Sexual mindfulness – focusing attention on the “here and now” of sexual activity – may lead to more sexual satisfaction, improved relationships, and greater self-esteem in midlife adults, according to new research in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.
While they can take some time to learn, mindfulness skills can lessen anxieties and judgement during sexual situations, the study suggests.
One hundred ninety-four married, heterosexual people participated in the study. They ranged in age from 35 to 60 years, with an average age of 45. About half the participants were women; the other half were men.
Each participant filled out questionnaires related to trait mindfulness (the degree to which mindfulness is a character trait), sexual mindfulness, sexual satisfaction, relational satisfaction, and self-esteem.
The researchers determined that people who were more sexually mindful in non-judging ways had more relationship satisfaction and better self-esteem. For sexual satisfaction, the link with mindfulness was stronger for women than for men.
“These gender differences may be due to differential socialization of men and women,” the authors wrote. “For instance, women may benefit more from sexual mindfulness than men because sexual mindfulness helps women to overcome the socialized tendency to pay attention to their partner’s pleasure more than their own pleasure.”
They added that sexual mindfulness might be especially helpful for people at midlife. Men are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (ED) as they age, and women often have trouble with arousal. Such problems may add to stress and anxiety. Mindfulness could focus attention back to sexual pleasure.
Sexual mindfulness is similar to sensate focus, an exercise in which partners touch each other. However, mindfulness can be practiced without a partner.
“Sexual mindfulness creates an added freedom, an ability for the individual to independently address his or her sexual experience, which could provide a greater sense of self-efficacy,” the authors explained.
They noted that their findings were not applicable to all groups, especially since their study subjects were married, heterosexual, and largely Caucasian. Future research with older and younger populations, LGBTQ individuals, and racially/ethnically diverse people is warranted.
The authors encouraged therapists to consider teaching mindfulness skills.
Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy
Leavitt, Chelom E. et al.
“The role of sexual mindfulness in sexual wellbeing, Relational wellbeing, and self-esteem”
(Full-text. Published online: March 12, 2019)
Dolan, Eric W.
“Study finds mindful people are happier with their sex life”
(March 6, 2019)