7 Compelling Reasons to Have More Sex
Intimacy with your partner can satisfy a range of vital psychological needs.
Posted February 27, 2016
Everyone knows that, along with eating chocolate and drinking wine, having sex is one of the best things you can do for your health…
In all seriousness, all three of these things can have enormous benefits for both physical and psychological health. But sex in particular can benefit your physical and mental health. If you need an incentive to have sex, here are seven:
1. Sex eases stress.
Stress is the result of many interacting psychological factors and can affect different people in different ways, potentially spurring health problems from mild headaches, sleeping difficulty, and muscle tension to more severe issues such as depression and malfunction of your immune system.
There is evidence to suggest that being close to your partner (physically and emotionally) can soothe stress and relieve anxiety. Physical intimacy can trigger the release of chemicals in the brain including dopamine (which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior, focuses attention, and generally increases motivation); endorphins (natural pain and stress fighters); and oxytocin (known as “the cuddle hormone" which can trigger feelings of compassion).
It isn’t really surprising that sex is a natural anti-depressant. Further, after an orgasm the body releases the hormone prolactin, which often leads to drowsiness and a general feeling of relaxation. This is why comfort, ultimately resulting in sleep, is a common post-orgasm response.
One study actually found that having sex every day for two weeks led to cell growth in the hippocampus (which plays a role in regulating stress levels). Another study found that having sex at least once a day for a period of two weeks lowered stress-related blood pressure.
2. Sex boosts self-esteem.
There’s an old saying: "Sex is like food; it’s only a big deal when you’re not getting enough of it.” There's some truth to the adage. When it comes to sex, it's not really a matter of "the more the better," at least after a certain point, but that there are downsides to a complete fast. Lack of sex can lead to feelings of angst, self-doubt, and inadequacy, and there is strong evidence that feelings of self-worth and identity are strongly associated with sex.
In today’s culture, there is a lot of social pressure to be sexually active, while having a minimal or non-existent sex life is socially stigmatized. Looked at from this perspective, having sex by itself can somewhat unburden someone from strong social pressure and enhance self-esteem. And sex therapists and marriage counselors agree that couples that engage in regular sex (with each other) have far greater self-esteem than those who don’t.
3. Sex enhances intimacy.
Relationships aren’t always easy. No one is entirely immune from the pressures of work, and life in general, and so sometimes, for whatever reason, couples just don’t have time for sex. This can be the beginning of a vicious cycle: You or your partner don’t feel like having sex, and then (consciously or not) you may start to resent your partner for it. And then you gradually grow further apart, until you may not even want to have sex with your partner.
As obvious as it might sound, it's worth reminding yourself that regular sex with your partner makes a big difference to how you get along. Being intimate on a frequent basis allows you to emotionally connect on a much deeper level (especially as positive hormones are released in the act of sex). And partners who feel emotionally close to each other are far more likely to have regular sex (and a healthy relationship) than those who feel distant or estranged from each other.
4. Sex makes you whole.
All of us have fundamental psychological needs we need to fulfill to remain mentally healthy. The act of having sex isn’t (strictly) a fundamental human need, but it is an important piece of one. Abraham Maslow suggested that, in addition to vital physiological needs such as water, food, and sleep, there are basically four categories of fundamental psychological needs—safety, love/connection, esteem and autonomy.
Of course we need to meet our physiological needs to survive, but to be happy, stable people, we also need to fulfill each category of psychological need. If too many of those needs go unmet for too long, we will suffer; there is evidence that people develop neuroses, addictions, and even delusions when their needs are not met. Studies suggest that social isolation is even more harmful than either smoking or alcoholism.
5. Sex makes you smart.
Sex changes your brain chemistry in a variety of ways, and one of them is increasing your brainpower. There is some evidence that sex actually increases your cognitive capacity: A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that even just thinking about a sexual encounter that you have had can enhance analytic skills. Another study, on rats, indicated that sexually-active rodents had more neurons in their hippocampus (the brain region responsible for the storage of memories) than virgin rats—and the rats lost Improvements in brainpower after sexual activity stopped.
Research on the female orgasm using fMRI technology has indicated that sexual climax activates as many as 30 areas of the brain. Blood flows in, carrying a surge of nutrients and oxygen to brain cells. By contrast, popular brain stimulation activities such as Sudoku, crosswords, and memory games each engage only a handful at best.
6. Sex makes you look and feel younger.
We spend billions of dollars every year on chemicals and procedures in the pursuit of youth. But a recent British study has found that having regular sex can make both men and women look between five and 10 years younger than they actually are. Intercourse causes the release of human growth hormone, which sets off a range of biological reactions with the ultimately effect of making the skin appear more elastic and smooth. Sex also triggers the release of estrogen, which improves the quality of hair and skin. The lead researcher of this study previously demonstrated that while mental and physical activity is the most important factor for retaining one’s youth, regular sex was a close second.
Looking younger brings us a suite of benefits such as increased confidence, happiness, and enthusiasm. When we look younger, we tend to feel younger. And having more sex has also been linked with living longer in general.
7. Sex is exercise.
We know of the physical and psychological benefits of exercise, and sex can be quite physically demanding—in an average session, men burn around 100 calories, and women about 70. In a half-hour of sex, as many as 200 calories can melt away, though the average duration of activity tends to be quite a bit shorter.
Also, exercise is known to make you feel great: It makes you physically healthier, and can improve mood; reduce stress and help you cope with it better; increase feelings of self-satisfaction; boost your energy levels, and more.