Self-Care Tips

5 Small Tweaks You Can Make at Home To Reduce Stress and Boost Libido, According to a Sex Therapist

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Decades of research has shown that our living environment (among many other factors) plays a big role in our mental health. Living in a cluttered, stressful environment has been linked to higher cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and increased depressed mood among women, while doing chores like tidying and organizing has been shown to boost brain function.

How your home is set up (and what's in it) also plays a role in your mood. If you're constantly looking at a sad wall, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, surrounded by clutter, odds are you're not going to feel as good as if you were in a comfortable chair, looking at things that spark joy, and feeling cozy and yummy in our environment.

This can have ripple effects to other parts of your life, including your libido. As a sex therapist, I like to think of our libidos (aka our sex drives) as a "check engine" light for your whole being. You may have heard old jokes from the '50s (or your gross uncle) about how housewives can’t have sex unless the sink is empty. While these jokes are filled with patriarchal and misogynistic tones, the takeaway remains—and not just for women. When our environment is creating stress, it’s tough to want to have sex.

Now, we can’t control everything in our environments, especially things like the culture or people around us. So, it’s important we start with the things we do have control over—like the lighting, cleanliness, sounds, and other things that affect your senses within your spaces at home or work. To make the most impact from the beginning, start with the room you spend the most time in and declutter it, add in color and yummy smells, and add things that bring you joy.

I started doing this in my own home, where three out of four of us living in the house often WFH, and found the impact incredibly significant. Here are some of the things I found worked best for me and my well-being.

Home relaxation ideas to boost your mood and libido

1. Tackle your clutter

As mentioned, clutter can be a major mood-killer and can add to your stress at home—the last thing anyone needs for a happy home life (or sex life, for that matter). If you struggle to keep up with mess, try keeping a daily checklist of small tasks and devoting just 15 minutes to them every day. I also swear by the Open Spaces Entryway Rack ($189), which adds a bright pop of color to my space while helping corral my stuff in a visually-friendly way.

2. Get cozy

There's nothing like throw blankets and pillows to instantly make a space feel more comfortable and relaxing. I personally love pretty lumbar pillows (like Pillowpia Chindi Lumbar Pillow, $88) for providing great support for your back (ideal for working from home or sleeping) while still making your space look beautiful. The right kind can brighten up a room and feel incredible to sit with on a couch or chair. Hello, relaxation.

3. Add plants to your space

The mental health benefits of greenery are well-established. Gardening and taking care of plants improves physical and mental health, while plants themselves can help improve your concentration, make you more compassionate, and soothe. Another study found that your sympathetic nervous system (which controls your "fight or flight" response) is actually calmed by time with plants. (Take that, stress levels!)

Even if you don't have the greenest thumb, all this seems like more than enough reason to add some houseplants in your space. I'm personally a big fan of Urban Flora House Plants, which ships plants straight to your home. Other similar companies in this vein include The Sill, Bloomscape, and Easyplant. (And if you're totally new to plants, check out these easy-care indoor plants.)

4. Surround yourself with photos of loved ones

Are you someone who enjoys seeing photos of you and the people you love? Small wonder: A 2021 survey found that looking back at old photos is more relaxing to your system than meditating. Plus, revisiting nostalgic memories (such as those captured in pictures) help you feel connected to loved ones and elicits feelings of warmth and comfort. This isn't to say you should ditch your meditation practice. Rather, consider it a sign to print out some old photos you love, put them up in your room that you’re working on, and feel the relaxation melt over you.

5. Light some candles

Particular scents can trigger powerful memories and emotions—and lighting a candle (or a few) can help you change your mood almost instantly. The visual of the candle itself can also be incredibly calming for people. Add in scents that are proven to shift brain chemistry (like lavender, for example), and you have a great combo to help lift your mood. (It doesn't hurt that candles also engage your senses, which is great for setting a more sensual mood when you want to get busy.)

These are only a few suggestions, but I hope you get this idea and find things that fit you and your household. Do you want to have pretty sex toys out because those bring you joy? Great. Is it a specific color of paint on the walls? Wonderful. Do whatever feels good for you; a healthy mind and libido will follow.

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