Wherever we’re going in life, the biggest question most of us grapple with along the way is this one: what makes me happy? Is it having a better car, a bigger house, more friends? A holiday to somewhere sunny with a poolside bar and a plethora of sexy masseurs attending to our every need? If you’re chasing some of the more expensive dreams, this new study into happiness might surprise you…
While my boyfriend seems happiest when he’s bought the latest iPhone or gadget, I find myself constantly searching for something different: free time. If you asked me what would have the biggest impact on my happiness, I’d probably tell you that an afternoon without any obligations, work or commitments would give me the biggest boost.
But new research out this week shows two things hold more power than any other when it comes to your overall happiness: sleep… and sex. The Metro reports that:
“The new happiness index, developed by Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research, and commissioned by Sainsbury’s, has found that sex and sleep are the two things that have the strongest association with a person’s happiness and wellbeing – well above money. Researchers found that while upping your income (even if you quadruple it) causes very little increase to your happiness, being well-rested and well-sexed have a significant impact on how joyful you feel.”
This might be welcome news if you’re looking at your pay packet and feeling a little dejected: as long as you’re getting plenty of shagging and shut-eye chances are you’re happier than your neighbour who has a BMW.
It’s also good news for people like me, who are lucky enough to count sex as a job as well as a hobby. We should technically be the happiest humans on the planet, right?
Well, maybe. But happiness is never going to be as simple as all that. While it may be possible for researchers to investigate the factors that have the biggest impact on your happiness, achieving happiness itself is always going to be hampered by ‘real life’ in all its complexity. It’s not just a question of ramping up the sex, or going to bed an hour earlier, because there are other things that prevent you from doing that.
Sex, happiness and mental health
Having children, for one, means it can be harder to get the sleep you need – not to mention privacy to make the most of your latest sex toy purchase. Having too great a workload – at home or in the office – can lead to stress, which keeps you awake and can stop you feeling horny. And although money may not buy you happiness, a lack of it can contribute to mental health problems.
Is there a solution? There are certainly options – though not all of them will work for everyone. If you were reading about the Happiness Index this week and wondering how you could boost yours, then these two top sexual happiness tips might be worth a try.
1. Talk to your doctor about sex and mental health
Yep, both of these are quite big conversations to have. It’s not always easy talking to your doctor about sex, and when you throw mental health into the mix too many people would rather bite their tongue than have a conversation. However, as someone who has struggled with anxiety for a number of years, I can tell you that talking to my doctor was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’d spent a long time stewing over the rising stress, increase in panic attacks, and general loss of libido that came from my excessively-anxious life, and I finally decided to do something about it. My doctor referred me to a talking therapies clinic (who gave me some CBT – short for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and talked me through some of the options for medication that might help me too.
You may not think that your problems warrant a doctor’s help, but it’s important to mention this option up front because there are many people for whom speaking to a medical professional is the most effective course of action. A general loss of libido isn’t just a problem for your mental health, it can also sometimes be a sign of other physical issues that are worth getting checked out.
2. Make time for your sexual self
If your loss of libido mainly comes from stress and worry, try to carve out a little space for yourself where you don’t have other worries knocking on the door. Arrange your schedule so you have an hour or two free, then turn off your phone, computer, and other interfering gadgets. Make yourself comfortable on the bed or in the bath, and just allow yourself some space to fantasise, enjoy your body, and perhaps play with one or two of your favourite sex toys.
If you’re with someone, see if you can arrange a ‘date night’ with your partner. You don’t need to go with them to a fancy restaurant – remember what the Happiness Index said about money not making a difference? – you could just go for a trip to the cinema for snogs in the back row, or a romantic walk along the river. Alternatively, stay in for the evening and reconnect with some candles and massage oil. Whatever you like, as long as you give yourself time to enjoy it rather than worrying about the next thing on your to-do list.
Of course there are plenty more things you can do to improve your sex life – trying out new toys, games or sexy outfits with your partner. But we talk about that stuff so much here on this blog that it’s often easy to forget the simple things: making sure that you are well and happy, and in the right head space to truly enjoy sex.