Doing a little DIY TLC. Buttering your muffin. Having a ménage à moi. There’s hundreds of ways to say it, but could adding masturbation to your self-care routine give your sense of wellbeing a serious boost?
Self-pleasure. It’s not really something we talk about, is it? Sure, it’s a completely normal and extremely common act that people of all ages take part in, but for some reason, we still see it as taboo – despite its numerous, documented benefits.
"74% of us consider masturbation to be a form of self-care"
In the largest ever study of its kind, the TENGA 2019 Self-Pleasure Report surveyed more than 10,000 people across nine different countries (including the UK) to see just how we masturbate, and the role it plays in self-care. Unlike other research, the Self-Pleasure Report sought to look at the link between pleasure and the impact it has on our physical, emotional, and societal wellbeing.
According to the stats, an overwhelming 91% of us in the UK have masturbated. Our most common reasons? Well, a third said to satisfy urges, a quarter to achieve pleasure, as well as a fifth to relieve stress. What may come as a surprise is that 37% of women prefer solo masturbation while 33% prefer sex. But in contrast, a staggering 50% of men would rather have sex than masturbate (21%).
And what is really intriguing is that a surprising 74% of us consider masturbation to be a form of self-care, while more than half of us think it improves our overall wellbeing. But is there any truth behind the statistics? We spoke with Dr Elesha Vooght, a sexual wellness doctor at Kandid, to delve in and find out more.
Looking after yourself in body and mind
“Solo-sex comes with a multitude of health benefits, making it a key component of any wellness routine,” Dr Elesha explains. “First and foremost, regular masturbation activates the brain to release our store of ‘happy hormones’. These include oxytocin, dopamine, prolactin, and endorphins. These hormones act in a variety of ways including blocking the actions of cortisol, our ‘stress’ hormone, reducing blood pressure, and generally lifting our mood.
“Masturbating proves to be a great mindfulness activity, as you have to empty your mind completely, and focus on a repetitive action to be fully consumed by your own pleasure. This combination of mindfulness, and the biochemical cocktail that masturbation and orgasm release, leads to improved sleep. Better sleep makes for reduced anxiety, and better mental wellbeing.
“Interestingly, regular masturbation is also associated with an increase in self-esteem. The better you get to know your body and the amazing things it can do for you, the better you feel about yourself.”
A match made in heaven
Self-care is all about making time to look after yourself – mentally and physically – no matter how busy you may be. Many of us worry that self-care is selfish; between friends, family, work, and day-to-day responsibilities, isn’t making ‘me-time’ a bit of a luxury?
It’s easy to feel guilty about spending our time relaxing or doing things we love at first, but self-care is an essential part of life. Getting wrapped up in caring for others can result in always putting ourselves last. No matter how much you love those around you, without taking some time for self-care, you can risk becoming overwhelmed, burning out, or harming your overall wellbeing.
In essence, self-care is about listening to ourselves – body and mind – and understanding what we really want and need. Spending quality time alone, reconnecting with yourself, while looking after your physical and emotional needs, can be a great way of doing this. And with so many physical benefits, what better way to reconnect with yourself than a little TLC between the sheets?
Why should masturbation be in your self-care routine?
1. It can improve your chances of orgasm
According to a 2015 survey of women aged 18–40 by Cosmopolitan, just over half (57%) of women orgasm most of the time they have sex. By learning what turns you on, and taking time to explore what makes you feel good, you can not only enjoy some solo TLC, but can show your partner all the right buttons to push.
2. It can help you get a good night’s sleep
Stress can leave us feeling frustrated and struggling to switch off. Many men and women find that masturbation can help relieve tension, while producing happy and relaxation hormones. Instead of resorting to counting sheep, next time you find yourself lying awake, it could be the perfect time for some solo-fun.
3. It can improve your confidence and self-esteem
Everybody knows: confidence is sexy. Who should know you better than, well, you? The better you get to know your body, the better you feel about yourself – and the better able you are to show your partner what you enjoy. It’s a win-win.
How to make self-care pleasurable
As with so many areas of our lives, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut. Try these simple tips to keep satisfaction front-and-centre.
• Ditch expectations. When we’re having sex, be it by ourselves or with someone else, what’s our main goal? Many of us may have said “to orgasm”, but that’s not the only thing we can achieve. Despite more women achieving satisfaction through masturbation than sex, just 42% achieve an orgasm every time. Masturbating more mindfully can help you to feel more present and grounded in the moment, while taking the pressure off. Just lay back and enjoy the moment.
• Set the stage. Let’s just say it: interruptions aren’t sexy. If you struggle to get into the mood or are feeling a bit nervous, the last thing you want is a call interrupting or someone barging in. Try to pick a time where you should be able to get half an hour (or more) to yourself. Switch off all distractions, and leave your phone on silent. If you can, try lighting a few candles or using aromatherapy oils to help you relax and set the mood. Just because you’re playing solo, doesn’t mean you aren’t still worth the effort.
• Be daring. Treat yourself to a new toy, explore your fantasies with some erotica, or try something completely new. There’s no one there to judge if your first time trying something outside of your comfort zone doesn’t end in fireworks. And who knows? You may find something totally unexpected that rocks your world.
For more sex and relationships advice, visit counselling-directory.org.uk or enter your location below to find a counsellor near you.