Why Flirting Is Good for Your Mental Health

Portrait of smiling young woman talking to her boyfriend in a restaurant


Indulging in flirting is actually good for you. Flirting can be defined as engaging someone for amorous intent or just playfully for amusement. You might flirt via text with emojis and inside jokes.

In person, you might flirt when you are with a group of friends in a bar or restaurant and you notice someone attractive across the room. It’s a behavior and form of communication, often involving body language, in which someone is showing interest in someone else.

Health Benefits of Flirting

Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence

Sometimes we have to deal with toxic people who put us down in our work or home life. Other times, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to being self-critical. Maybe our careers aren’t advancing as quickly as our friend’s career, especially noticeable after they just mentioned they were promoted. Or we gained weight recently and aren’t happy about it.

This negatively affects our self-esteem. During periods of high or prolonged stress, we can sometimes become even more vulnerable. Flirting may be one way to raise your self-esteem. When you flirt with others and they respond, or they flirt directly with you, you can’t help but feel wanted and worthy of this other person’s attention.

While ideally, we should shore ourselves up and find confidence within ourselves, we are all human.

There’s nothing wrong with a little fun attention that makes us feel more like we are the charming creatures that we really are. There’s nothing wrong with adding to our confidence.

Reduces Stress

A study, published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, found people appreciated casual flirtations at work with their colleagues. This took the form of light flirtation and banter among peers. Flirting in fact relieved stress and job tension.

Researchers were careful to point out this was different from sexual harassment. Also, the employees didn’t enjoy flirtations from managers and supervisors, just peers.

So, joking with your work buddy and turning on the innocuous flirting can be a stress buster.

Improves Your Communication Skills

Communication is an important skill in building relationships. While you focus on how to create a stimulating conversation and find a way to make that stranger or friend laugh, you’re improving your social skills. In fact, having good communication skills is an important cornerstone in relationships, especially when meeting with conflicts.

Often unappreciated in social situations, for example, is the value of being a good listener. When we are flirting because we’d like to embark on a new relationship or even just to enjoy the evening, the stakes aren’t as high as when we are already in a relationship.

By getting better at actively listening to another person—that means not thinking ahead to the next thing we want to say—we are honing part of our communication skills for when we do become a partner in a relationship.

Helps You Feel Sexier

Flirting creates positive energy, especially when attraction is there on both sides. Both people take pleasure in the situation. It adds a spark to the status quo of everyday conversation.

When two people go back and forth with clever repartee, not only is the novelty of the situation exciting, but it spices up the time spent together. The element of sex might hang in the air for both parties, especially if you are both interested in pursuing a relationship as a result of the flirting.

Do We Accurately Detect Flirting?

Flirting is subtle and often dismissed.  In a study at the University of Kansas involving 52 pairs of single straight college students, an overwhelming 84% accurately knew when their partner was not flirting with them. The participants were accurate, however, only 28% of the time in perceiving correctly that their partners were flirting with them.

There was a marked division between men and women, too.  Men perceived correctly that women were flirting with them 36% of the time, but women detected flirting from men correctly only 18% of the time. Women might attribute a guy’s smiling at her to being just friendly, for example.

Flirting is therefore not obvious and to be more effective, you might want to be more direct and intentional to let the other person know you are interested.

3 Ways Socially Anxious People Can Approach Flirting

People with social anxiety might find flirting troublesome. Excessively shy or socially anxious people may prefer to withdraw into themselves due to intense discomfort. Or they might want to avoid any flirtatious behavior.

There are three things you can do with your body language to create a more commanding and confident impression if you do decide to try flirting:

  • Focus on your posture and arms. Stand up straight and be sure your arms are not crossed in front of you in a defensive gesture.
  • Focus on what you’re saying and doing. Get rid of any tapping, drumming on the bar with your fingers, and other signs of nervous fidgeting.
  • Slow down. When we’re anxious, we tend to speed up, i.e. walk too fast or speak too quickly. You’ll appear more confident and in control if you take actions more slowly.

How to Flirt Successfully

You don’t need to overact or exaggerate by staring a ridiculously long time at someone, batting your eyelashes like a cartoon character or laughing too loudly, for example. But because there is sometimes a lack of clarity regarding whether or not you are flirting, here are ways to flirt successfully based on scientific studies.

Use Facial Expressions

According to research from The Journal of Sex Research, based on an updated Facial Action Coding System, most heterosexual men recognized women's facial expressions with these four components as representing the act of flirting.

  1. Head turned to the side
  2. Chin tilted down slightly
  3. A slight smile
  4. Eyes gazing at the man

Men use eye contact, too, when they’re flirting, but their body language might give more cues on how to recognize flirtatious behavior.

Use Body Language

While creating the special magic in the form of a connection between two people can include meaningful conversation and attentive listening, the non-verbal cues as evidenced by body language are also noteworthy.

When people are flirting, they exhibit lots of body language. Besides the facial expressions mentioned above for women, they might additionally run their fingers through their hair, put their hands near their mouths, lean in and nod a lot. Men might push their chest out a bit, take up space and move closer to their target of interest.

Both men and women may mirror the other, reach out with subtle touch and point their feet in the direction of the person they are interested in getting to know better.

A Word From Verywell

Flirting generates positivity and is great for well-being. It allows a person to show interest through small gestures and enables the other to decide if they want to reciprocate. Flirting can be a sign of friendship or entertainment. It can be a way to bond and the first step in getting to know someone. Flirting may eventually turn a stranger or friend into a future love interest.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Sheppard LD, O’Reilly J, van Dijke M, Restubog SLD, Aquino K. The stress-relieving benefits of positively experienced social sexual behavior in the workplaceOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 2020;156:38-52. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2019.09.002.

  3. Lachica N, Stockwell A, Gamba J. What did I just say? An individualized behavior skills training for listening behaviors of adult participants in romantic relationships. Sexual and Relationship Therapy. Published online May 19, 2021:1-24. doi:10.1080/14681994.2021.1922664

  4. Hall JA, Xing C, Brooks S. Accurately detecting flirting: error management theory, the traditional sexual script, and flirting base rate. Communication Research. 2015;42(7):939-958. doi:10.1177%2F0093650214534972

  5. Apostolou M. Why men stay single? Evidence from Reddit. Evolutionary Psychological Science. 2018;5(1):87-97. doi:10.1007/s40806-018-0163-7

  6. Haj-Mohamadi P, Gillath O, Rosenberg EL. Identifying a facial expression of flirtation and its effect on menThe Journal of Sex Research. 2021;58(2):137-145. doi:10.1080/00224499.2020.1805583

By Barbara Field
Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.