There's a whole host of things that might take you out of the moment when you're having sex. Maybe you're insecure about your body, or what your partner thinks of it. You might be unable to switch off your daily worries or anxieties. Or perhaps you're so concerned with your partner's enjoyment that you neglect to focus on your own. By now, you'll probably have encountered the mindfulness phenomenon in some aspect of your life — but have you considered bringing it into the bedroom? Let's look at what the experts are saying: can mindfulness improve your sex life?
As the Guardian reports, a growing number of psychologists and sex therapists are now advocating the practice of mindfulness to experience better sex. And better sex is a pressing issue: in June, a study by Public Health England revealed that almost half of all women between 25-24 (millennial women, in short) lack an enjoyable sex life.
Psychosexual and couples therapist Kate Moyle told the newspaper, "When people have sexual problems, a lot of the time it’s anxiety-related and they’re not really in their bodies, or in the moment." As the Independent reports, this can be the result of "spectatoring", a term created back in the '50s by sex therapists Masters and Johnson. "It refers to when a person watches themselves vigilantly during sex and judges their own as well as their partner’s performance instead of immersing themselves in the encounter," the newspaper explains. Unsurprisingly, it's hard to enjoy sex when you're subjecting it to so much scrutiny.
So how can mindfulness help? Ammanda Major, of relationship support organisation Relate, told the Guardian that mindful sex "is about focusing in the moment on what’s going on for you and making sure all the extraneous things get left behind." She added, "For example, if you’re being touched by your partner, it’s really focusing on those sensations. People may find themselves very distracted during sex, so this is a way of bringing themselves into their body and being totally aware of themselves in that moment."
Not sure what to focus on? Major suggests concentrating on "how nice your partner feels, or how nice they smell, or the sound of their voice — something that will bring you right back into the moment." But don't punish yourself if your mind wanders, she stresses. "When you have thoughts that distract you, one of the key issues is not to blame yourself, but just to acknowledge it and cast them adrift."
Don't wait until the clothes come off to try mindfulness for the first time. Writing in Psychology Today, Dr Laurie Mintz recommends practicing it in your daily life — through activities as simple as brushing your teeth. "All you need to do is completely immerse yourself in the feel of the toothbrush against your teeth and the toothpaste and water in your mouth," Mintz suggests.
Why will this help in the bedroom? "The better you get at achieving an in-the-moment state in life in general, the easier it will be for you to achieve this same state during sex," Mintz explains. "Learning to immerse in your sensations while doing daily activities will enable you to better do so during sex."
According to Kate Moyle, mindful sex doesn't have to be a big deal. "It can just be really straightforward — focusing your attention and fully experiencing sensations," she told the Guardian. So next time you find yourself overthinking in the bedroom (or wherever you happen to be getting to it), why not give mindfulness a shot?