Practicing mindfulness during sex may increase pleasure, connection, and intimacy. Here’s how to do it.
For many people, life’s responsibilities can get in the way of pleasure.
Before you can even think about making time for self-pleasure or sex, there’s a laundry list full of things that need to get done — from washing dishes to feeding the kids to running errands.
When you finally decide to set time aside for intimacy amid a busy schedule, you might find that you’re not “all there.”
There are millions of things that may prevent you from being present during sex. But being more mindful in intimate moments can help you de-stress and have more pleasurable experiences.
If your mind wanders when you’re having sex, you’re not alone. And there are ways for you to work through this so you can show up more fully and authentically — whether you’re being intimate by yourself or with a partner.
There are so many benefits to practicing mindfulness in all areas of life, especially during sex.
According to Vienna Costanzo-D’Aprile, LMHC, a therapist in upstate New York, some of those potential perks include:
- increasing your pleasure
- strengthening intimacy with your partner
- creating a deeper connection to yourself
- improving your relationship with your body and spirit (which may make you more intuitive)
- learning to stop overthinking and start listening to your body
- boosting your chance of having an orgasm or better orgasms
- making sex a more sacred or spiritual experience (if that’s your goal)
A 2016 study suggests that a mindfulness-based approach in sex therapy may improve sexual function and arousal among women. Sex therapy is a type of talk therapy that includes mindfulness techniques and addresses sexual dysfunction or dissatisfaction.
Costanzo-D’Aprile notes that it’s especially common to have a hard time being present during sex for those who live with:
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- anxiety disorders
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- sexual trauma
Here are six tips for how to stay mindful during sex so you can access more pleasure and be more in touch with yourself and your partner.
1. Focus on your breath
Breathing exercises can help you stay present.
For starters, Costanzo-D’Aprile recommends paying attention to your breath.
“It’s important to stick to the basics. Even better, pay attention to your partner’s breath and see if you can match yours to theirs,” she says, noting that this can also increase your connection and intimacy.
Once you learn how to practice deep breathing, you may use that skill to practice mindfulness during sex.
2. Engage your senses
Costanzo-D’Aprile suggests activating your five senses by focusing on them.
“Mainly, when you’re using your five senses, focus on the experience of how it feels, tastes, sounds,” she says.
To activate your senses, you might try:
- lighting a scented candle
- focusing on your partner’s scent or taste
- listening to the sounds you and your partner make
- making eye contact with your partner
- tracing your fingers over your face and body (or your partner’s)
- experimenting with different textures and sensations (e.g., toys, vibrations, feathers)
3. Give yourself time to get in the mood
Before jumping right into sex after chores, errands, or work, you might try to give yourself some time to transition away from those duties and into the moment.
“Set the mood, light candles, put on something that makes you feel sexy. Make it a ritual if you want,” Costanzo-D’Aprile suggests. “Take a breath. The point is to give yourself some space in between tasks so your brain can separate from whatever you were previously doing.”
Take your time.
Instead of worrying about having an orgasm or finishing as soon as possible because you’ve got other things to do, you could try to slow down, enjoy the process, and experience as much pleasure as you can in each moment.
4. Build a bubble
A spiritual coach once gave Costanzo-D’Aprile the idea of imagining a bubble around you during sex to help make the experience more mindful.
“Create an imagery in your mind of an orb, bubble, or aura around you and your partner to create a sacred space around both of you,” she recommends. “Imagine what it would look like and what color it would be.”
If you choose to try this, Costanzo-D’Aprile says that you might want to do it beforehand so your mind can get there quicker in the moment.
5. Let thoughts come and go
“Not only is it difficult to stay present in general in our go, go, go society, [but] sex is one of the most vulnerable and intimate acts you can do with another person,” Costanzo-D’Aprile says.
“So if you’re having a hard time staying present, your mind may be trying to avoid the scariness of being vulnerable,” she says.
She adds that body image insecurities, sexual shame, or assumptions about sex may also bring some anxiety into the bedroom. And when we’re anxious, we’re not always present.
Whenever those distractions pop into your mind, you could try to let them pass without judgment.
“Trying not to pair any thoughts or labels to it if possible [can] really get that presence,” Costanzo-D’Aprile says.
A 2021 study on partners in mixed-sex relationships suggests that sexual awareness and nonjudgment can even lead to “relational flourishing, sexual harmony, and orgasm consistency.”
6. Speak with a therapist
You may wish to talk with a therapist if your challenges to stay present during partnered sex or masturbation persist.
Costanzo-D’Aprile says these challenges may arise from the discomfort of sitting with ourselves or with our bodies, the constant to-do list lingering in the back of our minds, among other reasons.
“So many of us, unfortunately, have underlying feelings of guilt or unworthiness when it comes to allowing ourselves pleasure,” Costanzo-D’Aprile says. “It can be life changing to discuss the origin of this with a therapist.”
Practicing mindfulness can improve your sex life (and life in general!) in many ways. To start, you might try focusing on:
- your breath
- engaging your five senses
- lighting candles
- taking extra time to get in the mood
A therapist can help you identify where your challenges stem from and how to cope with them so you can have a more present, pleasurable sex life.
Morgan Mandriota is a New York-based writer who is passionate about exploring the intersection of pleasure, healing, and holistic well-being. She currently works as a staff writer with Psych Central where she specializes in creating content about sex, relationships, mental health, and alternative approaches to wellness. Her work has been published in notable publications, including Betches, Bumble, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, Health, mindbodygreen, Shape, Tinder, Verywell Mind, and Well+Good. In her free time, she enjoys chasing sunsets, playing video games, spending time in nature, swimming in a sea of CBD salve, trying different therapy practices, and working on her passion project Highly Untamed. Connect with Morgan on Twitter and Instagram or visit her website here to learn more.