07 Oct Mindful Sex for Better Sex
Ever notice you or your partner’s mind wandering away during sexual activities? Maybe you have a lot on your plate and there’s a million things occupying your mind. Maybe there’s a few insecurities about your body, sexual performance, or whether your partner is enjoying themselves, worries which always seem to pop up during sex and take you away from experiencing sex in the present moment.
This is known as mind-wandering sex, and can divide (or totally rob) your attention away from any enjoyment in what is meant to be a highly pleasurable and satisfying act designed to connect you and your partner. It’s true, consensual sexual activity such as sexual arousal or play, even without intercourse or orgasm, is linked with the release of powerful hormones and chemicals in the brain which foster connection, bonding, and stress-release1-3.
But if your mind is busy with its own thoughts or worries during sex it can be difficult to experience the enjoyment of any kind of sexual touch, prevent the release of those feel-good hormones in the brain, and leave you feeling no more connected to each other than before you started with all your clothes on your bodies and not on the floor.
On the other hand, mindfulness-based sex is any kind of consensual sexual activity which keeps your attention in the here and now. Research4-5 tells us that staying with present-moment experiences is linked with increased happiness and well-being and reduced stress, even if (paradoxically) those moments are difficult, or awkward, or boring, or stressful, or experienced as ‘negative.’ Why? Because when we try to avoid difficult or “negative” emotions like stress, boredom, awkwardness, etc., they end up feeling bigger and more powerful – they can feel like they’re controlling us – which can cause us to feel like backseat drivers of our own lives. (Don’t believe us? Check out this TED Talk here on the power of staying in the moment.)
Mindfulness-based sex helps steal your mind away from the worries and fears (and emotional loops those worries and fears tend to create) and show up for sex not just with your body but with your mind too.
Ok great. How do I do it?
Our five senses are a good starting point – they’re essentially a gateway into the present moment. Picture yourself walking into a room thinking about things from the past or worried about things in the future, lost in your thoughts, but if you smell gasoline or hear shouting or feel the heat from flames, your mind arrests you and brings you right back into the here and now so that you can be prepared to take action. This is the power of the five senses.
During any kind of consensual sexual activity, how on-line are all five of your senses? Do you notice the feel of your bedsheets (car seat, couch cushion, hardwood floor…) pressing up against your skin? What’s the temperature of your body when you have sex? How do your lips feel, your legs feel, your upper thighs? What kind of noises are you actually hearing? Do you pay attention to the particular way sex smells (yes, it has a smell), or taste (yes, taste too)? When you look at your partner, do you really look into their eyes?
Can you invite whatever is in the present moment to be welcomed into your sexual activity? As an outside observer to your own thoughts, can you watch come and go the worries about whether your body looks weird in that position or whether you’re doing a good enough job at pleasuring your partner, actively choose not to engage with those thoughts, and instead focus on the five senses of what’s actually in front of (on top of, behind, you get it…) you?
After all, your mind is the biggest sex organ you have. Why not marry it with what you’re doing with your body in the here and now, the only real time you actually have?
1 Murphy, M. R., Seckl, J. R., Burton, S., Checkley, S. A., & Lightman, S. L. (1987). Changes in oxytocin and vasopressin secretion during sexual activity in men. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 65(4), 738-741.
2 Carter, C. S. (1992). Oxytocin and sexual behavior. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 16(2), 131-144.
3 Blaicher, W., Gruber, D., Bieglmayer, C., Blaicher, A. M., Knogler, W., & Huber, J. C. (1999). The role of oxytocin in relation to female sexual arousal. Gynecologic and obstetric investigation, 47(2), 125-126.
4 Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010, November 12). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science, 330, 932
5 Campos, D., Cebolla, A., Quero, S., Bretón-López, J., Botella, C., Soler, J., … & Baños, R. M. (2016). Meditation and happiness: Mindfulness and self-compassion may mediate the meditation–happiness relationship. Personality and Individual Differences, 93, 80-85.