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12 ways to boost libido and improve your sex life

Ashley Laderer,Shannon Ullman,Rosara Torrisi   

12 ways to boost libido and improve your sex life
  • You can increase your sex drive with diet, exercise, sleep, relaxation, herbs, and more.
  • Everyone's sex drive is different, and there is no "normal" or "abnormal" desire for sex.

Media and societal norms lead people to believe that they should be ready to have sex at any given moment. While this is the experience of some people, it certainly isn't the case for everybody.

If you're looking to increase your sex drive or libido, there are a few things you can do to boost your desire. Here is what the research says.

What is libido?

Libido is a person's sexual desire or appetite. A person's libido can be affected by hormones, mental state, stress, brain function, and behavior patterns.

Everyone's libido is different, and the same person's sex drive might fluctuate over time, depending on circumstances. This is normal.

According to sexologist and sexuality counselor Jess O'Reilly, Human Sexuality Ph.D. and host of the Sex With Dr. Jess Podcast, there's no universal standard or rule of thumb when it comes to sexual desire.

"Low desire is only a problem if you deem it one or you find it distressful. Some people want sex several times per day, and others don't want it at all, and all experiences can be perfectly healthy," says O'Reilly.

However, if you do find your lack of sexual desire distressing and you want to be more interested in sex, O'Reilly recommends looking at whether your libido is low due to lifestyle or relational factors, which could range from trouble communicating with each other, lacking emotional connection, or dealing with existing conflicts such as fighting over money or kids.

How to boost your sex drive

Try these 12 tips to increase your libido:

1. Reduce stress levels

Stress can cause various physical symptoms, including a lower libido.

O'Reilly says your levels of cortisol — commonly referred to as the stress hormone — rise when you're stressed out, and this can interfere with your sexual desire and arousal. A 2018 survey conducted by the BBC found that 45% of respondents said that stress negatively affected their sex drive. A low sex drive in women can be caused by stress, more so than in men, according to research.

However, learning to reduce or manage stress can be difficult. Don't be afraid to ask for help and support, whether it's from your partner or a therapist. A few options for relieving stress include:

2. Understand arousal and learn what turns you on

For many people, the desire for sex isn't there 24/7.

"Desire does not always occur spontaneously. Most people need to get aroused first, and then they might experience desire. If you sit around waiting for sexual desire to occur on its own, it simply may not happen," says O'Reilly.

There are plenty of ways you can ramp up arousal and, thus desire. Try some of the following:

  • Fantasizing
  • Sexting
  • Watching porn
  • Reading erotic stories
  • Masturbating
  • Having your partner kiss and touch you without the expectation of sex
  • Listening to erotica
  • Enjoying music that feels sexual to you
  • Sex toys

Get creative and experiment with what turns you on most and increases your desire. O'Reilly says that once you're aroused, it's much more likely that desire for sex will follow.

Expanding your definition of what sex means can also be helpful. If you are not excited by the type of sex you have been engaged in, trying something new can be exciting.

Best sex toys

Sex toys can liven up your sex life so that it becomes more exciting for both you and your partner. Here are the best sex toys we've tested:

3. Let go of performance anxiety

Performance anxiety, pressure, and stress surrounding sex are likely to curb your arousal and your desire.

"Pressure is the antithesis to pleasure, so if you feel pressure to have sex in a certain way, look a certain way, have an orgasm, get hard, get wet, make specific sounds or want sex with a specific frequency, you may find that you lose interest altogether," says O'Reilly.

Take time out to really get to know yourself sexually. O'Reilly says that spending time better understanding your body's unique responses through masturbation can help you to be more at ease when you're with a partner. She also highly recommends using mindfulness during masturbation, and mindfulness in general, which will result in benefits in partnered sex.

Practicing mindfulness has been studied with great results in regard to libido. A 2014 study examined 117 women who struggled with low desire. After mindfulness training, there was a significant decrease in "sex-related distress."

4. Get enough sleep

Sleep affects many aspects of your health and behavior, including your sex drive. A 2019 study found that lack of quality sleep is correlated to low libido, as well as difficulty orgasming in women.

O'Reilly says exhaustion can lead to a lack of desire for sex. In this case, you should be prioritizing sleep over sex. Once you take care of your sleep habits, you may notice a difference in your libido, according to O'Reilly.

A few ways to improve your sleep habits include:

  • Limiting screen time before bed
  • Limiting caffeine intake to early in the day
  • Going to bed at a consistent time each night
  • Regular exercise
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Sleeping in a cool, dark room

5. Address relationship dissatisfaction

When you're in a relationship, and you're experiencing issues with your partner, it's likely that those problems will spill over into the bedroom and leave one or both of you less likely to want sex.

"If you're harboring resentment, dealing with a partner who doesn't want to engage, struggling with ongoing conflict, recovering from hurt and trauma, it's unlikely that you'll want sex spontaneously," says O'Reilly.

It's best to work on these issues with your partner rather than sweep them under the rug and hope they go away. O'Reilly suggests talking about underlying sources of tension and being open about issues.

Quick tip: You can try to address relationship troubles alone with your partner or with the help of a couple's therapist.

6. Reduce negative anticipation

You might not be looking forward to sex if you are worried about potential or actual negative consequences.

If you don't want to get pregnant or are worried about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), use barrier methods such as condoms and hormonal birth control. Be sure to have conversations with any partner about your comforts and concerns.

Some people also experience unwanted pain with sex. Ask your doctor about any pain or discomfort you experience.

If you regularly have issues with getting or maintaining erections and control over orgasms, you might be worried about sex being pleasurable for you and your partner. Make an appointment with a urologist if you have any issues with erections or orgasms.

7. Talk to a therapist

Talking to a general therapist or a sex therapist can help you deal with underlying psychological reasons that you might be experiencing low sex drive. O'Reilly says this can be particularly helpful if you're dealing with shame surrounding sex, body image, or trauma.

There is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about regarding sex or seeking therapy to help with your sex life. This can be a way to examine the sources of your distress.

If there is an underlying psychological cause, then simply trying to boost your libido probably won't help. You need to address the fundamental issue at hand first.

8. Consider hormone therapy

If your low libido stems from symptoms of menopause, hormone therapy could help. Vaginal dryness and atrophy can make sex painful, but hormonal patches, gels, sprays, and medications can all help.

Learning how to increase sex drive in women can be a matter of speaking with a doctor to receive hormone therapy. These therapies include:

  • Estrogen
  • Prasterone
  • Testosterone
  • Ospemifene

Important: Make sure to always consult your doctor before starting any new medication or supplement.

9. Eat foods that boost libido

Eating libido-boosting foods isn't a quick fix for low sex drive. However, there is some truth behind the concept of aphrodisiacs. According to research, certain nutrients can help boost sex drive and fertility.

For example, diets high in animal protein, trans-fatty acids, and carbohydrates can have a negative impact on fertility. Diets high in vegetable protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants could improve fertility.

Getting an adequate amount of these nutrients could help boost sex drive in some people. Some foods with the potential to boost libido include:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seafood

Foods that could contribute to a low sex drive may include:

  • Saturated fats like those found in fried food
  • Polyunsaturated fats like those found in vegetable oil
  • White flour and sugar
  • High sodium items

10. Try herbs for sex drive

If you prefer to stick with natural remedies for a low sex drive, herbs can be a great option. Some studies show that select natural herbs have the potential to boost libido.

Some herbs with the potential to boost your sex drive include:

  • Ginseng: Especially Korean Red Ginseng, which has been shown to help improve sex drive in women with menopause.
  • Maca: There is anecdotal evidence that this Peruvian root is an aphrodisiac.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: This extract has been shown to increase blood flow to the genitals.

Many of these herbal supplements can be found online or in natural health food stores.

11. Practice body acceptance

A low sex drive in women and men could be caused by a person's body confidence.

Societal pressures, the media, upbringing, and mental health issues can cause some people to dislike their bodies. When you're not feeling comfortable in your skin it may lower your sex drive. Practicing acceptance of your body can help you feel grateful for the skin you're in, and boost confidence.

Body acceptance is definitely a practice, so don't get too frustrated with yourself if you find it's a challenge. Ways to practice body acceptance include:

  • Writing in a gratitude journal.
  • Consuming healthy foods that make you feel good.
  • Moving your body and getting exercise in ways you find enjoyable.
  • Working with a therapist.
  • Dressing in a way that makes you feel confident and comfortable.
  • Limiting media that makes you feel bad about yourself or your body.
  • Practicing positive self-talk.

12. Limit alcohol

Sure, alcohol may temporarily lower your inhibitions, but it can lower your libido and disrupt sexual functions.

One 2016 study showed that women reported less lubrication and difficulty reaching orgasm after drinking. Males reported that they felt less sensation in their genitals — also known as "whiskey dick" — when having sex under the influence of alcohol.

If you're going to drink and are hoping to boost your sex drive, try to stay within one to three drinks.

What causes low sex drive?

There are many reasons someone may experience a low sex drive. Some of these reasons include:

Insider's takeaway

Everyone's sex drive is different, and that's okay. If you're experiencing a lower sex drive than what is normal for you, there can be many reasons. Health conditions, medications, psychological issues, and relationship problems can all cause low libido.

There are plenty of ways to boost your sex drive, though. Healthy lifestyle habits like exercise, diet, mindfulness, and self-love can get your libido up and running. Whether your libido is low or high, it doesn't really matter, as long as you're happy and satisfied with your sex life. If you're not, there are plenty of ways to make a change.


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