3 Ways to Prioritize Your Sexual Health (And Why It Matters So Much)
We tend to so many different aspects of our health. We hit the gym and walk around the block to make sure our hearts are strong, think about the types of foods we fuel our bodies with, and even take care of our mental wellness via habits like meditation, journaling, and getting enough sleep. Our sexual health, however, is an aspect of our overall well-being that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.
The Connection Between Sexual Health, Happiness, & Confidence
In a nutshell, being sexually healthy means that we’re comfortable, joyful, and even excited about the sexual side of ourselves. This takes real work, especially in situations where we need to undo deep shame or work through embarrassment.
“Sexuality is just as important as our general physical and mental health,” notes Dr. Lee Phillips, a psychotherapist and certified sex couples therapist. “It’s part of our identity, and it’s the source of desire, arousal, and eroticism. Prioritizing sexual wellness is important because it is all about connecting pleasure to our body’s wants and desires.”
Taking time to prioritize our sexual wellness can have all sorts of benefits – the kind that go well beyond fleeting pleasure or intense orgasm. Being in peak sexual health can help us feel more connected to the world, enhance our intimate relationships, and be very inwardly healing. Dr. Phillip adds, “It also helps lay out the foundation of body acceptance, and it is the antidote to pain – both emotional and physical.”
Kiana Reeves, somatic sex educator and chief content officer at Foria, agrees. She says that our sexuality is closely tied with how we feel about ourselves – perhaps more than we might even realize. When we’re sexually healthy, “sexual expression no longer is this secret side conversation that can only live behind closed doors,” she says. “It is a public reclamation of one of the most powerful and important parts of our lives.”
3 Ways to Prioritize Your Sexual Health Starting RN
In the same way we need to take time to foster other aspects of our well-being, prioritizing our sexual health can take time and purposeful work. Here are a few ways you can start focusing on your sexual well-being:
1. Take Care of Your Physical-Sexual Self
A key aspect of sexual health is being educated and responsible to yourself and others. That means getting tested routinely for STIs, with more frequency if you are in a non-monogamous relationship or are single and mingling.
Dr. Phillips adds, “It’s also important for women and other vulva owners to attend routine gyno appointments for general health, preventive care, birth control, menstruation, and if there is pain during intercourse. For men and other penis owners who experience erectile challenges, I recommend seeing a urologist to rule out low testosterone and other medical conditions.”
2. Don’t Shy Away From Knowing, Exploring, and Loving Your Body
We don’t need to tell you that there’s quite a bit of shame, embarrassment, fear, and unfamiliarity many of us have with our bodies. However, you’ll find enormous power in shunning those negative feelings and instead taking time to know, explore, and love your body.
“Look in the mirror at [yourself] – at your thighs, your breasts, your face, [your sexual anatomy], and feel the feelings you need to feel,” Reeves says. “Even if you feel disappointment, disgust, or a wish for it all to be different, let yourself feel it for long enough that something else emerges.”
She says not to attach to the story of ‘I wish I looked this way,’ but to rather acknowledge the weight of any sadness you’ve carried. What have you held back from? What might you have missed out on by holding onto these negative emotions and thoughts? After considering these things, remind yourself that your body is the singular home you have for the rest of your life, and it’s up to you to determine how it serves you.
This awaking can give you the freedom to further explore and enjoy yourself, notes Dr. Phillips, who adds that masturbation and solo sex is a great way to understand who you are and what brings you pleasure. It’s also an incredible way to build your sexual self-esteem, which you and your partner(s) can benefit from.
3. Communicate With Your Partner
At its core, sex requires great communication. If you’re in a relationship, get curious and perhaps even a little creative with each other.
“You want to use assertive communication where you state what you need, but you should also be curious about your partner’s needs,” says Dr. Phillips. “It is important to be sexually empathetic with your partner because this improves communication and sexual generosity.”
Often, the trickiest thing about sexual communication is figuring out where and how to begin. Here are a few prompts that’ll help you break the ice (and if you’re single, these are still important details to know about yourself):
- Things about sex that make me feel excited…
- Things about sex that make me feel anxious…
- Parts of my body that I like being touched…
- Parts of my body that are off-limits…
- Words that I like my body and genitals to be called…
- Sexual acts I am curious about…
Did you know that having orgasms can actually make your skin look better? What!? It’s true!