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5 ways to be more present during sex

Article written by Dr Jess O’Reilly, sexologist

Being present and in the moment is essential to a fulfilling relationship and sex life. When you’re present you show up for yourself and your partner, which deepens your connection. When you’re present, you feel more confident and eager to indulge. And when you’re present, pleasure is heightened as you embrace the power of sex as an experience — not a performance.

Sexual Mindfulness: 5 Ways To Be More Present During Sex Image

Presence, however, can be challenging to cultivate in a world of distractions and performance pressure, so if you find yourself distracted during sex or other intimate experiences, consider these approaches to bring yourself back to the present moment.

1. Try a digital detox

Each night, place your phones and tablets in a box as far away from your bedroom as possible.

Put them in a closet, in the kitchen or in the basement — anywhere they’ll be out of sight, out of mind during sex.

You can do so before or after dinner or at a specific time you designate in advance. You may also want to consider turning off your wireless router at night so that you won’t be tempted to check in one last time. If doing so every night feels too demanding, consider starting with once per week on Friday nights.

The goal is to fall asleep and wake up to one another instead of to your online “friends”. If you’re already making excuses (e.g. But my phone is my alarm clock!), it’s likely evidence that you need this detox more than you’d like to admit. (Read this article on how social media can harm relationships, when used to excess.)

staying present during sex

There’s a reason putting down your smartphone is the first tip on this list of 7 Surprising Secrets to a Sexy Marriage. Nothing takes you out of the moment during sex quite like a Facebook notification or an email from your boss. 

2. Tap into your breath

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, distracted, anxious or simply drawn away from the present moment, one of the simplest ways to calm your body and mind involves bringing your focus back to your breath.

Try this deep breathing exercise.

  • Feel the air as you inhale through your nose and pay attention as you exhale slowly and deeply through your mouth.
  • Inhale for 1-2-3-4.
  • Hold for 1-2-3.
  • Exhale for 1-2-3-4.

You may not use this approach during the throes of passion, but it can help to ground you when you slip into bed or if you find you need a break during sexual activity.

3. Focus on one sense

The fives senses are essential to physical pleasure and elemental to cultivating physical and emotional presence. Because you cannot smell in the future or hear in the past, narrowing your focus to one sense forces you to be in the moment as you connect to your body.

Wherever you are right now, practice sensual presence by narrowing your focus to your sense of sound.

Close your eyes.

Listen to the clear sounds that are closest to you, and then deepen your focus to hear the sounds emanating from afar.

You may hear the song of birds outside your window or the hum of your HVAC unit in the distance. Breathe deeply and see if you can focus your mind on sound alone for one to two minutes.

As you cultivate this mindfulness, it will arise more naturally and you’ll find that you can also use it in the bedroom.

After all, some of our sexiest habits occur outside of sex!

If you find yourself distracted by thoughts of tomorrow’s big meeting or concerned about the way you look, refocus on the sounds in your bedroom. Listen intently to the sound of your lover’s breath or your own noises and allow yourself to relish in the moment. After all, sex can be a powerful stress reducer.

4. Put intrusive thoughts in a box

It happens to the best of us: we climb into bed eager to feel close and connected to our lover, but distracting thoughts abound. Before we know it, we’re mentally ruminating over our taxes or a conversation we had earlier in the day.

If you find that intrusive thoughts hinder your ability to relax, connect with your lover or get in the mood for sex, visualize putting the concerning thought in a box.

Visualize yourself carrying the box into another room and locking it in a cupboard where you can find it and deal with it the following day.

how to stay present in relationships

If the thought creeps back in, simply remind yourself that it’s locked away in the cupboard in a box and you can attend to it in the morning. Take a few deep breaths as you visualize your body and your partner’s (if you have one) and bring your focus back to the present.

5. Try the “face caress” with a partner

Once you’ve mastered various approaches to being more present in your own body, you might want to consider a partnered exercise that allows you to focus on the physical sensations of touch.

Sit facing your partner or lie down in a comfortable position.

For the purpose of this exercise, select one person to be the “giver/toucher” and the other to be the “receiver”.

Set aside 5-10 minutes in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.

The giver can use their fingertips, backs of the hands, palms, breath and lips to gently and sensually caress the receiver.

Touch for pleasure and connection with no sexual goal or outcome.

Just touch, feel, breathe and make an effort to focus on the texture, temperature, stroke, pressure and rhythm of touch. Breathe deeply and enjoy yourselves with no specific goal in mind.

This exercise helps to lay the groundwork for being more present during sexual activity, but it’s not intended to lead to sex.

When you’re through, take a few minutes to hold one another and breath in sync.

It’s normal to get distracted at times and it’s also okay not to be in the mood for sex.

However you practice presence in and out of the bedroom, go easy on yourself. Each of these exercises can enhance your sex life, but they also offer a range of health, personal and relational benefits exclusive from sex. Take your time, experiment and make adjustments as needed to ensure that they fit our lifestyle and personal needs.