You used to want to have sex. A lot. There was a time when you couldn't wait to rip your guy's clothes off, when you felt empowered and excited by the mere thought of a bedroom romp. Ah, the good ol' days. Recently, however, it seems that watching American Idol — or watching paint dry — are more appealing options than getting it on with your fella. Whatever happened to that sexy, flirtatious girl you used to know? Don't worry — she's still in there.
While many of us blame kids, bills, or work and say we don't have the time or energy to get sexual, we're actually missing the real cause of the cool-down, says psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, M.D., the author of The Secrets of Happily Married Women. "One of the main reasons I've found that women don't want to have sex is that they don't feel as sexy as they used to," he says. Unfortunately, feeling sexy isn't something you can just conjure up at a moment's notice. "Women have to transition between the mother who's taking care of everything to the seductive wife, and that doesn't happen in an instant," Haltzman says. "It takes work."
You can find the time to get your sexy back. The first step? Retrain your brain. "Change the way you think about sex," suggests Haltzman. "Most women think of sex as something he gets and you give. Instead, think of yourself as being the receiver or the lucky one." Once you start seeing sex as a treat for you, you can tune in to other sensual treats in your daily life. And getting in touch with feel-good sights, sounds, and experiences will make you feel more confident and vibrant. Soon, you'll open yourself up to feeling sexy and attractive — and you'll actually want to have sex (dishes be damned!). Then you can start reveling in all the rewards a healthy sex life can bring: a tighter bond with your husband; less stress, tension, and anxiety; and a rosier outlook on life. Not to mention, when you're having good sex on a regular basis, you feel sexier. It's a cycle — one that you can kick-start now to cast a positive halo over every area of your life, including your friendships, your job, and your self-confidence. Here are 21 ways to tap in to your sensual self — and start reaping the benefits tonight.
1. Focus on the last time. Taking just five minutes out of your busy day to replay the specifics of your last really great sexual encounter will whet your appetite, says Gail Saltz, Ph.D., the author of The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life. Think about your pleasure: how it made you feel — and how you want to feel that way again.
2. Touch yourself. (No, we don't mean that way, but that's not a bad idea either.) Take the time after a hot shower to massage your body with lotion, instead of just slapping it on. Or give yourself a relaxing neck rub. "I brush my skin with a soft brush every morning when I wake up," says Mary McGuire-Wien, of New York City. "It makes my skin feel much more alive."
3. Watch something hot. Does Brad Pitt do it for you? Be sure to addTroy to your Netflix queue. Or the movie that you and your husband saw on your fifth date... and didn't quite make it all the way through. Women are visual creatures (just like men), and when you give your eyes a sensual treat, it will reignite your flames of desire.4. Throw away the Victoria's Secret catalogue. Comparing yourself to unrealistic body ideals is a surefire way to feel unsexy. Remove these images from your life as much as you possibly can (as in, turn off The Bachelorand all those size 0 bikini bodies). When you do see them, remind yourself that these body types are un-attainable. And that yours is just fine, thank you very much.
5. Ditch the sweats. "If sweats have become your standard after-work uniform, then you are unlikely to feel sexy," says Sari Locker, the author ofThe Complete Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex. You don't have to wear fishnets, "but buy some clothes that make you feel sexy when you're lounging, even if that's just a silky camisole and leggings."
6. Get away. Take a walk or plan a girls' night out. "When I do something just for me, it's easier to remember who I was before I was a wife and mom," says Megan Barner, of Charlotte, NC. "After I spend time with friends, my husband says I come back a new woman."
7. Exercise. There are a million reasons to hit the gym — lose weight, lower stress — but the best one is to boost your sexiness. Sweat releases endorphins, giving you a natural high. "When I feel low, I hit the gym," says Jaime Sarrio, of Nashville. "I feel strong and sexy after a run on the treadmill or a weight-lifting session."
8. Get nostalgic. Joanne Rock, of Peru, NY, creates lustful playlists that remind her of when she was falling in love with her husband. "Hearing those tunes sends my thoughts to sexy places," she says. Or take out photos from when you two first started dating. Remember that wanton lust that overcame both of you? Trust us, it's still there.
9. Make your most beautiful feature pop. Play up your eyes with a new eyeliner, or try a different gloss on your lips. Or, if you normally go natural, put on a little concealer. "When you feel beautiful, you feel sensual," says Debbie Mandel, the author of Turn On Your Inner Light. Take the extra three or four minutes to primp yourself and feel pretty — just for you.
10. Buy new underthings. Throw away those ripped, faded, you've-had-them-for-four-years granny panties and invest in some new underwear. The sexier, the better — but G-strings aren't required. New bikinis, boy shorts, or even basic briefs can make you feel special.
11. Stop worrying. When you're focused on worry, the last thing on your mind is feeling sexy, says Louann Brizendine, the author of The Female Brain and The Male Brain. Pinpoint what's bothering you and try to set it aside. Write down your concerns and tuck them away. Or distract yourself from a problem that's weighing on you by concentrating on a crossword or Sudoku puzzle. And for Pete's sake, stop stressing over your thighs or your tummy pooch. He's (really, truly, absolutely) not thinking about it, so why are you?12. Breathe. Mindful breaths enhance and reinforce the mind-body connection, says Sandor Gardos, Ph.D., the founder of mypleasure.com. For a few minutes each morning, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Clear your thoughts and focus on being calm. When you're relaxed, it's easier to get in touch with your inner sexiness.
13. Look in the mirror. From the onset of puberty, we're taught to scrutinize every imperfection of our bodies. Instead, give yourself a reaffirming reality check by doing the opposite. Stand naked in front of a full-length mirror and focus on the things you really love about yourself: your strong thighs, shiny hair, or full, sexy chest.
14. Turn off the iPhone. And the TV. And your laptop. Life's distractions keep you from being fully in touch with yourself, never mind anyone else, Brizendine says. Unplug for a few minutes each day so you can plug in to what's important: you. Focus on just one activity — reading a book or having a snack. Tuning out from the world helps make you a priority, which in turn reminds you just how lovable you are.
15. Move your hips. Not a good dancer? Fake it! Turn on your favorite tunes and just let go. "When you move your entire body to a beat, you start to love how it feels and embrace what your body can do," says Vanessa Isaac, the creator of Hip Brazil Dance and Fitness. "Awakening your inner rhythm awakens your sensuality."
16. Create a kid-free zone. Nothing kills sensuality like a room full of Tinker Toys, diaper bags, and crayon-drawn art. Have a space in your house that's adult-only so you can focus on yourself. "For us, that's the bedroom," says Erica Smith, a San Francisco mom of two. "It has nothing kid-oriented in it. No toys, no pictures of their adorable faces. It's an environment for us as lovers, instead of Mom and Dad."
17. Change it up. Take an art class. Or book a last-minute weekend getaway. "Novelty is the greatest aphrodisiac," Gardos says. Switch up your routine to create spontaneity. "When you do something out of the ordinary, you're taking yourself off of autopilot, which creates excitement in your life," he says. "Excitement is always sexy."
18. Hit the spa. Get a manicure, pedicure, or bikini wax (or all three if you've got the time and money). "If I go for too long without these minor beauty treatments, I can literally feel my sexiness waning," says Kimberly Elloie, from Atlanta. Taking care of yourself boosts your confidence —plus, having someone pamper you and make you feel pretty can remind you that, heck yeah, you're worth it, hot mama.
19. Illuminate your nights. Light a scented candle in your den or break out those candlesticks for dinner. Candlelight casts a warm, cozy glow over everything and everyone in the room and is so much more flattering than harsh lightbulbs. You will literally and figuratively see yourself in a new light.20. Strike a pose. A recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women who regularly practiced yoga felt sexier. Researchers say it could be because yoga forges a stronger mind-body connection through meditation and creates self-confidence, which can lead to feeling more romantic.
21. Create a bathing ritual. Once a week (or more, if you're lucky), light candles, run a bath, add a foaming bath gel, and submerge yourself in a warm tub. "Sure, it's a cliché," says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., the author ofA Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness."But it works." There's nothing like warm suds on your naked body to pump up the sensuality factor and remind yourself how important it is to take time to reconnect with you. So what are you waiting for? Go fill up the tub....