Mindful sex could give your sex life the boost you've been looking for
You’ve probably heard about mindfulness and all its benefits, but what about the things that mindfulness has to offer in the bedroom?
It’s fairly common knowledge by now that mindfulness can help soothe anxiety and even help us face our fears, but the practice of mindful sex can also freshen up your sex life and take it to the next emotional level.
Briony Leo, PHD, head coach at relationship coaching and self-care app Relish, defines calls it, ‘sex that focuses on being present and paying attention to your physical and emotional experiences – and those of your partner.’
She goes on: ‘While this might be your experience with sex normally, mindful sex – just like mindfulness in general – encourages us to be focused and aware in the present moment.
‘This is really useful because often sex comes with a lot of baggage and expectations – and we might miss out on some of the enjoyment and connection because we’re worrying about certain things (body image), thinking about other things (what we have to do afterwards, general life stress) and not necessarily ‘in the moment.’
Research has shown that we’re all guilty of our minds wandering during sex, with men typically worrying about their performance and women typically focusing on their appearance in the bedroom.
Although these thoughts are perfectly natural, mindful sex brings you back into the room to help heighten arousal and connection with your partner.
Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert at Lovehoney, tells us that mindful sex can even give your orgasms a boost.
She adds: ‘During sex, all sorts of worries and preoccupations can create stress – making it more difficult for you to become aroused.
‘If we manage this stress better, we are more likely to experience arousal.
‘Mindfulness, or what some people call meditation, is all about learning how to hone in on the here and now — a kiss, touch, or other sensation — to help you be more present.’
She adds: ‘If you can train your mind to show up, it creates novelty, it creates excitement, and it creates a type of connection that generally we have only experienced early on in our love affair.
‘So, you can freshen up your sex life in this way and make it seem as exciting as when you first got together.’
So how does it work? Annabelle says it’s all about your nervous system and your levels of oxytocin, telling us: ‘Mindfulness naturally decreases stress, since it helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system.
‘This, in turn, balances out your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your stress response. The result: you enjoy the moment more.’
She adds: ‘By practising mindfulness during sex the body will increase the production of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the “love hormone”.
‘Before orgasm, oxytocin, released from the brain, surges and is accompanied by the release of endorphins, our natural pain-killing hormones.
‘Endorphins soothe nerve impulses that cause menstrual cramps, migraines or joint pain. Oxytocin also affects the way we feel, helping us to form strong emotional bonds as well as reduce pain.’
It’s worth bearing in mind that mindful sex might not be great in every situation.
Briony warns: ‘There are two situations where mindful sex might not be entirely positive – one is if someone is going through a difficult time emotionally, or is dealing with the effects of sexual trauma or change (for example, birth trauma after having a child).
‘Mindful sex encourages us to really connect with our emotions and bodies, and this can be somewhat overwhelming if our emotions are heightened or we aren’t feeling safe – things might start to feel too intense and the experience might be triggering.
‘The second possible negative situation is if a relationship is not going well or if there is not much trust in the relationship yet – again, mindful sex encourages us to be vulnerable and open, and this might not be useful if we aren’t feeling emotionally safe with our partner, or we aren’t able to fully relax.’
With that in mind, if you think you want to give mindful sex a go, Briony shared some tips.
She says: ‘Just like with regular mindfulness, the key is slowing down and being aware of the present moment and the physical sensations that are happening for you.
‘For some couples, this might look like blocking out some time to spend on foreplay and using things like blindfolds or tactile objects like feathers or ice cubes to focus attention on a certain part of the body.
‘There is a great technique called Sensate Focus that was developed by Masters and Johnson – it works by encouraging people to refocus on their own sensory perceptions and sensuality, rather than the regular goal-oriented behavior of sex (ie. reaching orgasm).
‘This has been used to treat things like erectile dysfunction, body image and issues with arousal – but the reality is that it can also be used to simply improve sex life in general.’
She adds that talking it through with your partner can be helpful too, saying: ‘It can be useful to discuss with your partner the idea of having mindful sex, and make sure that you’re not rushed or preoccupied by other things. See if you can get as relaxed as possible – this might look like doing some deep breathing beforehand, having a long bath or even something like a massage.
‘Remember, the idea is for you both to be totally in the present moment and focused on what is happening in your bodies – so outside distractions such as noise or interruptions are going to be unhelpful.’
And finally, don’t stress about getting it perfect. Briony says: ‘It is unlikely that the first time you try mindful sex there will be fireworks and everything will be incredible – it is normal to have other thoughts intrude or for you not to be totally “in the moment”.
‘Just like with mindfulness in our everyday lives, it can be seen more as an excellent guiding principle, rather than how we need to be all the time. Making an effort to be present and open to what is going in is likely to improve your pleasure and enjoyment of sex – and the more you do this, the easier it will become.’
She adds that mindfulness ‘does improve the quality of our lives and our happiness – but we can also accept that there are some situations where it won’t be possible to be totally present – and that is okay.’
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