Woody Allen said it best, “Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone you love.” And, as it turns out, it’s a whole lot more than that: “Solo sex practices help you understand what makes your body feel good,” says Reid Mihalko, a sexuality and relationships educator and founder of ReidAboutSex.com. “Whether it’s using your hands or a sex toy, it’s understanding, ‘oh, my body likes this kind of stimulation in this way.’” And aside from the fact that it feels really, really good, a regular dose of self-pleasure also has a myriad of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. Consider these eight next time you crank up the Magic Mike soundtrack for that standing date with yourself.
Forget meditating—if you need to zen out, give yourself an orgasm instead. “The endorphins and the stress relief hormones that are released when pleasuring yourself can help relieve blood pressure and take your brain out of its fight or flight sympathetic nervous system and into its parasympathetic nervous system, which is where it’s in rest and relaxation mode,” says Mihalko.
Strengthens your immune system
The hormones that are released during orgasm, namely Oxytocin (known as the “love hormone”), can do more for your body than make your toes curl. “This helps the immune system kick in and do its job,” says Mihalko. Oxytocin has been shown to produce low levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which in turn, promotes the production of anti-bodies.
Promotes vaginal health
The contractions in your muscles during orgasm help keep your pelvic floor strong, helping to prevent urinary incontinence and promote overall sexual health.
Puts you in touch with your sexuality
Don’t be ashamed to get to know yourself down there. “In a culture where there is often shame and guilt associated with the act, reclaiming your right to your own pleasure, to make yourself feel good, is really important,” says Mihalko. Think of it like a pampering practice. He suggests scheduling “research and development” dates with yourself to try out new positions and types of stimulation in order to figure out what you like.
It improves body positivity
There is plenty of evidence that supports masturbation as a way of improving self-esteem. “The kind of positivity that comes from self-pleasure, knowing regardless of your shape, your size, your age, that you have a right to be alive and full of desire, helps you appreciate your body and all the cool things it can do,” says Mihalko.
Leads to better sex
“Discovering what your body likes through masturbation, the things that really work well for you, provides you with the knowledge to start sharing that with your partner,” says Mihalko. Try showing your partner what you like by masturbating together. Two birds, one stone (er, bone).
Relieves menstrual cramps
Move over, Midol: If PMS is tying your uterus in uber-painful knots, try treating yourself to an orgasm. “The strength and intensity of an orgasm can relieve cramps,” Judith Golden, a sex therapist, told BestHealthMag. “And the hormones released during sexual excitement can also help.” For some people, though, a mid-period orgasm might be too intense and can actually worsen pain.
Boosts your mood
A host of evidence shows that the feel-good hormones released during touch time will inevitably boost your mood. Because it helps activate the reward and pleasure systems of your brain, an orgasm is one of the best ways to get a blast of dopamine without using drugs. Mihalko adds, “If you get up a little extra early in the morning and pleasure yourself, there’s a good chance you will walk into work with more pep in your step.”