Can Mindfulness Meditation Improve Sexual Health?
Mindfulness Meditation is all about being present aware of every action and thought without being judgmental about it, without giving it the label of a ‘good or a ‘bad’ thought. It can be made a way of life as all actions we do in daily life, such as walking, eating, cleaning or even having sex, can be done with mindfulness.
A number of studies have been conducted exploring the benefits of mindfulness during sex and most have proved beyond doubt that mindfulness does have profound benefits. It is suggested that people who practice mindfulness ‘focus on the present’ meditation during the courses of day routinely for some days can also derive its benefit during the actual act of sex.
Fundamentally, our nervous system has two aspects – parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system in invoked during an emergency and is responsible “fight or flight” response. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for “relaxing and calmness”. When a person meets a stressful situation for some time, the “fight or flight” response is generated. When this stressful situation gets prolonged, it has direct impact of sex life of a person. This is explained below.
How stress subdues your sex drive?
Stress, anxiety, worry or depression leads to constriction of arteries, which leads to reduction in flow of blood to gut and genitals and increase it to the limbs for self-defence. This reduction in blood flow to genitals leads to compromise in sexual desire, arousal, responsiveness (vaginal lubrication), functioning and satisfaction. Stress can lead to depletion in levels of reproductive hormones and can result in lower sperm count in males. In women, continued periods of stress can lead to irregular periods, worsening of menstrual and menopausal symptoms and even impotency.
… and how mindfulness helps?
The daily practice of mindfulness meditation has the impact of letting go of thoughts by practicing not to be judgmental about them and being aware of just the present. This can trigger parasympathetic nervous response, helps in relieving the stress, which in turn, can help relax the body & mind, optimise the oxygenated blood flow… can help in improving sexual health.
Research supports mindfulness benefits for sex…
A number of research studies have been conducted in different countries on the subject of mindfulness meditation and its relevance in sexual health. These studies have brought out its many benefits, in different aspects of the sexual conduct. These have been discussed in detail below.
Researchers at Brown University conducted a study with two groups of women. One of these groups was a controlled study group without any exposure to mindfulness mediation, whereas the other group of 44 women were given a 3 month mindfulness meditation course. They were trained to be awake to thoughts but were not required to label these are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In short, they were trained not to be judgmental. Both were made to see sexual material. The group which had gone through the mindfulness meditation course was able to get arousal faster and more intensely because of their being focused on the present, observing the response of their body and not being distracted by judging of thoughts.
A study by Dartmouth found that those who have been doing mindfulness meditation for a long time were able to experience cortical gyrification of brain’s insula. The brain’s insula plays important role in sexual behavior, being directly responsible for erection in males and arousal in females. In fact, psychogenic Erectile Dysfuncationality (pED) has been related to this part of brain. Studies have pointed out that variations in insular complexity could affect regulation of well-known distractions during meditation. In meditating women, this led to experiencing of more intense orgasms.
Marsha Lucas, a neuropsychologist and author of ‘Rewire Your Brain for Love’, has pointed out that generally women want to ‘achieve’ orgasm which becomes the only objective of the intercourse. In doing so, these women miss out on everything else, which is present in that experience. Mindfulness meditation helps you discover that missing experience which makes it even more blissful and thoroughly satisfying.
How to be mindfulness during sex – Do’s and Don’ts
During the practice of mindfulness meditation and also during sex, you have to break away from routine. You have to prepare to be in the present.
Let go of the negative biases…
Mindfulness plays a significant role in letting go of these negative bias thoughts and being awake to the present. Even if the weirdest of fantasies come to the mind, these are not resisted and these are not suppressed either. However, you do let these go off by not judging them. Therefore, irrespective of the content of these thoughts during the course of sex, you allow these an unhindered passage.
Let go of anxiety of non-performance or under-performance…you do not have to prove a point
Besides the thoughts, there are performance anxieties. These happen when there is a likely chance of disruption from the sexual act from the external environment elements (say, a child barging in) or when the focus is on ‘performance parameters’ (like, focus on achieving orgasm). These lead to development of stress and do not let you focus on the present. These anxieties tend to make the act more vegetative, rather than profoundly felt experience. Mindfulness helps in avoidance of these anxieties and allows total attention to what is happening to the body, senses and the mind during the act.
Is communication during sex against mindfulness practice?
Mindfulness is not about remaining silent. In fact, it is very much about communicating what is passing through your mind. By being communicative with your partner, you tend to focus more intensely on the present. Communication is not a distraction if done mindfully, by being aware and awake to its happening. It is also to be understood that satisfaction in enhanced when this communication is non-judgmental about thoughts. You are just saying what you are thinking, without prescribing to their nature. It is a way of throwing out your stress.
Benefits of Sexual Mindfulness
The advantages of mindfulness on sex are well researched and documented. To list a few,
- Reduces stress and anxiety during sex
- Removes the negative biases and performance anxieties
- Improves the desire to have sex in those who have less of it
- Improves libido and arousal- it has been seen to help in quicker arousal and for a longer period of time.
- Erectile dysfunctional can be treated to a good extent using mindfulness meditation in situations where stress is dominant factor for the problem. This has been highlighted in Journal of Sexual Medicine.
1/5. Mindfulness reduces perversions, helps to reduce effects of trauma
The positive effects of mindfulness meditation have also been noticed in certain cases which could be labelled as perversions.
2/5. Reduction in sex abuse
In people who have the history of sexual abuse, mindfulness meditation helped them overcoming this perversion to a good extent. There were reduced instances of child abuse as well because of enhanced self-awareness.
3/5. Recuperation from sex abuse
People who have been victims of sex abuse, particularly children, often experience depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction therapy (MBSR) works to slowly remove the stress, depression, anxiety, sleep and somatic disorders which are associated with sex abuse. By continually bringing mind to the present, far removed from being involved in thoughts about the past, leads to greater peace and calmness of mind. It also works to impart feelings of forgiveness and compassion.
4/5. Reduction in sexual violence
People of either sex who are known to commit sexual violence have also been experimented with using mindfulness meditation courses. It has been observed that there is a marked reduction in the violence by being more self-aware and being able to release stress and control pent-up anger. They are less likely to be violent to same higher levels after doing the mindfulness meditation course.
5/5. Changed behaviour pattern of porn addicts
Certain individuals have very high addiction to porn, which can result in physical and mental perversions. This tendency to remain hooked to watching porn was found to diminish in people who were made to undergo a few months course in mindfulness meditation. They began to see a larger life and lived a more meaningful life by remaining aware of their present and letting go of their thoughts compelling them to watch porn often.
As can be seen that mindfulness plays an important role in sexual health and conduct of both males and females, and enhances satisfaction levels. This also has the effect of reducing crimes of sexual nature. It helps in being calming down the mind of individual and can play pivotal role in ushering in a more peaceful society.