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There’s no doubt about it—there’s a stigma attached to talking about masturbation, especially when it comes to women. But there’s really nothing wrong with masturbating. In fact, there are so many benefits to learning how to explore your body on your own. Whether you masturbate regularly or just from time to time is really up to you, but either way, you’re likely to experience a lot of positive physical and mental effects if you try it out. What’s so great about touching yourself? Read on to find out.

1. Masturbation allows you to learn what you like sexually.

Think of masturbation as a time when you can figure out what gets your blood pumping, what works and what doesn’t work. Since you’re not working to perform for someone else, or worried about how what you’re doing affects anyone but yourself, you get a chance to really connect with what turns you on, what causes you to orgasm and what feels pleasurable.

Rachel Born, a health educator in women’s sexuality, says that masturbation can be a great way to figure out what you like, both in terms of physical acts and your sexual fantasies.  

“You can fantasize and actually feel your thoughts manifest into sexual reactions, which is very powerful,” says Born. “It’s great to have a strong sense of fantasy or imagination which you developed through masturbation.” 

By practicing your fantasies and figuring out what turns you on during masturbation, you’re putting yourself in a good position to know what you might like with a partner. Because masturbation is so personal, you don’t have to worry about other people’s judgment as you explore your fantasies, and you can even use it to figure out your sexuality.

“When I was first learning about sexuality and determining if I liked men, women, both or none, it really helped me explore which feelings I have,” says Marissa Campbell, a junior at Framingham State University.

It can also be a great way to practice fantasies your partner may not share, if you’re with someone whose sexual desires differ from your own. If you’re hot and bothered by the idea of role-playing and your partner isn’t, try imaging yourself in a sexual role-playing scenario while masturbating. That way, you can still enjoy your fantasy without requiring a partner to compromise during sex.

Related: 13 Women Get Real About Their Sexual Histories

2. It can be really empowering to be alone with your body.

Because masturbation tends to be a solo act, it can serve as a way to get in your necessary alone time.

“College is go-go-go, it’s really fast-paced,” says Born. “There’s no chance to just breathe. When you masturbate, it’s almost like you carve out a moment of your day when all you do is breathe and hopefully, experience pleasure.”

She stresses that you don’t have to masturbate regularly, but that you can do it as often as you’d like. And there’s no pressure to orgasm. The best thing about masturbating alone is that there’s no performance anxiety—you’re just here to please yourself. While that may seem selfish, many women find it really freeing.

“I learned that there’s no reason to be ashamed about sexuality,” says Jenna*, a senior at James Madison University. “I can honestly say that I am now fully comfortable with my body and the difference I’ve seen in myself is so amazing.”

Christina Spaccavento, a sex therapist and relationship specialist, says that masturbating “can boost your self-esteem by helping you to enjoy and connect with your body and assist with feeling more empowered, sexually confident and in control of your sexual experience.”

If you’re worried that masturbating feels selfish, think of it as a feminist act: as a way to take back your own body. Women often don’t get the chance to take ownership of their own bodies, and masturbating gives you a way to do that. It’s just a bonus if it makes you take time out of your day to actually relax.

3. It has positive physical and mental health benefits.

Not feeling tired? Try masturbating. Feeling too stressed? Try masturbating. Got a headache? Try masturbating. The list goes on and on.

“When we have an orgasm during masturbation, our body excretes feel-good hormones and chemicals that help us to relax,” says Spaccavento. “And for some women, the rhythmic contractions of the uterus during an orgasm can help with the reduction of period pain.”

Relief from period pain? Sign us up! Seriously, masturbation has a multitude of physical and mental health benefits. If you’re feeling busy and stressed, it forces you to take the time to relax, be alone with your body and focus on yourself. It can physically make you feel less stressed because of hormones, but don’t ignore the mental part: sometimes, you just need to step away from daily chaos and be alone.

“I often feel a lot less tension after I masturbate, and overall it improves my disposition,” says Hannah Levin, a junior at Framingham State University. “I have anxiety, and after I masturbate I often feel a lot more relaxed.”

Masturbation can also make you feel tired if you’re restless. “It’s a great way to distress and fall asleep,” says Angela*, a senior at Westfield State University. “I used to masturbate at least once a day, usually before bed. It helps a lot. And with headaches. It cures boredom, too.”

If you’re struggling with past sexual trauma, masturbating could also serve as a safer way to re-explore your body. However, as Born warns, “If someone is masturbating and feeling turned on, which could be very vulnerable for them, it could re-trigger trauma. It’s really important that if someone knows they have sexual trauma in the past, they should contact a professional.” 

She suggests survivors of sexual trauma work with a professional sex therapist. Working with a professional, a trauma survivor can determine if masturbation is a good way for them to work through what happened and take back ownership of their body and their sexuality.

With all those potential positive side effects, what’s not to love about giving your body a little extra TLC?

4. It can be something new to try with your partner.

Not sure what to do with a partner? Try out mutual masturbation. This is a great option if you’re looking for something new and exciting, or if you’re unhappy with some of the sex acts you’ve been doing as a couple.

“It is not something you have to do alone,” says Marissa. “Many partners enjoy mutual masturbation.”

If your partner is up for it, mutual masturbation can be a great way to connect with one another and create fantasies you may not be able to do in real life, for whatever reason. It gives you an opportunity to learn how your partner enjoys pleasing themselves in private, and to explore mutual fantasies and develop a strong sense of imagination together.

Masturbation has long been shrouded by a lot of myths, especially when it comes to women masturbating. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You should be proud to masturbate and learn what you like and dislike sexually. Just make sure you’re being safe. According to Born, even if you’re using sex toys only by yourself, make sure to use condoms on them, because they can be made out of materials which haven’t been tested for their effects on the human body. Don’t feel pressured to masturbate a certain way, or to masturbate often—just do what makes you feel good.

Alaina Leary is an award-winning editor and journalist. She is currently the communications manager of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books and the senior editor of Equally Wed Magazine. Her work has been published in New York Times, Washington Post, Healthline, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Boston Globe Magazine, and more. In 2017, she was awarded a Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship for her dedication to amplifying marginalized voices and advocating for an equitable publishing and media industry. Alaina lives in Boston with her wife and their two cats.