Like a good exercise regimen, a quality night’s sleep or a delicious, balanced diet, a healthy sex life is a fundamental component to a heightened quality of life.
Sure, we can survive on two hours of sleep, endless McDonald’s and the lackluster romantic moment. But who wants to just survive?
A good sex life can mean the difference between surviving and thriving. For some people, there are a lot of tangential health benefits of sex and it's an essential element to living a satisfying, fulfilled life.
What role does sex play in our lives?
Unlike generations before us, sex is everywhere. We see it on TV, on the internet, on billboards and even in magazines. Sex is essential to our survival. Without it, none of us would be here today.
Behaviorally speaking, sex can be very pleasurable; one objective of sexual intercourse is to orgasm. Biologically, sex is designed to be pleasurable to ensure that we engage in the behavior in order to achieve the evolutionary objective of reproducing.
If having satisfying sex is important to you, you’re not alone. In fact, in a 2017 study of 3,515 adults in the United States, 62.2% of men and 42.8% of women reported that sexual health is of high importance and that a healthy sex life is a key factor in having a high quality of life. Additionally, people in the study who had poorer health also reported having a poorer sex life, and participants in excellent health reported significantly higher sexual satisfaction than their not-so-healthy peers.
This study may indicate a correlation between overall health and sexual health, so you may want to consider prioritizing a healthy sex life if you haven’t already.
If you find yourself identifying with the not-so-healthy participants in the study, don’t fret! This article is going to uncover strategies and tips to help improve your sex life.
What factors contribute to a poor sex life?
There are many factors that can contribute to a lackluster sex life. A foundational one is your libido, which is a term used to describe your natural level of sexual desire. Our libidos play a major role in having a healthy sex life in both men and women.
When it comes to sex, there are several interlocking variables that need to come together at the perfect time. Sex organs, hormone production, brain stimulation, and our physical bodies come together in order to engage in intercourse and satiate our libidos. If one of these factors is off by a fraction, the entire sexual experience can be impacted. Factors that can compromise a healthy sex life in both men and women can include:
Being a victim of sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse.
Poor physical health such as high cholesterol and other illnesses.
Depression and other mental health disorders.
Low and high hormonal levels including testosterone and estrogen.
Sexually transmitted diseases.
Male erectile dysfunction.
It’s no secret that both externally and internally, our bodies change as we get older. From the onset of wrinkles and thinning hair to a change in our hormone levels and an inability to move in ways we were once able to, aging can be a major contributor to the decline in our sex life. The psychological impact of aging can also play a role in how we view ourselves.
Unfortunately, aging can leave us feeling sexually undesirable and insecure. This is compounded by the high standards of beauty that are often portrayed in the media and social outlets. When we don’t feel good about ourselves, we may find it difficult to be sexually intimate and vulnerable.
Strategies for a healthy sex life
If you don’t like what you’re eating, you can do something about it. You can learn to cook, buy different ingredients and try various recipes to see what you like. The same goes if you are unsatisfied with your sex life.
One of the first things you can do is avoid comparing our sex life now to how it was when you were younger. It’s like comparing bananas to cucumbers.
Other strategies to help generate a healthy sex life are listed below:
1. Be patient and take good care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Change takes time and doesn’t happen overnight.
Need more self-care tips? Try these self-compassion exercises.
2. Go see a doctor if you suspect you have a medical or physiological issue. A doctor can run tests and help determine if your issues are stemming from a medical concern. If a sexual problem such as erectile dysfunction is diagnosed, follow your doctor’s treatment plan recommendations.
3. Educate yourself about any problems you may be experiencing. In today’s world, knowledge is only a keystroke away. Research online or go to a bookstore to empower yourself to understand what is going on and ways to healthily manage it.
4. Try different sexual positions. Challenge yourself to try a position that you haven’t done in a while, or ever. Be careful not to challenge yourself too much, though. The goal is to free yourself, not injure yourself.
5. Use sex toys like vibrators and other items. Introducing toys and objects into your sexual encounters can help develop sexual awareness for both yourself and your partner. You and your partner can model for one another what you like using the toys.
6. Do something together before the sexual encounter. This can act as foreplay and it can help you and your partner relax. It also helps distract you and it can relieve stress and pressure you may feel from having to ‘perform’ during the encounter.
7. Communicate with one another. This includes communicating your wants and needs inside the bedroom and out. Many people feel more invited to engage in sexual activity when they also feel bonded and connected to their partner.
8. Continue physical contact. Even when it is difficult to engage sexually with your partner, continue to show physical signs of affection with one another.
9. Be open to change and trying new things. As mentioned above, you’re not the same person today as you were 1 year, 10 years or 25 years ago. Be open to trying new things and learning you and your partner’s newfound likes and desires. Nobody is completely static.
10. Schedule an appointment with a therapist. Whether it’s a sex therapist or a relationship counselor, an objective third party can help you and your partner develop an additional sense of perspective that you might otherwise overlook and even help uncover underlying issues that you may not be aware of.
It’s safe to say that having a healthy sex life is an important component of living life to the fullest. As we’ve talked about here, studies suggest that our sex lives are a factor in determining our overall health.
You do not need to white knuckle your way through your sex life. If you’re experiencing difficulty, or if you have noticed a decline in the quality of your sex life, there’s no shame in speaking to your partner about it or reaching out to a professional.