Masturbating. It’s something nearly every human does, or at least, feels the urge to do. And while men may feel free to make jokes left and right about the topic, women often feel uncomfortable talking about it. Let’s get one thing straight, though: there’s nothing “dirty” about masturbating, and it actually could improve your overall well-being. Yeah, you read that right.
Masturbating is known to have a plethora of benefits for the body and mind. As it turns out, having an orgasm, in general, is genuinely good for one’s mental health and can seriously impact overall moods. We spoke to Sexologist Shannon “Shan” Boodram to give us the lowdown on the mental health benefits of getting in touch with yourself and how you can do it.
Able to Melt Stress Away and Reduce Depression
First and foremost, masturbation is a serious source of stress relief. Orgasming causes a huge increase in dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin — all of which are happy hormones — while simultaneously lowering your cortisol levels, which is a primary stress hormone. Put ’em together and what do ya get? An easy, sure-fire way to chill the eff out. Boodram described the relaxing powers of an orgasm as a “natural high… [like if] the [brain’s] on heroin.” And seeing as we’d try just about anything to relax, from aromatherapy to meditating, masturbating seems like an easy-to-try alternative that doesn’t require bookin’ a class or using your money.
Can Upgrade Your Sleep
The release of all endorphins that come with masturbating can be so relaxing that many people become sleepy after having a single orgasm. Because of this, masturbating before bed is a great way to prevent a toss-and-turn night and can, in turn, provide a good night of solid, unbothered sleep. However, Boodram pointed out that that is usually the effect of an orgasm for men because it releases melatonin, whereas, for women, the results may vary. Some may get to sleep easily, while others might find themselves a bit more alert. For me, it’s the latter, and I do, in fact, get to sleep more easily — so it’s personal, to say the least. Either way, there’s no shame in trying to see how it will affect your body — whether you get an orgasm or a good night’s rest, it’s a win-win if you’d ask me.
Can Reduce Addictive Behaviors
With the increase in oxytocin comes a decrease in your need for junk food, but really, any other addictive habit as well. Boodram explained that any dopamine-increasing activity, such as masturbating, will help to reduce toxic behaviors, such as going for junk food or grabbing your phone. Because the type of happy hormones you receive from experiencing an orgasm can make you have a more positive outlook toward life, you’re less likely to crave less significant things to attempt to entertain your addictive behaviors and look toward the brighter side of life instead. An orgasm AND less toxic behavior? Sounds like a win to me.
Improves Body Image
Women who masturbate on a regular basis have been proven to have a more positive body image. The thought is that women who know their bodies and can pleasure themselves on a more regular basis can view themselves with an elevated sense of confidence. Boodram explained that if you spend more time intimately with yourself, it’s a form of self-love, self-acceptance, and body positivity and that masturbating is generally associated with people who have a more positive body image.
Relieves Menstrual Cramps
One of my favorite benefits, personally, is the relief of menstrual cramps. Midol can only do so much, ladies! While the intensity of an orgasm alone can get rid of someone’s cramps, the orgasm itself causes the uterine muscles to contract and relax while simultaneously sending “pain relief” hormones to your brain. Not only that, but the contractions work to push the uterine lining out faster, sometimes reducing the length of your periods.
By now, we hope you’re saying, “Holy shit, I need to orgasm now,” because it really can be the end-all of any common pain, stress, sleeplessness, and more. But if you’re new to masturbating, it can be incredibly overwhelming to get started. While there is no solid regimen to follow — because everybody is different and it’s an extremely personal experience — here are a couple of general guidelines to follow to make your experience the best it can be.
Allow Yourself to Experiment
Not everything will work for you. Boodram says that while simply touching yourself works for some, others find it incredibly foreign. If that’s the case, she suggests trying vibrators, water, or even mutual masturbation with a partner — whatever it takes to be comfortable. There are tons of different ways, so find what works best and is most comfortable for you.
Create a Calm, Comfortable Environment
Masturbating won’t work if you’re not relaxed just a little, to begin with. To create a calming space, get rid of clutter, burn some incense or a few candles, listen to soothing sounds, and allow yourself to breathe — honestly, whatever helps take the edge off. Boodram notes that while self-pleasure is for everyone, not everyone knows how to enter that space, so be open to trying a few things and be comfortable in your body. You’ll thank us later.
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Feature image via Vanessa Granda