Boring sex? Pain during intercourse? Distracted in bed? Sex addiction? No desire to get it on? Is it possible that all these sexual concerns and sex problems could have the same remedy? Yes, and that remedy is the ancient Buddhist practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is an awareness skill of being present in the moment, with your thoughts, emotions, and sensations. It is noticing the present moment and – here’s the kicker – not judging what you notice. The health benefits of mindfulness are profound: stress reduction, decline in anxiety, depression relapse prevention, overcoming addiction, and reducing chronic pain, not to mention greater happiness and fulfillment in life.
Researchers are also delving into the sexual realm to see how mindfulness can improve sex lives. Although little research has been done so far, it seems to be beneficial for women with low desire, vulva pain, and emotional distress from past sexual trauma. There is anecdotal evidence that it is valuable for sex “addiction,” erectile dysfunctions, and boredom.
I’ve been integrating mindfulness-based practices into my sex therapy and couples counseling work for several years because I think it’s the foundation for all personal growth. Do you freak out with jealousy if your boyfriend receives a text from another woman? Mindfulness can help break that automatic pattern. Are you distracted during sex by your bulging belly or your long to-do list? Mindfulness skills keep you grounded in the moment and release such mind chatter. Integrating little daily practices of mindfulness can make these big brain changes.
I have mindfulness on my brain more than usual this week, because I just went to a sex conference this weekend. Its not as sexually titillating as it may sound, but it will be intellectually titillating. At this 2012 annual conference for AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, & Therapists) in Austin, TX, I will be speaking on “Get Out of Your Head & Into Your Body: Improving Sex Lives Through Mindfulness.” My take home message for the audience? Mindfulness is the new sexy.
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker
(This was originally posted as part of Pacific San Diego Magazine's sex & love blog series.)