lighten the atmosphere and get you and your partner in a more romantic mood so that you can fully experience the psychological health benefits of sex.
Choose the right music: Soft, romantic music can create the perfect setting for a passionate evening. Throw on a smooth jazz CD, relax, and give or receive a sensual back massage.
Add soft lighting: Turn the lights off and light some candles. The cozy atmosphere created by candlelight is a sure way to get your mind off your worries and turn your attention to making love.
Try aromatherapy: The sense of smell is powerful, and just like a particular smell can trigger a certain memory, a certain smell can also put you in a sensual mood. Whether you prefer perfumed candles, incense or oils, choose a light, pleasant scent such as lavender, whose odor is known to act as a relaxant.
Sex and depression
Depression is a common psychological ailment that affects millions of people worldwide. While serious depression requires the aid of a mental-health professional, less serious feelings of sadness brought on by everyday occurrences can be lessened through sexual intercourse.
In a 2002 study of 293 women, it was found that females, whose male partners did not use condoms during sex, were less subject to feelings of depression than those who did. The results are explained by a hormone called prostoglandin, which is found in semen and happens to modulate female hormones.
Sex and insomnia
In many cases, insomnia is caused by stress. Thinking about the hectic events of the day or the problems to be faced at work tomorrow, or the worries of everyday life is enough to keep anybody up at night. However, considering that sex induces a relaxed mood, a good night’s rest will surely be the end result of your intimate experience.
Depending on your level of intensity and involvement while making love, sex can be a real physical workout. Between 30 and 120 calories are burned during sex, depending on the position used, and just like after any good workout, a relaxed feeling settles over you and you are able to get a better night’s sleep.
A satisfying sexual experience tends to eliminate the distracting thoughts and worries that are associated with insomnia. So, instead of worrying about the bills you have to pay, you will sleep easier replaying in your mind the romantic evening you just enjoyed.
Importance of intimacy
It is important to remember that individuals will not reap the psychological benefits of sex if they are irresponsible in the way they engage in intercourse. Physical health issues aside, sex with multiple or random partners is not conducive to a sense of well-being. Studies have shown that both health and psychological benefits of sex are best received within the confines of a healthy, loving relationship. It has been noted that the higher the emotional intimacy during sex, the more effective the “healing” powers of the act. When you are touched, kissed and caressed by someone you love and who loves you in return, a chain of chemicals is sent to your brain telling you that the experience is pleasurable, and thus allows you to experience all the psychological health benefits that sex has to offer.