Whether you masturbate all the time or are thinking about trying it out for the first time, you can definitely consider this practice one of self-care and self-exploration. It that has many positive "side-effects" that reach beyond simply feeling good in the moment, and in fact, the mental and emotional benefits of masturbation might surprise you in their breadth.
So, first off, what exactly is happening when you masturbate on a physical level? Well, how you actually feel is different for everyone, but to begin, your body might simply start to relax, psychologist and sex therapist Janet Brito, PhD. PSY, LCSW, CS, tells Bustle.
"You may be lubricated or you may have applied lube [to your genitals.] When you start to experience arousal, triggered by your preferred sexual content — erotica, film fantasy, memory — your genitals become engorged due to increased blood flow," Brito says. "You may notice your body temperature becoming warmer, and your muscles becoming tense."
When — and if — you are nearing orgasm, Brito says, your muscles will contract, and your heart rate will increase. Then you may orgasm or come to a point where your session feels done for now.
Below, take a look at some of the ways that masturbation can do good things for you in a holistic way.
1. It Can Help With Anxiety And Low Self-Esteem
In part because of how relaxed and released masturbation can help you to feel, "it can especially help those dealing with anxiety or having low self-esteem," Brito says. Your mind might be able to let go of your worries for a little while, and you might feel a real benefit to just really giving yourself some more attention than usual.
"For those who may have a tendency to prioritize other people’s needs, feel unworthy, or have hang ups about experiencing self-pleasure, masturbation is a great start to reclaim their sexuality on their own terms," Brito says.
2. It Can Help You Break Free From Taboos
Unfortunately it's true that there are still oh-so-many taboos around personal sexuality and sexual expression. This might mean you feel a little weird about trying masturbation or that you even feel guilty when you do it. The more you practice, research it, or even talk about it if that feels comfortable, the more likely you are to start breaking free of limiting beliefs around self-pleasure.
"Masturbation as a form of self-care is about breaking free from the taboos, taking risks and learning to explore one’s body minus the constraints put on by society," Brito says.
Let your satisfaction flag fly!
3. It Improves Your Sexual Awareness
Getting to know your own body is another really amazing benefit to masturbation, and can put you in touch with what you actually like as a sexual being. It can even help you to understand what your body is asking for on a physical and emotional level in other areas of your life. In a way, it's simply a practice in listening to and communicating with yourself.
"Masturbation is also beneficial to improve sexual awareness, and a way to know what your sexual desires, wants, and needs are," Brito says. "It can increase your own comfort about your sexuality, and help you to get in touch with the needs of your erotic self, thus promoting radical self-acceptance and boosting self-esteem."
4. It Can Help You Learn To Take Care Of Yourself
"Masturbation is a powerful remedy for your sense of self, especially if you struggle with taking care of yourself," Brito says. "Specifically when you have grown up with restrictive views about your sexuality, and have trouble experiencing pleasure."
By "sexploring" your body, and identifying your erogenous zones on your terms, Brito says, you can start not only to learn more about yourself, but to realize that caring for your needs can and should be a priority.
Simply becoming more comfortable in your body, Brito says, is another major benefit that can extend your willingness to show up for you.
5. It Can Help You Communicate Your Needs In Partnered Sex
The more communicative you are when having sexual experiences with others, the better for all. While it can sometimes feel awkward or challenging to let your partner or partners know what it is you like in bed, masturbation is something that can really help you identify these things so that you can clearly ask for what you want.
"For those that desire partnered sex, by knowing what is pleasurable to your body," Brito says, "you are more likely to be sexually assertive about your sexual fantasies and sexual preferences."
6. It Can Help You With Feelings Of Shame Around Sexuality
It's totally OK to feel shame, reticence, or confusion around sexuality and your own sexual needs. It indeed has a lot to do with a growing up in a culture that is less than sex positive, and in so many ways, incredibly restrictive. Touching yourself and getting to know your body on your terms can help with that, and can release some of those negative feelings or thoughts you might have around sex.
"Masturbation also helps you to feel more empowered and to experience less shame about you sexual desires," Brito says. It can restore or increase your sexual confidence if it's something you enjoy.
7. It Can Relax You And Give You A Moment Of Bliss
Perhaps the best benefit of all, is that it can provide you with a moment of serious happiness and relaxation. "Afterwards, your body muscles will relax and you may feel a sense of bliss or pleasure," Brito says. And that's no joke, according to Laurie Mintz, PhD, in Psychology Today, masturbation actually releases serious "feel-good" chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine.
Indeed, these are some really wonderful ways that masturbation can deepen your relationship to yourself and bring lots of positivity to your life. The more you do it, in fact, the more personal benefits you may find!