With an expanding subset of our culture promoting bodily autonomy, emphasizing consent, expanding ways to date, hook up, or relate, and finally having discussions about pleasure, more people seem to be craving sex of a higher quality. Mindfulness maybe the answer
There have been numerous studies that concluded the benefits that mindfulness can have on an individual, from reduced stress and anxiety to deeper compassion and awareness. So if Mindful practices can make up feel happier and healthier as individuals, how can they benefit our sex lives and relationships?
What is Mindfulness?
You may have heard of the term Mindfulness, but what is it exactly? Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, or in other terms, getting out of your head and into the current situation. The practice of mindfulness can be explored in many different ways but some of the more common applications are meditation, cognitive and talk therapy, breathing exercises, and visualization methods.
Though mindfulness is having a moment within the current culture dialogue, mindful practices and methods that predated its development have been around for thousands of years dated to early Buddhist ideas and developed through the western narrative during the Transcendentalism movement during the 19th century. As research into Mindfulness demonstrate its many benefits, mindful practices have been implemented into vast number of private, social, and government programs, including therapy theory, within schools, as part of business training, and prison programs.
How Can Mindfulness Improve Your Sex Life?
Clinical studies have documented many physical and mental benefits of practicing Mindfulness including a general reduction in symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. Further detailed studies have concluded that Mindfulness may be helpful to those who suffer with chronic pain, feeling disconnected from their body, and for those who have been victims of sexual violence. Physical and mental pain and stressors have long been associated with a decreased level of sexual satisfaction, therefore the symptom reduction, relief, and healing that mindful practices can offer can enhance your sexual happinesses.
Mindfulness Sex Exercises
Practicing Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor. There are many tangible applications that be can specifically tailored to your needs. These are just a few examples of mindfulness practices that can enhance your sex life and help solve some sexual issues.
Taking the time to connect with a partner can be an important part of boosting your sexual satisfaction. As most of us are living fast paced and stimulated lives, sex and intimacy can sometimes feel like a rushed afterthought. Slow things down with your partner and create some intimacy and intensity between you both.
-Take a few minutes before sex to gaze into one another's eyes. Once you get past the giggles and maybe the urge to start a staring contest, start to notice how this connection makes you feel.
-Eye gazing with a partner can prompt the release of the feel good hormone Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the bonding hormone. This is the same hormone that is released during climax and orgasm.
-Revisit this gaze during sex if you feel inclined. A prolonged gaze every now and again can help maintain the feeling of closeness.
Mindful practices that work to get us back in touch with our physical self can have an impactful grounding effect for many situations. Sometimes we can feel disconnected from our bodies, experience self-esteem issues, or feel discomfort with ourselves due to physical pain. Grounding practices have also been very helpful for people who experience anxiety, panic attacks, or are finding themselves triggered. Try this simple practice to help you feel more control over your body.
-Get yourself into a comfortable position where not moving for several minutes will feel ok. Lying down is ideal, but any position where you feel fully supported works.
-Close your eyes and focus on your breathing with an effort to slow it down. If closing you eyes feels difficult, focus your gaze on one spot instead.
-Starting at the lowest point of your body (usually the toes for most of us) start to scan each individual body part. Assess how it feels and then try to relax it further. Move progressively from body part to body part (toes to ankles to calves to shins to knees etc) spending about 30 seconds on each area until you reach the top of your head. If you find a particular area of your body too upsetting or triggering to engage with, skip that area.
-When you reach the top of your head, focus again on your breath. Visualize your breath flowing through all areas of your body to restore it.
It can be hard to have honest and open conversations about sex and it’s clear to see why. Many of us were not taught the communication skills necessary for having such vulnerable dialogues during our sexual education (if we had any at all). But being able to have conversations about sex is important - it’s how we discuss consent, boundaries, and preferences. Mindful writing or journaling can be a great way to familiarize yourself with your need and wants and give words to them.
-Try writing down how you feel about a certain aspect of sex, an upcoming or previous sexual encounter, or something you want to express to your partner.
-Don’t be judgmental of what you write, instead think of the exercise as more of a free writing session where you write down everything that comes to mind when you think it.
-Read over your thoughts. Circle or highlight anything you find important or that stands out.
-Practice reading your writing, especially the phrases or words that make you feel most uncomfortable.
-An optional conclusion to your writing exercise is to thrown away or tear up what you wrote. This can be particularly freeing if you find yourself stuck on or bothered by a subject you wrote about.
As humans, we frequently mentally “beat ourselves up”, engage with negative thoughts, or just feel lousy about ourselves. Using mindfulness practices, we can gently and carefully show ourselves some compassion during these times in an effort release some of these negative feels. Try this simple compassion meditation when you’re feeling down on yourself.
-Metta meditation is a very accessible meditation even for people new to the practice. This is because there is a focus instead of the expectation to clear your mind. Start by getting yourself in a comfortable position, free from as many distractions as possible.
-Visualize yourself surrounded by kindness - some people like to think of a light or an aura for this. Try to relax your muscles and deepen your breathing.
-Next, select a mantra. A common compassion mantra is -“May I be free. May I be happy. May I be safe.”. The exact words you select aren’t important - how they make you feel is. May be you select something specific to your current emotions or insecurities, or use your mantra to smash any self doubt. Other examples include “May I be kind to myself”, “I embody love and compassion”, “I love myself first”.
-Repeat these words in your mind as you take deep, slow breathes. Try this practice for 10 mins, extending if you feel necessary. If it’s more comfortable for you, set a timer.
Having disagreements with a partner can be difficult, but it’s something all of us face at one point or another. Though it may seem counterintuitive at first, thinking about the way in which we argue can not only vastly assist with the argument itself, but also help improve our overall relationship satisfaction. Happy partners translate into happier sex lives. Mindful listening can be a useful tool when arguing with a partner.
-Try your best to focus all of your attention on the disagreement at hand. Take yourself out of any distracting situations if possible and stop engaging with things that may take your attention away like the TV, cell phone etc.
-Allow your partner to finish their thoughts before interrupting them. If thoughts arise, acknowledge them but don’t try to hold onto them in a way that stops you from hearing what your partner is saying.
-Try to listen to your partner's feelings as well as their words. Take note of their body language.
-If you find your partner not treating you with the same patience and respect, try asking for it but do not throw all of your previous effort out the window. Emotions can be a powerful thing, but having some intelligence about them helps understand them.