Researchers studied nearly 200 individuals who were all married, heterosexual, and between the ages of 36 and 60. To gauge their sexual mindfulness—that is, their ability to stay totally aware and present during sex—the participants were asked to report how much they related to statements like "I pay attention to sexual sensations" and "I pay attention to my emotions during sex." They also reported how they felt about their sex lives, about their relationships, and about themselves.
The researchers found those who practiced sexual mindfulness and avoided self-judgment during sex had an increased sense of sexual well-being, including more sexual satisfaction, relational satisfaction, and sexual self-esteem. The study concluded that "engaging in mindfulness may address some of the anxiety that can interfere with a positive sexual experience." Basically, practicing sexual mindfulness eradicates the things that often make sex more stressful, like anxiety, fear, and body shame.
"Sex as an act isn't terribly complicated, but mindful sex, sex with awareness, often takes tremendous courage, patience, and a willingness to hang out in our vulnerability," Yael Shy, the founder of MindfulNYU, writes. "Mindful sex is about showing up as our whole selves, allowing ourselves to be seen, and being willing to truly see the other person or other people."
What exactly might this look like? To begin practicing mindfulness during sex, the researchers suggest focusing on breath work while you're doing it and trying to be more aware of your senses. Sex therapist Jessa Zimmerman tells mbg that in order to be fully present, you should also avoid being too goal-oriented—like focusing on having an orgasm—and try to distance your mind from past sexual hang-ups. Stop your mind when it wanders or begins to worry about something and bring it back to what's currently going on in your body.
If sexual mindfulness still seems intimidating, start small—like focusing only on the sensation of touch during intercourse—and take it from there.