Mindful Sex: What is it & How do I have it?
Psychologist Laurie Mintz, Ph.D. calls mindfulness “sex’s best friend.” But how does she define mindfulness?
“In a nutshell, it’s simply focusing completely on what’s happening in the present moment,” she explains in her 2017 article “Mindful Sex Is Mind-Blowing Sex” in Psychology Today. “When I teach students and clients about mindfulness, I tell them that being mindful is akin to riding a roller coaster, whether you like riding them or not. As you climb upward, you might be thinking, This is fun! or, Why did I get on this thing? I want off! But as the coaster descends, you become too immersed in the sensations to think any thoughts at all. This not-thinking — just feeling what’s happening — is mindfulness.”
Mintz also explained the difference between “spectatoring” – evaluating your body or your performance during sex, which keeps you from fully engaging in what’s happening in that moment – and hitting the “off” switch into a state of mindfulness so that you are completely active in those moments and enjoying every second.
If you let your mind wander during sex, and you start to worry about “doing it right,” being a good lover, taking too long to orgasm, and so on, you miss the fantastic sex you could be enjoying. “It’s almost impossible to have an orgasm if you’re thinking about such concerns,” Mintz advises. “Instead, you need to switch your brain to ‘off mode.’”
The key for powerful mindful sex is to “stay in the moment” or keep yourself in the present and not think about the past or the future. In other words, avoid drifting off into autopilot or thinking about other responsibilities in your life. Instead, concentrate entirely on the sensual, physical sensations you're experiencing throughout the time you and your partner are together having sex.
“This kind of mindfulness can not only improve your mental and physical health—when brought between the sheets, it can also help increase desire and arousal and get you closer to satisfaction,” says Jill Hamilton in her article “How to Use Your Brain to Have Better Sex” for oprahdaily.com.
“Research suggests that the part of your conscious brain that shuts off right before orgasm is the same part that shuts off when you’re meditating, concentrating intensely, or otherwise being mindful,” adds Mintz, who works as a professor of psychology at the University of Florida and is the author of A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex.
That means finding that “shut off” state through keeping locked into what’s happening to you during those intensely pleasurable moments of sex can put you into an “orgasmic state of mind,” Hamilton points out.
The concept of mindfulness has become quite popular today, and it applies to all aspects of your life to keep focused on the present so that each of us fully enjoys or experiences our lives. Humans easily fall into the trap of reflecting on the past or planning for the future. Both have their role in our lives, but sometimes we sacrifice participating fully in each precious moment of life.
“Sex is the latest activity to get a mindfulness makeover,” says Gemma Askham in her article “Mindful Sex: The Zen Approach to Getting Down That’s Having a Moment” for womenshealth.com. “Elevated from a bit-part role in your yoga class, the practice of training your mind to focus on the present is already informing eating, drinking and parenting techniques. But if the phrase 'mindful sex' causes you to raise your left eyebrow in poorly disguised contempt, know that this is one thing that could turbocharge how much pleasure you're getting, between the sheets.”
There are two other key factors to be aware of here, starting with remembering to focus on quality, not quantity. Mindful sex is the primary way to enhance the quality of your sexual activities.
Another is to be mindful of stress and the damaging effect it can have your libido and your ability to enjoy relaxed, mindful sex.
If you’re an average American employee, you’re working 40+ hours a week, and the pressures of your work extend far beyond those daily hours in the office, factory, store or behind the wheel. That all builds the stress that can then carry over into your boudoir and your bed.
Most likely, you’ve had the experience of getting ready to get down, taking off clothes, sliding under the sheets, and then having a flashback to a call you forgot to make, a file your boss wanted overnighted and finding yourself completely removed from the sex you and your partner were about to dive into.
“Stress, no matter the cause, has a tendency to spill over into other aspects of our lives,” writes Ashley Laderer in her article “Mental Health in Bed: Sex and Stress” for talkspace.com. “It can make us irritable, anxious, or upset — and it’s notorious for killing sex drives.”
Studies have shown that stress hormones released by the body, she adds, are linked directly to libido. The more stressed we are, the more stress hormones are released by our bodies, the more likely we are to have a reduced sex drive. That elevated stress hormones can lead to numerous other physical symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, and insomnia. None of which are healthy for us; none of which fire us up to have mind-blowing sex.
Laderer and others suggest finding ways to de-stress and decompress before sex. Go for a walk or a run, take a hot shower or bath, listen to music – find some time for self-care. Then do some breathing exercises together and give each other a mutual massage as a gentle way to progress into foreplay. Then turn off and turn on, as the hippies used to recommend. Let your senses and your body take control. Be mindful and insert yourself completely into the great sex you’re having.
Not to get overly Zen, but why be there, if you’re not really there?