Getting in the mood can be a real struggle for a number of mental and physiological reasons – but did you know that you can rediscover your carnal urges at the gym?
We spoke to Kelli Young, a Toronto-based couple and sex therapist, about the importance of physical activity for maintaining a healthy sex drive. She shared five types of exercise that can help boost your libido.
1. Exercise that reduces stress Stress, which we all experience to varying degrees, causes elevated levels of cortisol and clutters the brain. Physical activity, however, releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that help counteract cortisol levels and generate an overall feeling of relaxation and well-being, and that are oh-so important for sexual desire.
''If our mind is crowded with all of these stresses and anxieties, it is very difficult for us to transfer into a more erotic mindset, which is necessary for sexual desire and arousal,'' says Young.
Try: Yoga. ''It promotes a mind-body connection and allows us to feel more tuned in to our bodies,'' explains Young. ''It teaches us how to breathe, relax and achieve a sense of calm and relaxation.''
2. Exercise that boosts energy ''One of the main reasons women complain of low sex drives is because they’re so tired. They’re multi-tasking all of the time and they’re busy with both work and home life responsibilities,'' says Young. ''Sex often falls to the bottom of our to-do lists and at the end of the day we have no energy left.''
Exercise actually helps to improve energy levels and ameliorate sleep, which is intrinsically tied to our cortisol levels and feelings of stress. ''If we’re less stressed and we have more energy during the day then we sleep better, which gives us more energy during the day, which makes us feel less stressed. It’s a positive cycle,'' she explains.
Try: Walking. Even low- to moderate-intensity exercise, like a quick jaunt around the block, can increase your mental alertness and up your energy levels. Start finding excuses to put on your walking shoes, even if it’s for only 10 minutes at a time.
3. Exercise that increases circulation According to Young, proper circulation is essential for our sexual function. ''For men, blood flow to the penis is the main mechanism of an erection. For women, an increase of blood flow to the genitals causes engorgement – and that really heightens sensation,'' she says. ''When we have that, we’re more likely to reach higher levels of arousal and orgasm, and when sex feels better, we desire it more.''
Blood flow will also increase lubrication, reducing pain, friction and the risk of developing yeast infections and urinary tract infections.
Try: Running or aerobics classes. These types of exercise will also improve your aerobic capacity and endurance levels, both of which may come in handy in the bedroom.4. Exercise that regulates hormones Hormonal balance is critical to sexual desire and all of the mechanisms of sexual arousal. ''For women in particular, sexual satisfaction is very much connected to sexual desire,'' explains Young. ''If sex is working properly and if sex feels good, then we’re more likely to want more of it.''
Physical activity has proven beneficial to help regulate hormones and to decrease some of the troublesome symptoms associated with PMS, such as bloating, cramping, mood swings and even headaches, making it easier to get in the mood.
Try: Resistance training. ''Increased muscle mass also increases our testosterone levels, and testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for sexual desire and drive in both men and women,'' explains Young.
5. Exercise that improves self-image Weight and body image issues are often the culprits behind low levels of sexual desire. Luckily, physical activity can do wonders for improving the way you feel about your body. If you’re proud of the way you look, you’ll feel more confident without your clothes on and less self-conscious about getting naked and intimate with your partner.
Try: Pilates. Not only does this type of body conditioning encourage long and lean muscles for an overall sleek look, it also focuses on the strengthening of your pelvic floor muscles. Stronger pelvic floor muscles contribute to improved sexual sensation and a stronger orgasm.
For most of us, anything that gets us off the couch and gets our hearts pumping for 30 minutes a day will prove beneficial. Moreover, exercise is something couples can endeavour to do together, whether discovering a new activity or making a commitment to get healthy as a team. Bonding and spending time together will help strengthen your relationship overall in addition to helping increase your sexual desire.
However, there is such a thing as too much exercise. ''Too much weight loss and high levels of activity can actually decrease testosterone levels and have the opposite effect of optimal levels of exercise. And, of course, injury can result, as well,'' says Young. So take care to not overdo it.
Yet again, you spent the night tossing and turning, and now you face the day feeling tired and cranky. What's going on inside your body isn't great, either, explains Tara Maltman-Just, pharmacist and executive clinician at Vitality Integrative Medicine in Winnipeg.
"Your sleep-wake cycle affects a lot more than just your energy throughout the day," she says. "It affects your immune function, your blood sugar. In fact, too much sleep or too little sleep can decrease life expectancy." We've all heard that adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night, but that's an average—some of us need more, while others are fine with less. How can you find your perfect number on the sleep spectrum?
Add more hours The first clue may be how you talk about it. "When people say they can ‘get away with' a certain number of hours of sleep, they're admitting they're not getting enough," says Dr. Charles Samuels, founder and medical director at the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary. "It means they know how much sleep they need to feel well rested on a daily basis, but they're not getting it."
Another sign: feeling bad-tempered or foggy-brained. Patience and clear thinking are often the first things to go in sleep-deprived individuals. "People become more irritable and inattentive," says Dr. Samuels. "The less rested you are, the less creative your thinking can be."
And if you've got the urge to eat, you might need a siesta, not snacks. "As we shorten the sleep we need, it increases the appetite for calorie-dense foods," explains Dr. Samuels. "It contributes to the onset of weight gain and poor weight control."
Too much of a good thing On the flip side, if you regularly spend the bulk of your free time snoozing, you might be sleeping more than you should. Oversleeping can be an indication of a host of other health problems—hypothyroidism and mood conditions such as depression, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia—all of which require treatment.
Of course, there are times when additional sleep is necessary—like when your body is recovering from illness or surgery. "In those cases, it makes sense to have more sleep," says Maltman-Just, "to allow the body to rest and heal." Bottom line? If you constantly feel the need to oversleep but aren't sure why, talk to your doctor to address any underlying issues.
The trick is to find your own happy medium—the number of hours of sleep needed to wake up rested and refreshed. If a restful vacation helped you realize you need eight hours of shut-eye per night and you're only clocking five, try these simple strategies to increase your total number of hours of zzz's.
- Keep a sleep diary Recording your sleeping and waking times in a diary—as well as your meals, exercise habits and caffeine and alcohol intake—is a helpful tool for improving sleep quality, according to Dr. Harvey Moldofsky, director of research at the Centre for Sleep and Chronobiology and president of the Toronto Psychiatric Research Foundation. The logic: A diary can provide clues as to why you might be undersleeping and, by extension, potential lifestyle changes to promote better sleep.
- Think weekly—not daily—totals If you're not getting your ideal number of hours of sleep every night, don't fret. "We always go on total number of hours of sleep per week," says Dr. Samuels. "People need 50 to 60 hours of sleep per week; try to get close to that." His suggestion: Keep your weekly sleep debt down with strategic naps, sleep-ins of up to one hour and consistent bedtimes throughout the week.
- Aim to sleep later Although you might be tempted to go to bed earlier to gain extra hours of slumber, you'll be better served by adding time to the end of your nightly sleep cycle whenever possible. "The way the brain likes to sleep is going forward," notes Dr. Samuels. "So maintain your bedtime—maybe turn in half an hour earlier—and then add to the other end, up to an extra hour." If your work schedule prevents sleeping in, try to get an extra hour of sleep on Saturdays and Sundays. If your sleep is so poor that you routinely get less than 50 to 60 hours a week, see your doctor.
With the growing trend of love blending with technology, there are a variety of online dating sites with mobile apps that are helping connect more people. Whether you're looking for a casual encounter or something more serious, there’s a dating app to suit almost every need. Here are seven top dating apps for you to consider.
1. OkCupid (free for both iPhone and Android devices) This popular online dating site also has a location-based mobile app that allows you to take your experience on the go. Users can sign in via Facebook or directly through the app to find local singles. The app allows you to watch the activity stream for potential matches, "favourite" a profile and rate your potential matches through the Quick Match feature. With over five million registered users since 2010, you never know whom you might find.
2. Match (available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices) Match.com, a pioneer dating website that launched in 1995, has users based in 24 countries around the world. People can sign up through Match.com and then download the app on their mobile devices. The app allows members to view profiles, upload up to 24 images, add users to their "Favourites" and rate their "Daily Matches." Subscriptions range anywhere from a month to a year. Pick one that suits you best.
3. eHarmony (available for iPhone and Android devices) This popular online dating site launched in 2000. Its claim to fame? Over one million people who used eHarmony went on to find lifelong partnerships. Users can sign up via the app, complete a relationship questionnaire, upload photos from their mobile phones or from Facebook, and receive daily matches—all free of charge. Paid subscribers get access to email and can also see who has viewed their profiles. It's the perfect app for those of all ages who are looking for long-term commitments. 4. Badoo (free for both iPhone and Android devices) With a community of more than 208 million users, Badoo is perfect for those looking to socialize and meet new people. The free basic service allows users to chat with and message other members, and upload photos and videos. Members can sign in with a Badoo or Facebook account via the mobile app or website to connect with locals who share common interests. The app also features a fun game called Encounters, which allows users to view potential matches and then tap "yes" or "no" to indicate whether or not they would like to meet. If you're not looking to date, Badoo is also a great app for social networking and friendship.
5. Plenty of Fish (free for both iPhone and Android devices) Plenty of Fish (POF) allows users to find potential dates and perhaps even their soul mates for free! It does have paid services as well, but users don't really need to upgrade; most of the best features such as Meet Me, which allows members to flirt with locals in their areas, are free of charge. This app allows users to search for singles using filters such as education, height, religious affiliations and body type. Another cool feature is Date Night, which tells other singles in your area that you're available for a date.
6. Zoosk (free for both iPhone and Android devices) Zoosk is one of the top mobile dating apps for iPhone users and is one of the Top 10 grossing social networking apps in the iTunes store. This app is available for free and also has a paid subscription option that allows you to access more features. If you’d rather not pay, you can still browse millions of singles, create a profile, upload photos, see who has viewed your profile, and scan and show interest in another member by using the Carousel feature.
7. Tinder (free for both iPhone and Android devices) Tinder has quickly become the go-to dating app for young adults. And the best part? The app is completely free and works on the premise of anonymity. Users, who need a Facebook account to create a profile, can upload up to six profile photos and scroll through recommended matches from your area. If you don't like what you see, you can anonymously "like" or "pass" on the person. But it isn't just for the younger demographic: Tinder reports that 31 percent of its users are aged between 25 and 34, making it a great app for anyone looking to casually date or form potentially long-term relationships.
How one woman found love with someone who had lost it.
After my husband and I separated, I didn't think I would ever fall in love again. I had two little children and couldn't imagine being in another relationship. I felt unlucky in love, as if perhaps I didn't deserve to be happy. Besides, I hadn't dated in 15 years and, now, didn't know where to begin. But six months after I separated, a mom I'd just met called to ask if I'd be interested in going on a blind date with her friend James*, a single dad who had recently lost his wife to cancer.
By then, every single person I'd met had baggage, including me, so it never occurred to me that dating a widower would be different from dating anyone else. I didn't even really consider the possibility that a first date might lead to a second. But from the get-go, I could tell James was different. The conversation flowed easily, he was funny and interesting…we ended up going on that second date, then a third. When he asked me to date him exclusively a few weeks later, I was ecstatic— but a few months into our relationship, something weird started happening. There were a series of days when, inexplicably, he wasn't himself. He was quiet and sad and didn't want to talk.
I knew what it felt like when a man wasn't interested in me anymore—that's how my marriage had ended. So when he would clam up and be distant, I had a familiar sickening feeling. We met for a drink at a quiet neighbourhood bar, where I cut to the chase. "I'm sorry, James, but I don't know what to do when you won't talk to me. I can't do it," I told him, too sad to drink my wine. I hoped ending things would spare him the trouble of dumping me and spare myself the pain of having yet another person leave me. I was beside myself: I couldn't believe things were ending when everything had been going so well.
Only now, James was ready to talk. "I've mentioned that my wife died two years ago, and I'm sorry for not being able to communicate with you better. Certain days of the year are hard for me, and I've just got through some very difficult back-to-back anniversaries," he explained, his eyes fixed on his lap. "Some days, I don't want to talk, but I'm feeling better again and I don't want you to take it personally. I'm just trying to cope as best I can; it has nothing to do with you. I really like you and I like where this relationship is going."
He looked up into my eyes and stretched his arms across the table. His warm hands enveloped my own. It hadn't occurred to me that he was going through a rough patch; because of my own history, I assumed it was something I had done. I didn't yet know enough about his life or about grief to understand his personality or the dates that would be difficult for him. When he communicated his feelings, I felt as though I understood him, like we were connecting on a deeper level. I realized then that this man was different kinder, deeper, stronger and more compassionate—than anyone else I was likely to meet. As a newly single mother struggling to get back on my feet, I had my own set of issues and insecurities; dating a widower on top of it all wouldn't be easy, but I had fallen in love. I had to try.
My situation isn't as unique as you might think. In 2016, about 1.83 million widowed people were living in Canada, and many of them are finding their way back onto the dating market. According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center in the United States, 19 percent of those who are currently divorced, separated or widowed report using online dating. In fact, Match.com saw an 8.3 percent increase in the proportion of widowed users in Canada from 2015 to 2016.
Rebecca Cooper Traynor, a Toronto matchmaker who founded Match Me Canada, has seen a similar trend. "I'd say that about 10 percent of my clients are widowers," she says; most of them are 55 and older, but some are only in their 30s and 40s. And at the same time as this group has become more interested in dating, she has also seen a shift in perceptions about them. "I've noticed that my other clients are more open to dating a widower now than when I started my business eight years ago," she says. "Some people are tired of dating divorcés and hearing about their anger and resentment on a date. They want to meet someone in a different space, someone who knows how to love."
A delicate balance As in any relationship, James and I have challenges—but some of the things we face are specific to his widowed status. For example, in the five years since we went on our blind date, I've learned to give James space on significant dates, such as on his late wife's birthday, their wedding anniversary and the day she died. Since our near-breakup early on, I've marked those days on my calendar so I can call to say I'm thinking of him and see if I can help. Being in tune with your partner's needs is often the best thing you can do, says Roy Ellis, a grief counsellor with the Nova Scotia Health Authority in Halifax. "Ask your partner what you can do to make those tough days better. Your awareness itself can be a lovely gesture. Maybe you don't need to be involved and you can give your partner the space he or she needs to continue that grief work," he says. "That can be a gift in and of itself."
I've also learned that, contrary to the proverbial "five stages of grief," how we mourn doesn't fit into easy steps. In fact, the psychiatrist who first identified those stages, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, never intended them to apply to the living—her research was on people who were facing their own deaths. In other words, watching for signs of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance is no way to tell whether a mourner is ready to move forward.
Rather, many grief specialists champion the "companioning" philosophy espoused by author, counsellor and educator Alan Wolfelt. They believe that the process is individual and that bereaved people tend to know when they are ready to move forward. According to this model of grief, mourners have six needs that must be met in order to reconcile their loss: acknowledging the reality of the death; embracing the pain of the loss; remembering the person who died; developing a new self-identity; searching for meaning; and receiving ongoing support from others. But this isn't a checklist and there's no time frame for completion, or a particular order in which they must happen.
"The companioning model of bereavement distinguishes between grieving—the internal experiencing of pain—and mourning, which is the outward expression of that pain," says Maureen Theberge, a psychologist at Viewpoint Counselling Psychology in Calgary. "Grief isn't something you 'get over' any more than you 'get over' love, but those who can mourn well will have a better outcome for moving forward. Having a way to remember the dead, to honour and acknowledge them, especially when the mourner has children, can be healing. It's meaningful and may offer comfort."
Finding your way For the first few years, James commemorated special days only with his close family, but recently, I've been invited to participate by attending an annual memorial service and being with his family to remember his wife's birthday. I'm happy to support him in this way, much as he has supported me through my divorce—but the truth is, it can be hard for me emotionally. Sometimes, I'm sad for days afterward. I want to weep thinking about what an unfair loss James, his family and his wife suffered. I can't imagine what it must have felt like for his wife to be diagnosed with a terminal illness as a young adult, to hear she was going to die. But I've come to understand that grieving is a healthy sign. Even if the process hurts, it brings James' family and friends together. I've seen how remembering and celebrating his wife provides them with strength to continue on. We have been companioning without realizing it.
As much as I grieve with James and his family on sad days, I've also had a hard time coping with his loss on great days. It's embarrassing to admit, but sometimes, I've felt guilty for dating James. I've seen his late wife's beautiful photos, can sense how wonderful she was and feel how much she was loved—how much she still is loved. I've dissolved in tears, overwhelmed that James and I are on a romantic vacation together when he should have been with the love of his life, his wife. How was I ever going to fill her shoes? How would I measure up? What if I couldn't?
As difficult as these feelings are, experts say they're normal. Unlike dating a divorcé, Theberge says dating a widower can feel threatening because the person's partner didn't choose to leave; rather, "death tore them apart." Logically, however, jealousy doesn't help. "It's irrational," says Theberge. "You are not in competition with the deceased. Your relationship is new and unique."
Just because those feelings are irrational doesn't make them any less real, and it's important to deal with them, says Ellis. He suggests looking within at why you're feeling insecure. "We are each responsible for our self-esteem and self-love. Take stock, find out what's hurting and share it with your partner, but not in an accusing way," he says.
Overcoming feelings of insecurity isn't easy. As Ellis says, "You have to learn to integrate the presence of the deceased in a new relationship the way you don't in divorce. With divorce, you're out; with death, you've got to come to terms with the fact the other person is still loved and recognized." But while the challenges are different, "it doesn't mean you can't have a successful relationship."
Talk therapy In order to do that, though, you have to communicate. I knew I had to tell James how I was feeling, but it was difficult to have that conversation, to admit my insecurities. Tears streamed down my cheeks and I felt awash with shame. But James was patient and loving and told me his wife wanted him to be happy. Talking to him made me realize I couldn't change his past, but I could have a future with him—and I was helping him move forward, which is what his wife wanted.
Over time, I've grown to believe that we don't have only one soul mate for life. It's possible to love more than one person. When you have a second child, after all, you don't stop loving the first; you make more room in your heart. And now I see that grieving is good, that talking about fears and sadness can be healing. I know not to compare, not to think of myself as an inadequate replacement for the woman he really wanted.
James and I know too well that life can be fleeting. We understand that time is precious. We are taking things slowly—not rushing to combine families or get married—but when I look into his eyes, when I hold his hand on good days and bad, I know we are moving forward together.
Success factors Five tips from the experts for building a healthy relationship with a widower.
1. Communicate, even if it hurts, says Suzanne Farmer, a psychologist (candidate register) at Cornerstone Psychological Services in Halifax. "There will be times when your partner will think about his deceased spouse and miss her; there will be times when you might feel threatened or hurt. You have to be able to communicate these feelings."
2 Be open-hearted and understanding. "Sometimes your partner might experience bursts of grief, and you have to let him be sad and feel his pain. It's normal. It's not a judgment about you," says Calgary-based psychologist Maureen Theberge.
3. See your partner as a whole person. His experience of loving someone and having that person die is just part of his story.
4. Be ready for sudden mood swings. "Sex and emotional intimacy can sometimes trigger upwellings of grief and emotion," says Roy Ellis, a grief counsellor in Halifax. The best way to prepare yourself for the possibility is to have discussions about intimacy in advance.
5. Be open to a new life. "Your partner will never 'get over' the loss— he will be forever changed—but it doesn't mean life can't be beautiful again," says Theberge.
Featuring Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Meryl Streep and more!
Pair red carpet veterans such as Amy Adams and Emma Stone with fashion’s newest “it girl", Ruth Negga, and you’ve got yourself a highly entertaining awards season. It all culminates with Hollywood’s biggest night, the Academy Awards, and we’re on pins and needles to see which fabulous gown the Oscar-nominated actresses will wear. Here are some recent runway looks that we would love to see have their own red carpet moment.
Although Adams isn’t nominated for her role in the sci-fi box office smash, Arrival, the movie itself earned eight nominations, including best picture.
Adams almost always strikes all the right notes on the red carpet while favouring Veronica Lake waves and body-conscious gowns in a jewel tone hues.
We think the 42-year-old will go for something a little more subdued because of the lack of a nomination. We’re banking on a black staples column gown, similar to this Armani Privé beauty from the spring/summer collection.
We’re keeping a close eye on the Ethiopian-Irish actress who's been nominated for her portrayal of Mildred Loving in Loving. Negga wowed us all at this year’s Golden Globes when she showed up in a fitted silver sequined Louis Vuitton gown, complete with a gold centre zipper.
Although we haven’t seen a lot of her at big fashion events, from the looks of things she’s a risk taker and she adores a good embellishment such as lace, beading or sequins. We’re thinking she’ll show up in something covered in lace with glittering embellishments, like this gown from Givenchy pre-fall 2017.
Nominated for best leading role in LaLa Land, Stone is the favourite to take home the little gold man, along with slaying it on the red carpet.
Not only does she always nail it on the big screen, but her gown and hair and makeup selections are always top notch. But the best thing about Stone’s red carpet style is she’s never boring, always shaking up her gown and designer selections. This award season alone we’ve seen her in Chanel, Valentino and Alexander McQueen. We’re feeling a floral vibe with a wee bit of colour and tons of tulle, like this Zuhair Murad gown.
This year Streep became the actor with the most Academy Award nominations ever—her nom for Florence Foster Jenkins bumps it up to 20! Meaning, she broke her own record.
Though Streep is much more known for her acting chops than her red carpet moments, she’s always true to her own esthetic. She's been spotted wearing Givenchy at the last few red carpet events, but we think she’ll try something else, something dramatic and simple, like this cape-back silky gown from Valentino.
From architectural masterpieces to classic old Hollywood glamour, the Academy Award winner and nominated (this year for Jackie) star has had some stand-out red carpet moments.
At the Golden Globes this year the expectant mom breezed onto the red carpet in a vintage-esque sunny Prada gown. Portman channelled Kennedy Onassis with a modern take on the former first lady’s iconic bouffant, classic makeup and wore a dress similar to a yellow frock that she once wore to the Metropolitan Opera House in 1975.
Although she’ll likely be wearing a custom gown because of how far along she is in her pregnancy, we think it will be less saturated and more glittery, something with an empire waist and a centred slit, like this sequinned-embellished georgette Zuhair Murad gown.
Williams, who is nominated for best-supporting actress for her role in Manchester by the Sea has been owning the red carpet all season long. She’s the current celeb spokesperson for Louis Vuitton so we know she’ll likely be clad in one of the French fashion houses gowns.