The weather’s warmer, the sun’s brighter, and all of a sudden, you’re feeling … lusty.
Whether or not you’ve experienced summer lust (and if you have, you’re not alone), you can’t deny that summertime is often associated with finding love—or at least finding a fling. And as it turns out, science can actually explain why all of us feel so hot and bothered once the temperatures increase.
It’s in the air.
For starters, there’s some correlation between warmth and intimacy. When we feel warm, we’re more likely to feel connected with those around us. And when we feel lonely, well, we’re more likely to perceive the temperature as cold.
“Research on embodied cognition shows that even holding warm beverages increases perceptions of social proximity,” Dr. Jess O’Reilly, sexologist and host of the Sex With Dr Jess podcast, says. “And when we feel socially isolated, we perceive the temperature as colder.” (Just so you know, “embodied cognition” is a genre of psychology that suggests that cognition—or mental processes like thinking and perceiving—is affected by the body and the environment it’s in. Hence, the link between holding a warm beverage and feeling connected to others.)
“Because temperature and feelings of intimacy are psychologically related—studies show that altering one can affect the other—and because we tend to associate sex with intimacy, you may feel an increase in desire for sex during the summer months,” O’Reilly explains. (If you’re interested in checking out some of the research she’s talking about, you can check out this 117-person experiment a couple researchers did at the University of Toronto.)
It’s sunny outside.
“Sunlight has the potential to increase serotonin levels, which can boost your mood and leave you feeling more energized and frisky,” O’Reilly explains. And longer days tend to mean more social engagements—ahem, more opportunities to flirt with new love interests—and “warmer weather may increase attraction, as you’re more likely to bear skin,” she adds.
But there’s some disagreement that “sun’s out, skin’s out” may attract more sex.
“Interestingly, research shows that the naked body is more captivating in winter months,” Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, tells SheKnows. “This is thought to be due to the scarcity of bare skin in colder months.” Obviously, we’re more likely to wear shorts, bikinis and sundresses during summer months, and according to Manly, this gets our brains “somewhat acclimated to revealing clothing.”
This theory lends itself to a 2013 study done by researchers at Villanova University, which revealed sex-related terms are Googled most frequent in June, July, December and January. And a 2002 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that there are two peaks in the onset of sexual activity among adolescents: during the early summer months (June and July) and during December.
Not surprisingly, the researchers found that summer romances were more often of the fling variety, while those involved during the winter had a preexisting history, which sheds some light on the whole cuffing season phenomenon.
You know how we just talked about summer being a great time for social engagements (thus, more flirting)? Those social engagements also offer people the chance to relax. “The increased amount of playtime often reduces stress and pressure,” Manly says.
On a physiological level, Manly says we’re flooded with feel-good neurochemicals when we engage in these fun activities. Plus, she says, “When we feel less stressed, we often become more interested in play and passion.”
It’s a health thing.
Summer months also often bring out the desire to work out and eat healthier, which naturally boosts our libido.
“Exercise is one of the most effective ways to boost sexual desire, as it can increase testosterone levels as well as heighten confidence and desirability,” O’Reilly explains. “Eighty percent of men and 60 percent of women who exercise two to three times per week feel sexier, and those who get their sweat on four to five times per week rate their sex lives as higher than average.”
As for how to work with all that pent-up sexual energy, O’Reilly suggests a couple of things. First, “Get outside,” she says. “Pack a blanket, condoms, lube or even a tent for a day hike that will get your adrenaline pumping and prime your body for sex al fresco.”
And try having sex in the morning when the temperature and hormone levels are in your favor. Despite the potential to have hotter, more frequent sex in the summer, some suggest testosterone levels may actually decline during warmer months, so O’Reilly recommends taking advantage of the morning testosterone high.
Another reminder, and probably the most important of all: Don’t get discouraged by the notion that your summer fling has to have an expiration date. “The fun doesn’t have to end when autumn arrives,” Manly notes. “Any romance—when it is built of the basics of honesty and respect—can continue to grow after the fling stage fades. All it takes is two partners who are both invested in having the delight of summer last well into the future.”
Now, get out there and have some fun! That’s an order.
Originally posted on SheKnows.