3 Ways to Have Better Sex

Some things—a bottle of incredible Bordeaux, aged Gruyere, George Clooney—get even more enjoyable as time passes. One thing that you may not think falls into this category: sex in a long-term relationship. But that’s just not true, according to a recent poll that finds 90 percent of people believe that sex can get better over time.

The survey, conducted by Durex and YourTango, asked 1,096 people whether they think sex turns stale when you’ve been with the same partner for a while—and how they’ve kept things steamy between the sheets when they’ve been in LTRs. Turns out, almost all respondents said that long-term love and great sex can go hand-in-hand.

“This definitely goes against the grain and contradicts what we thought we knew,” says Patti Britton, PhD, cofounder of SexCoachU.com and host of the DVD The Great Sex Getaway. Of course, you can’t go into autopilot whenever you hop into bed and still expect to keep things interesting between the sheets. Use these tricks—all favorites of the survey respondents—to keep your sex life as steamy as ever:

Put your feelings first
Shocker: The secret to amazing chemistry isn’t about kinky bells and whistles. Ninety-six percent of those surveyed said the best sex they’ve had was with someone they were emotionally connected to, and 92 percent reported that it’s a turn-on when their partner shows emotional vulnerability. “Talking about how you feel, instead of what you think, taps into that vulnerable state,” says Britton. “You’ll understand each other more deeply, which makes you feel closer.” And having a strong emotional connection in turn triggers a powerful sexual bond, which boosts confidence and adventurousness in bed. To amp up the intensity during your next sex session, say something like, “I feel so close to you when you do that” mid-foreplay or during the act.

Seek sin-spiration
While an emotional connection may be key to satisfying sex, it still takes more than a lovey-dovey attitude to keep things thrilling. Interestingly, 57 percent of respondents said they view porn for inspiration. Skin flicks are a good introduction to moves you’ve never tried before, and watching them played out in detail makes it less daunting to attempt something similar (if less extreme) on your own, says Britton. X-Tube isn’t your thing? Try “lady porn,” which focuses on female pleasure and sensuality instead of graphic money-shots. Or you can get your 50 Shades on. Forty-eight percent of respondents turn to books as a source of erotic info. “Some research suggests that reading about a sexual act is even hotter than watching it on-screen,” says Britton. “It requires more imagination, which evokes fantasy, a major driver of desire.”

Give your go-to position a makeover
While trying out new moves can be fun, you don’t need to work your way through the Kama Sutra to stay spicy between the sheets—two-thirds of respondents reported sticking to the same two to four sex positions. “Every woman has a sexual blueprint: moves unique to her that bring her satisfaction,” says Britton. And once you figure out what works for you, it makes sense to keep going back for more. “Still, variety stimulates dopamine response, which builds lust,” she says. If missionary gets you going, mix it up—just a bit—by propping your legs on his shoulders, sliding a pillow under your butt, or bringing a toy into play. That way, you get the best of both worlds.

photo: Digital Vision/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
Navigating Orgasm Obstacles
Assume a New Position
Have Great Morning Sex

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The Weird Thing That Makes Food Taste Better

Ever wonder why your morning coffee tastes best in your favorite mug? Or why pizza’s flavor changes when you eat it with a knife and fork instead of your hands? You’re not imagining things. The weight, color, size, and shape of your cutlery can influence the way your food tastes, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Oxford University conducted three experiments to find out how cutlery affects flavor. In two, participants sampled yogurt with spoons of varying sizes, weights, styles, and colors. In the third experiment, researchers tested to see whether eating cheese with a fork, knife, spoon, or toothpick would make a difference, taste-wise.

Even though each participant tried the same food repeatedly with different utensils, they said that the yogurt or cheese tasted different every time. When eaten with a lighter spoon, yogurt tasted denser and seemed more expensive, for example. Smaller spoons, meanwhile, tended to make the yogurt taste sweeter. And cheese was perceived as sharpest and saltiest when eaten off of a knife.

So, why does cutlery matter if the food stays the same? “We have expectations of what something will taste like before the food reaches our mouths,” says Harrar. “When cutlery is unexpected, we can’t use this automatic system.” So depending on the utensil, you’re more likely to pay attention to different aspects of the flavor or texture that might normally go unnoticed.

Pretty interesting stuff. Not that it’s any reason to go splurge on new cutlery, but it does help explain why you always reach for the same spoon over and over again.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
Mindful Eating: Clean (Up) Your Plate
5 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Eating Less
How Greek Is Your “Greek” Yogurt?

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The Surprising Thing That Makes You a Better Driver

You know that talking on a Bluetooth headset, texting, and touching up your mascara mid-commute are all off-limits, but there is one thing you don’t have to fret about doing behind the wheel: cranking up the radio. Listening to music while driving doesn’t pose a dangerous distraction, according to a new study. On the contrary, participants in the study often drove even better and focused more intently on the road when the radio was playing in the background.

Researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands actually suspected that listening to the radio would make driving more hazardous, so they tested the effects of music on experienced drivers by conducting two studies: The first placed fifteen participants into driving simulators while they watched a video of someone else driving and listened to the radio (but didn’t actually “drive” themselves). At the end of a 40-minute session, researchers asked participants to recall what they had heard on the radio. They found that, overall, participants remembered little of what they’d heard, indicating that they focused much more on the road than they did on the music and often tuned it out.

The second study tested the same people while they actually drove in the simulators. Participants got to choose the type of music they listened to and drove through both low- and high-risk traffic situations. As a control, researchers also had these participants drive through the exact same traffic simulations without background music.

By comparing the drivers’ ability to focus on the road in both situations, researchers found that participants who listened to music while driving in high-risk situations effectively tuned it out to focus more carefully on driving safely. And interestingly, participants who listened to music while driving in low-risk situations actually focused even more intently on the road and drove better than they did when they didn’t have the radio on.

Study author Linda Steg, PhD, professor of environmental psychology at the University of Groningen, says that because low-complexity driving situations—think long, winding roads—can be very boring, music helps improve your performance by sharpening your focus and keeping you alert.

So should you be blasting Beyoncé every time you turn on your engine? While researchers found nothing to suggest that high-tempo music would cause problems, cranking up the volume might not be the smartest strategy in stressful driving situations, says Steg.

“People almost automatically turn it off when the situation becomes too complex,” she says, based on anecdotal observations. Participants in the study didn’t have this option, but they were able to mentally block out the music anyway.

Not all noise is created equal, though. Steg cautions against listening to talk radio while driving—and of course “listening” to a cell phone call isn’t the same as listening to music. Since these require more attention than music does, you’re less likely to devote your full attention to the road—and more likely to get into an accident. Ditto changing the station or CD while on the move.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
“Should I Worry About Driving When I’m Tired?”
Should I Worry About Driving with a Hands-Free Cell Phone?
Should I Worry About… Driving After a Drink?

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How to Negotiate A Better Deal

Discovering a super-cute end table at a flea market or a gorgeous necklace at a vintage jewelry shop is pretty much the best feeling ever—unless you end up paying way more than you’d bargained for because the seller out-negotiates you. Luckily, recent research can help you barter like a pro:  Choosing a precise number instead of rounding could help you come out on top during your next bargaining session, according to a new study that will be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Researchers from Columbia Business School set up six different fictional negotiation scenarios, like buying a used car, selling a textbook, or purchasing jewelry, and asked participants to offer either a rounded number or a specific number. The people who used a precise number—like offering $ 20.15 for a textbook instead of $ 20—ended up receiving a counter-offer closer to the number they originally put forth.

According to the researchers, specificity tells negotiators that you actually know what you’re talking about and can’t be easily tricked.

“Round numbers traditionally connote some kind of approximation and uncertainty,” says Alice Lee, one of the doctoral students that helped conduct the study. “By using a more precise number, you’re giving the impression that you did your homework, your market study, and that you didn’t just throw out a random number.” This makes them believe they’ll have less wiggle room when it comes time for their counteroffer.

One caveat: You can’t suggest just any number and expect it to work—it has to be something reasonable. Keep in mind, after all, that the seller knows the true value of the item, so bluffing isn’t going to do you any favors.

Your best bet: Do your research to come up with an approximate value for the item (this can be on your smartphone if you’re in a time crunch), and then choose a more specific number that’s close to that rounded value, suggests Elizabeth Wiley, the other doctoral student that worked on the study. This’ll help give you an edge while ensuring you stay within a range that actually makes sense.

Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from WH:
How to Negotiate Your Salary
How to Win an eBay Auction
Haggle Your Way to a Better Bargain

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Get This: Expensive Sunscreen Isn’t Necessarily Better

Check out the list of links that should be on your radar today:

Protecting your skin doesn’t have to wipe out your cash supply: Expensive sunscreens often aren’t any more effective than cheaper brands, according to new ratings in Consumer Reports. [Business Insider]

Good news for breast cancer patients: New technology let surgeons treating lumpectomy patients spot remaining cancer cells at the end of the first surgery—reducing the need for repeat procedures by 56 percent. [ScienceDaily]

The TSA has abandoned its effort to allow small knives on planes. Phew. [USA Today] 

Sending and receiving emails at work may increase your blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels, according to a new study. [Medical Daily]

Not only do energy drinks pose health risks, but now research finds that the “secret ingredients” in them don’t even work. [Newser]

The latest dangerous drinking trend: pouring booze over dry ice so you can inhale the alcohol. It hurts just thinking about it. [TIME.com]

Research finds that men who are tired are more likely to believe you want to hook up with them. Well, that explains a lot of late-night bar miscommunications. [The Atlantic]

Just try not to roll your eyes while reading this headline: “Cheerful women are not associated with leadership qualities—but proud ones are.” [EurekAlert]

Even more reason to skip fast food: In a recent test, the ice served at many of the big chains was dirtier than toilet water. [The Daily Meal]

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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3 Ways to Get Better Healthcare

These days, people consult technology for everything from deciding which shoes to buy (gotta love RedLaser) to figuring out the name of that elusive song playing in the background (thanks, Shazam). So it’s no surprise that digital devices are also seeping into the world of healthcare: A new study analyzing data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project (which surveyed the impact of the Internet on 1,745 U.S. adults) found that, while 41 percent of people (mostly women) consult reviews and rankings of doctors and health facilities, just 15 percent write in with comments or questions, and even fewer (10 percent) post reviews. “The more people contribute, the more helpful and accurate the information becomes,” says study author Rosemary Thackeray, PhD, associate professor at Brigham Young University. “It’s the wisdom of crowds theory that makes it a valuable tool.” If only a fraction of the population weighs in, that usefulness diminishes. Of course, it’s understandable why you might not want to broadcast your health issues to the world—there are privacy concerns.

Online reviews are just one of several new high-tech forays into healthcare, though. Here, the advantages and drawbacks associated with the latest digital advances creeping onto the medical scene—so you know what you’re getting into.

Posting Online Reviews and Comments

According to a study conducted by the healthcare market research firm Manhattan Research, 73 percent of people use online health information and tools, and 54 percent say that info has influenced their choice of providers, treatments, and services.

“Contributing to the collective body of knowledge helps others make informed decisions,” says Thackeray. You do-gooder, you! But it also has a positive impact on you personally: Knowing that you have a forum to share your experiences gives you a sense of empowerment. And if MDs know they’re being held publicly accountable, that might prompt them to improve their services—say, by cutting down on wait times, or not rushing through visits. “In addition, posting on an online message board can give you a sense of community with people who are going through something similar,” says Thackeray. “You can discuss what’s worked for others and find comfort knowing you’re not alone.”

Although privacy is a big issue (you obviously don’t want everyone and their mother knowing you have stubborn hemorrhoids), Thackeray points out that there are plenty of anonymous forums, such as PatientsLikeMe.com, CircleOfMoms.com, and WebMD discussion groups. Another dissuading factor? It takes time to set up an account and jot down your thoughts … precious time that could spent watching cat videos on YouTube or doing one of our 15-Minute Workouts.

Emailing and Texting Your Doctor

Manhattan Research studies of more than 3,000 doctors found that in 2012, nearly one-third emailed with patients, and 18 percent texted them.

See ya, hour-long waiting room stints and being put on hold forever. Instead, you can communicate with your doc whenever and wherever is convenient for ­you. “You don’t have to make an appointment for something minor, like a quick question or a prescription refill,” says Michael Roizen, MD, chair of the Wellness Institute and chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic. It’s also a great option if you get sick during the weekend or while you or your doctor are out of town. Plus, Roizen points out that you can go back and reread an email. Unless you take excellent notes, you’re likely to forget some stuff your MD said during an office visit. An added bonus: If there’s something personal you don’t feel comfortable discussing face-to-face (for example, a weird down-there problem), it might be easier to bring it up via email.

There could be an increased risk of misdiagnosis. While there are lots of cool tools to help your doctor figure out what’s going on remotely (heart monitor, blood pressure, and blood glucose apps let you test yourself and send the results directly to your MD, for example), some info is still lost in translation if he or she can’t touch and examine you in person. Digital devices also lack nuance—your doc can’t assess your body language or the tone of your voice to help him or her determine your condition. It’s generally best to schedule an initial appointment in person and then use email and texting for follow-ups, says Roizen. Keep in mind that there’s a greater chance of miscommunication, too. “Your doctor’s words could be misinterpreted in an email, or spellcheck can skew his meaning,” says Roizen.

Skyping With Your MD

Manhattan Research also discovered that seven percent of doctors video-chatted with patients in 2010—a figure that’s on the rise.

Just like emailing, a Skype session is way easier to fit into your schedule—which means you’re less likely to put off getting the care you need. And in the past, seeing a long-distance specialist might have been out of the question. Now, you can set up a video chat with that renowned allergy expert out in Wyoming. Another thing: If you’re really sick, you can meet with your MD while lounging on your couch instead of having to make a drive. You’ll also avoid the germ-a-palooza in the doctor’s office—and you won’t expose other people to any bugs you may have.

Your wallet will take a hit. “Most video chat sessions are not covered by insurance, so you’ll have to pay more out of pocket,” says Roizen. And there’s also a chance that even after Skyping, your doctor will want you to schedule a face-to-face visit (for a shot, blood work, etc.). Finally, it’s impossible to make eye contact during video chats. That lack of connection can lead to a weaker doctor-patient relationship, which may result in poorer health outcomes.

photo: Hemera/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
In Home Medical Tools and Health Gadgets
The Doctor Will Skype You Now
Step on the Digital Scale

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How to Make Better Decisions

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the number of choices in the cereal aisle? Or stood in front of your closet and found it impossible to choose a single outfit from all of the clothes hanging in front of you? Welcome to the club. The more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision—and the more likely you’ll end up making a risky choice, according to research published recently in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

For the study, researchers at the University of Warwick and the University of Lugano asked 64 people to participate in a gambling game that displayed between two and 32 boxes on a computer screen. Each box was assigned a different monetary value ranging from £1 to £5 (approximately $ 1.51 to $ 7.56). Each box also had a designated payout likelihood. Participants were free to click on as many boxes as they wanted to see the assigned worth of each and the odds that each would actually pay out that amount. Ultimately, though, participants had to pick just one box.

Researchers found that people had a harder time choosing when there were more boxes on-screen. What’s more, having more options also made participants more likely to choose boxes with a high monetary value—regardless of the payout odds.

“People make rash decisions based on the information they gather,” says Thomas Hills, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of Warwick and lead study author. When people try to make decisions without full knowledge of what their choices actually are, they base their choices on impulse and feelings, says Hills. Having too many options limits your ability to analyze each one individually and make the most rational decision, says Sheena Iyengar, PhD, author of The Art of Choosing

One of the easiest ways to cope with indecisiveness? Separate your available choices into a few smaller, more manageable groups. Then eliminate all but one item from each group, suggests Iyengar. You’ll be able to quickly weed out several choices that might otherwise just distract you, and you’ll be left with only a few strong options—so you can actually make an informed decision.

photo: BananaStock/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
Decision Making: Trust Your Gut Instincts or Obey Your Brain?
5 Smart Decision-Making Strategies
The Smart New Decision-Making Strategy

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