Being Aware of Your Body and Emotions Will Lead to Better Pleasure, Says Experts
Being Aware of Your Body and Emotions Will Lead to Better Pleasure, Says Experts
As new research sheds light on the many mental, physical, and emotional benefits of staying fully present, more and more people have been making it a point to prioritize the art of mindfulness. And as it turns out, mindfulness can also play a big part in boosting a person’s sex life.
According to a 2021 study of mixed-sex married couples, research found that maintaining awareness and non-judgment in the bedroom led to better sexual well-being and harmony, as well as greater relationship growth. Not only that, but husbands’ awareness during sexual activity was linked to more consistent orgasms among their wives. If that’s not a hard sell, we don’t know what is.
But what exactly does mindfulness during sex look like? According to Dr. Justin Lehmiller, resident sex researcher at ASTROGLIDE and research fellow at The Kinsey Institute, it’s about being fully “tuned in” to the experience. In other words, not letting your mind wander to your to-do list or what you’re making for dinner while your partner is going down on you.
“As applied to sex, mindfulness involves being aware of your body sensations, emotions, and thoughts without judging them,” says Lehmiller. “Research has uncovered a number of benefits of mindfulness during sex. Among other things, it can increase desire for sex, enhance sexual functioning, and improve sexual satisfaction.”
Gigi Engle, a certified sex educator and sex expert for SKYN, notes that mindfulness can help to strengthen the brain-body connection, thus making it easier for you to climax.
“When you spend time paying attention to and relaxing the body, you take energy away from the left side of the brain — which is responsible for mental chatter and all those repetitive thoughts — and engage the right side of the brain, which is more in touch with the body,” she explains to AskMen.
This probably sounds way too good to be true, right? Well, if your interest is piqued, we’ve got expert-approved details on how to incorporate mindfulness into your sex life the right way.
Signs Your Sex Life Would Benefit From Mindfulness
Experts agree that anyone sex life can improve with a little more mindfulness. Below, you’ll find some signs that you and your partner might need to make this a priority in the bedroom.
One or Both of You Keeps Getting Distracted
Having trouble staying focused on the act at hand? It’s normal to have your mind wander once in a while during sex, but if those distracting thoughts are preventing you from staying aroused, having an orgasm, or feeling connected to your partner, Lehmiller says that’s a red flag.
“Mindfulness has the potential to help with a very wide range of sexual difficulties, and can sometimes augment other treatments and therapeutic approaches,” he explains.
Sex Feels Routine
If it feels like you’re going through the motions every time you and your partner have sex, it’s likely because one or both of you aren’t staying in the moment. That mundaneness is leading you to resort to old habits rather than allowing curiosity and pleasure to drive new experiences.
“When partners aren’t fully present, sex gets habitual,” says Engle. “This then registers as a drop of physical dissatisfaction — and eventually the possibility of resentment in your unconscious mind. Over time, those drops accumulate until they can fill a bucket, at which point the sex in a relationship begins to fizzle out. If you approach your sex exactly like you approach meditation: with intention, generosity, savoring, a willingness to slow down and relax into it, and a resolve to return from distraction when it naturally happens, sex can become through-the-roof ecstatic, and even that then deepens over time.”
You Can’t Remember the Last Time You and Your Partner Talked About Sex
Communication is crucial to a healthy, satisfying sex life. Do you and your partner often share with each other what’s working (or not working) between the sheets? Do you reflect on sexual experiences you have or share fantasies about things you’d like to try?
According to Shameless Therapy sex therapist Jackie Golob, MS, not being able to communicate with each other before, during, and after sex can signal a lack of mindfulness.
How to Improve Mindfulness During Sex
According to certified sex educator and sex coach Suzannah Weiss, it all starts outside the bedroom. She recommends making it a point to practice mindfulness throughout your daily life — such as by paying attention to how your washcloth feels against your skin in the shower, or how the breeze feels against your face on your walk around your neighborhood. Move through all five senses on your commute, honing in on what you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.
“Sit in a chair for 10-15 minutes per day and practice tuning into your physical sensations,” adds Lehmiller. “What are you feeling throughout your body? When thoughts cross your mind, acknowledge them and let them go — and keep turning back to the sensations.”
Below, experts share a few more strategies for incorporating mindfulness while getting frisky.
Engage in an Imago Dialogue
Imago relationship therapy is a specific style of relationship therapy aimed at helping couples cultivate understanding and connect more deeply. And according to Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor and certified IRT therapist, this method can actually be immensely helpful for boosting mindfulness in the bedroom. He suggests following an IRT dialogue technique to communicate with your partner about your sex life.
“Intimacy is such a sensitive issue for couples, it’s really important that each of you as individuals feels safe in your conversation with each other,” he explains. “The Imago dialogue, with its ‘scripted’ model of communicating is the perfect way to create safety to discuss such a sensitive topic.”
How does it work, you ask? Slatkin advises scheduling a time with your partner to talk about your intimacy. When it’s time to talk, clear the clutter from your bedroom, put on comfortable clothing, and sit down so you can look into each other’s eyes. From there, you or your partner can take turns sharing one thing you enjoy or need from the other. The listener mirrors what they said back to the other partner with no judgment.
For example, “Let me see if I understand. You’re saying you feel like our sex is rushed, and you’d like to take your time with more foreplay?” Active listening in this way can help you to gain a stronger understanding of each other’s perspectives.
“You may be pleasantly surprised to learn more about what your partner desires and what would make them feel good,” says Slatkin. “That’s the beauty of the Imago dialogue.”
Try Mindful Masturbation
Focusing on mindfulness during your solo pleasure sessions can help you then translate those skills into partner sex.
“Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do for our partner sexually is to know yourself sexually,” adds Nikki Nolet a licensed marriage/family therapist and founder of Relationships Redefined. “Imagine having the knowledge to guide your partner towards pleasuring yourself, rather than leaving it to them to guess at what pleases you. Plus, being aware of your own turn-ons can then, in turn, be a huge turn-on for your partner.”
For this approach, put away any distractions while masturbating (yes, that includes porn), and try to tune into every sensation you’re feeling. Take it slow, and if you feel you’re unable to maintain that mind-body connection, try touching yourself elsewhere on your body to jolt your system and snap back to attention.
Keep Your Eyes Open and the Lights On
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with closing your eyes during sex, or dimming the lights beforehand, relationship expert psychologist and sex therapist Tatyana Dyachenko says switching things up can go a long way in terms of promoting mindfulness.
“When you close our eyes it’s easier for your mind to wander,” she explains. “Having the lights on and your eyes open helps to keep you out of autopilot mode.”
Experiment With Sensation Play
If you and your partner are both open to it, Engle recommends incorporating sensation play — using items like a feather and an ice cube — into sex. These kinds of tools can really help enhance mindfulness during a romp because they heighten physical sensations on your skin.
However, if props aren’t your thing, you can still bring more awareness to your sexual experiences.
“While your partner gently touches your body, tune into everything from the feel of their breath on your skin to variations in touch pressure to changes in your heart or breathing rate,” says Lehmiller.
Just Take Notice
Noticing what’s turning you on (and what isn’t), and then communicating those observations to your partner in the moment, is key, says Golob. First, just make a mental note of what feels good, sharing what you’re noticing by saying, “that feels so good,” or “I like that a lot, don’t stop.” after. If something doesn’t feel good, try to frame it in a positive way by commending your partner for something else you preferred.
Reduce Any “Sexpectations”
When there’s too much pressure on achieving an orgasm, experts say it becomes very difficult to stay present during sex due to focusing only on the end goal. Sadly, that can actually end up sabotaging your ability to enjoy the experience, let alone being able to finish.
“The thought that every sexual encounter should end in orgasm triggers shame, blame, and guilt if you don’t,” says Golob. “Orgasm is not the goal of sex, pleasure is the goal of sex. We need to remember to reduce sexpectations and not judge ourselves or partners if things don’t happen as we may have wanted.”
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