It doesn’t take much to get a man to start thinking about sex. It’s a little more complicated for women.
Scientifically speaking, certain critical switches must be triggered before your partner's brain orders the release of vasoactive intestinal peptide, the chemical that increases blood flow to the pelvic area, swelling her inner and outer labia and causing her to feel the gnawing tension of sexual desire. Though the intricacies of brain chemistry may be difficult to grasp without a medical degree, there are still plenty of easy, everyday things you can do to get the requisite juices flowing.
1. Use your hands
There are over 40,000 nerve endings in the palm of your partner’s hand. Don’t be afraid to gently take hold of it as you’re walking across the street or watching a movie. Using your own hands to give her a massage won't hurt your cause, either. Here's a four-step guide for rubbing her down the right way. She'll thank you later.
2. Water is a good thing
Take a stroll along a beach, a lake, or a river. Sit next to a birdbath. Fill up the tub. Studies show that simply being in the proximity of water creates a relaxing effect that may clam any libido-killing jitters. It's probably not a coincidence that commercials for erectile dysfunction medication feature so many shots of couples walking down the coast or gazing out at the ocean.
3. Seek thrills
Activities that produce adrenaline make us hyperaware. Breathing quickens and the heart begins to race, things that are also associated with sexual arousal. Roller coasters, zip lines, and scary movies can all be a turn-on. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology even found that couples who participated in such novel activities experienced greater overall relationship quality, which of course translates into the bedroom. Just make sure both you can hold your lunch down before strapping into anything extreme.
4. Break out a cucumber… in the kitchen
Certain scents trigger sexual arousal, but which scents do the trick can differ for men and women, according to research conducted by Dr. Alan R. Hirsch, director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, Illinois. What aromas turn women on? Hirsch found that cucumber and licorice lead to increased vaginal blood flow.
5. Feed her fantasies
According to a report in the Journal of Sex Research, women think about sex an average of 19 times a day. According to a Men’s Health survey, one in three women have in mind something they’ve been dying to try in bed but are scared to bring up with things start to get hot under the covers. There are plenty of ways to let your partner know you’re open to indulging her fantasies. Watch porn together. Gift her a book of erotic stories. You could also – and this may sound crazy – just ask her if there’s anything adventurous she’s been itching to try in the bedroom. Don't be afraid to communicate.
6. Dim the lights
There’s no physiological response – at least sexually – to low light, but according to sex researcher and author Ian Kerner, Ph.D., turning down the lights can make people feel less self-conscious, and thus more relaxed. Putting that dimmer switch to good use is a no-brainer.
7. Get sweaty
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that physical activity is able to prime a person’s body for sexual activity. It makes the body more sensitive to touch by revving up a network of neurons known as the sympathetic nervous system, which controls arousal. Go for a run, take a bike ride, hit the gym. Activity outside can lead to activity in the bedroom. Just ask power couple CJ Koegel, a fitness model, trainer, and inventor, and Bree Branker, a former Broadway dancer and Akins Army trainer.
8. Pick up a mop
According to the Journal of Family Issues, couples that clean together report more relationship satisfaction. The study’s author, Adam Galovan, Ph.D., says that women can equate your level of interest in helping out around the house with your level of interest in them.
9. Schedule a sex fast
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. By that same token, abstinence can make the sex grow stronger. Experts say that taking a short-term break from all forms of sex – including masturbation – can help both you and your partner rediscover the thrill of the chase.
10. Get some sleep
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that a good night’s sleep can boost a woman’s libido. After participants tracked their sleep and sex drives for two weeks, the study concluded that for women who are in a relationship, an extra hour of sleep increased their desire for sex the next day by 14 percent. “The driving force could be biological,” says study author David Kalmbach, Ph.D. “Some prior research has shown that sleep increases sex hormones, which can influence feelings of sexual desire.”
11. Watch a romantic movie
Research from the Netherlands suggests that romantic movies can heighten arousal in women, which isn’t necessarily the case for me. According to the study’s author, Marieke Dewitte, Ph.D., women’s sexual motivation can tend to stem from relationship-based content rather than from scenes that are overtly sexual, which are what tend to get men revved up.
12. Draft a wish list
A University of Brunswick study revealed that after 15 years together, couples said they only knew about 26 percent of what their partner disliked. This doesn’t need to be the case. Pour a glass of wine, grab a pen and paper, and start talking. A “yes, no, maybe” list for the bedroom is a surefire way to foster a sense of comfort and understanding, which will lead to better sex.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.