Whether you like to use your hands, pillows, running water, or toys—it’s normal. Whether you do it once a week, once a day, or three times a day—normal.
Also, it’s good for you. “Masturbation releases stress and anxiety,” says Leah Millheiser, M.D., clinical assistant professor and director of female sexual medicine at Stanford University Medical Center. “We know that you get a total body relaxation after orgasm, which is great for someone who is tense. Masturbation also increases blood flow to the genitals which is important because blood flow keeps the vagina healthy.”
Plus, it's crazy-good for your sex life in all sorts of ways. “When a woman masturbates and has an orgasm, it releases oxytocin, a powerful hormone, which makes a woman want to bond more with her partner,” Millheiser says. “We also know that people who don’t masturbate are more likely to have difficulty reaching orgasm with a partner.”
Whether you’re a beginner or an O.G. looking for more, here are some expert-backed tips and tricks on how to take your masturbation game to the next level.
1. BUST OUT A MIRROR
First thing's first, you need to know your own body. “It takes some investigating,” Millheiser says. “Look on the internet at a clinical map of the female anatomy. Get a mirror and take a look at your own body and get familiar with it."
One important spot to know: Your clitoris. It will look like a little button (this is the glans of the clit, the other three-quarters are inside your body.) And, for most women, stimulating this spot is crucial for orgasm.
But your erogenous zones don't stop at your clit—your body is a treasure trove of not-so-obvious pleasure spots. Let your hands wander to spots like your nipples or inner thighs, to see what really gets you going.
2. SET THE MOOD
Tidy up, light some candles, draw a bath, and get into a blissed-out mindset. It's hard to feel sexy if your room's smothered in month-old laundry and yesterday's Chinese food containers. De-cluttering your setting can help you actually relax and tune in to your own pleasure.
3. STOP THE DAMN MULTITASKING
The biggest threat to a pleasurable masturbation session? Multitasking. Many women who are so used to multitasking between jobs and kids and partners and life often try to multitask during sex and masturbation, Millheiser says. “Instead, be mindful. Focus your mind. A woman who can practice mindfulness is much more likely to reach orgasm sooner," she says. "While masturbating, if you find that your mind is wandering off, recognize that and gently bring it back to focus.”
4. FANTASISE, FANTASISE, FANTASISE
“Every woman has a different fantasy,” Millheiser says. “It doesn't have to be about you and your partner, either.”
It also doesn't have to be about whips and chains or whatever the hot fantasy novels or porn movies are doing. Some women will even fantasize about being with another woman or a woman-on-woman sexual scene, Millheiser says.
If you're a lesbian and you masturbate thinking of a man, that's normal, too. “It can be a same-sex fantasy and it doesn’t mean identifying as gay or straight,” she explains. “Some women find woman-on-woman erotica more arousing than male and female. No matter what your fantasy is, you don't have to question your sexuality.”
5. LUBE IT UP
Lube is great for sex, so yep, it's also great for masturbation. Many women are on birth control pills, and this can cause vaginal dryness, Millheiser says. An important part of masturbating is how lubricated you are. “It makes it more comfortable to stimulate your genitals,” she says.
In fact, one study found that 50 percent of people said lube made it easier for them to orgasm.
Millheiser recommends three types of lubricants: water-based, silicone-based, and oil based. If dryness is not an issue, then go for a water-based. But if dryness is concerning, then use a silicone-based, with a caveat that if you are using a toy with a silicone-based lube, it will break down the plastic.
“Silicone-based lubricants are the best because they last a long time and they reduce friction well,” Millheiser says. “Water-based doesn't tend to last very long and you'll have to reapply. Oil-based is more for sex. Use coconut oil or olive oil, both are both fantastic oils that I recommend all of the time. Avoid baby oil or mineral oil.”
6. SWITCH UP YOUR TECHNIQUE
Always use your hands? Try a pillow. Always on your back? Turn over.
“I think starting with your fingers is the best way to engage in masturbation; especially if you are in the early stages, you want to get to know the areas of your body that makes you tick,” Millheiser says. “Some people like to rub the clitoris against the bed. Some people like to be face up. There is no one position that works for everyone. You have to experiment and find what’s right for you.”
Millheiser says that many women reach orgasm by putting their vulva under the tub spout or a hand-held shower head. “Think about what's it's doing,” she says. “It's like a quick and easy vibrator—that pulsating sensation on the most sensitive area on the human body."
7. PLAY WITH TOYS
Most vibrators are for clitoral stimulation only and there are a lot of options on the market. If you’re timid, Millheiser recommends a small device called the Womanizer. “The name isn't great, but the product itself is amazing. I recommend it all the time to clients and friends. It’s a suction cup that uses an oscillating pressure. It's almost as if it doesn't allow you to hold yourself back. It gently pulls an orgasm out of you.”
8. TAKE THINGS SLOW
Quickies seshes are great in a pinch, but you can have the best orgasm ever by delaying your big finish. Right when you're about to climax, stop, breathe, and rev up your sex engine all over again.
9. ADD MASTURBATION TO THE MENU MORE OFTEN
One study found that women get handsy at least once a week—but you deserve a second helping (or more). And as one Women's Health writer found, the more you masturbate, the more you want to do it. Bonus: She found it puts you in a good mood and helps you sleep better, too.
So what are you waiting for: Keep calm and masturbate on.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.