I don’t usually write articles on sparking romance; health tips are kind of my thing. But it’s February, which means Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. So to get you ready for February 14th (Yes, it’s that soon, guys. Trust me, I just googled it.) here are some health tips that will lead a healthier, more fulfilling life, with the bonus of getting your libido back to where you want it. You won’t find classic quick tips here, like “Plan a date night!” Just like a relationship, these tips take some time and effort.
What health article would be complete without a reminder that you probably don’t maintain the healthiest habits? While there’s no judgment here, you’re probably judging yourself a bit too much. Poor self-image can be the death knell for your sex life, whereas getting in shape can be just the spark to ignite it. It can also be an excellent way to deepen your bonds with your partner. Jogging together (or biking, or swimming, or strolling through the park) can strengthen your emotional connection while also giving each of you a support system to keep you going. A goal is far easier to accomplish when you have somebody helping you along the way. Even more so when you feel as though you’re needed to help achieve your partner’s goals. So instead of exercise becoming the chore that you dread facing, remember that you don’t have to face it alone. Getting in shape together means sharing time, forming memories that will strengthen your bond, improving your blood flow, heart function and hormone balance, sparking a positive feedback loop in your brain through endorphins that will associate both exercise and your partner with positive feeling, and most of all it will help you feel more positive about your own self-image. If you were counting, that was seven libido enhancing benefits, all from just exercising together.
How you spend your time will either strengthen or diminish your relationship. Whenever you’re doing something that feels boring, bland, tedious or ordinary in the presence of someone else, our minds naturally begin to associate that person with those feelings. While you may think you’re just relaxing after a rough week, you and your partner are both building feedback loops that will lead you to believe the other is boring, bland, tedious and ordinary. Breaking out of this cycle requires action. Exercising with your partner is a great start, but to really spark that romantic flame, you need to manage the time you spend with each other. Research shows that couples who engage in activities together increase their satisfaction with their relationships. Maybe it’s time to finally take that Latin Dance? But just as important as the time you spend together is the time that you don’t. When your partner enjoys activities that you do not, it’s not helping your relationship to force yourself to join them, or to force them to join you. Making an effort to appreciate what your loved one enjoys is crucial, but it’s perfectly fine to have your own friends, activities and adventures apart from them. Remember, it’s not the quantity of time you spend together, but the quality. Doing things you don’t enjoy for the sake of your loved one will negatively affect how you feel about them, whether you realize it or not.
Just as your time spent with a person determines how you feel about them, your time spent in a location- a bedroom, for example- does the same. If your bedroom is where you watch TV before sleeping, comfort your children after they’ve had a bad dream or curl up under the covers after a rough day, then you’re using it wrong. Your bedroom should be an island in your home, for you and your partner only. Lock the children and pets out, move that television to another room and reclaim the space in the name of your relationship. How you feel about the room is probably already etched into your mind, so take a look around and ask yourself if there’s a way you could spice it up a bit. A coat of paint and a new bedspread may be just enough to give the room a different feel. Your bedroom should be a place that puts you at ease, and the décor should be selected with that in mind. Once you have established that there are only two things that happen in that room, you’ll find that both of them come more easily and naturally.
Exhaustion can take a terrible toll on your sex life, and while rearranging some furniture should help you sleep better, it won’t always do the job on its own. Taking naps and eating a high protein/low carb diet can aid in boosting your energy supplies. If you don’t feel like you have the time for napping, remember that you’re not in this alone. It takes two to form a couple, and working together as a team is twice as efficient as going it alone. Schedule your time to include shifts, where one person can manage the children and urgent errands while the other unwinds. Keep the naps short, though, as oversleeping can make you lethargic, and cause feelings of resentment in your overworked partner. Make sure that the choirs are divided evenly, and tackle larger tasks together. The more you think of yourselves as a team, the closer you will grow.
Never go to bed angry. That’s a phrase that you’ve probably heard at least a hundred times before. Unresolved arguments do not make for a better sex life. Furthermore, bringing those negative emotions into your bedroom is undoing all of the hard work you did in reclaiming that space. When conflicts arise, they should be hashed out before the end of the day. Letting them sit and fester overnight, or worse, for several days is poisoning the well of intimacy that you’re trying to build upon. Address the issues you have with your partner before they’ve had time to take root in your heart. If talking about your issues only raises an argument, then both people should take a time out. Go for a walk (don’t drive angry!) or split off into separate rooms, but only after agreeing to readdress the issue that evening, after a predetermined amount of time has passed. Not every issue can be resolved before bed that same night, but even just understanding that your partner is willing to hear you out and work with you is enough to keep those negative feelings out of your bedroom. Communication is essential to building trust, and trust is essential to a healthy romance.
Stress can be a relationship killer. Stress causes your body to produce cortisol, which is great in small doses, but in excess, it suppresses your libido. Going to bed stressed is just as bad for your relationship as going to bed angry is. There are many ways to cope with stress, from physical activities like yoga, exercise and screaming into a canyon, to meditation, therapy or relaxation techniques. The right way to D-Stress (see what I did there?) is the one that works for you. Men are more prone to use sex as a means of relieving stress, whereas women often have difficulty getting in the mood when they are under stress. These differences in the genders are not always the case, so learning how your partner copes with stress can eliminate one potential stressor from your life.
It’s no secret that what you put in your body affects your mood. Your sex drive is no exception. There is little evidence that supports the effectiveness of “aphrodisiacs”, but there’s no harm in trying. For real aphrodisiacs, however, your focus should be on nutrient rich foods. Foods that provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals can potentially increase blood flow, provide energy and promote a healthy sex life. A heart-healthy diet can also increase your libido. Studies have found a link between high cholesterol and women who have difficulty with arousal. Cholesterol in the arteries decreases blood flow, leading to less sensation, reduces energy, sluggish brain function and difficulties in achieving and maintaining arousal in both genders. Increasing the fruits and veggies in your diet and reducing animal fats and whole-milk products will help keep that cholesterol in check. If you’re looking for sense enhancing foods, basil and garlic make great additions to a romantic meal. They stimulate your senses, and garlic contains allicin to help increase blood flow. For dessert, try consuming dark chocolate. It has been linked with improved sexual pleasure, which is just icing on the decadent chocolate cake. An article in the South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims that chocolate releases phenylethylamine and serotonin- producing some aphrodisiac effects. Though other studies report that the aphrodisiac rumors about chocolate are more psychological than biological. To up the romance to another level, strawberries contain a wealth of vitamins. Dipping them in that dark chocolate as you feed them to each other has been a staple of a romantic evening for a long time, and for good reason.
Be careful when it comes to supplementation that advertises drastic improvements to your love life. As recently as last month, dozens of supplement companies have been cited for spiking their horny goat weed, bee byproducts and other botanicals with Viagra and/or Cialis to give their “supplements” the effects that they claim. Taking spiked supplements can be deadly, so those of us in the supplement industry have a moral responsibility to only deliver what we advertise. Sadly, many companies do not take this responsibility seriously, or they are ignorant of the harm that their contaminated products are causing. To reduce your risk of taking pharmaceuticals without your knowledge, avoid any supplement that makes claims about erectile disfunction. To date, no botanical or nutrient has been shown to have the same effects as prescription medications. Stick to safer supplements, such as Ginkgo biloba, a herb believed to aid in combatting sexual dysfunction, particularly in individuals who take anti-depressants. And ensuring that you’re receiving the proper essential nutrients, particularly B vitamins, is far more effective than the herbal libido enhancers on the market.
As I mentioned, these tips take some time and effort, but what relationship worth maintaining doesn’t?