It might be a buzzword, but this one can help strengthen your erection and revitalise your sex life. Stress can impact pretty much any bodily function, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised that sustaining a healthy erection is one of them.
Your body’s stress response activates the opposite side of your nervous system to the one needed for an erection. Put simply, if you’re not sufficiently relaxed, you’ll most likely struggle to get or stay hard.
That’s where mindfulness comes in. Propelled to the mainstream by apps like Headspace and Calm, it’s derived from ancient spiritual practices (with roots in Zen Buddhism) and is essentially about being, deliberately, in the moment.
Dr Rich Blonna, author, life coach and advocate of ‘mindful sex,’ describes mindfulness as “moment-by-moment awareness with all five senses.” When it comes to sex, that means not allowing stress from anywhere else in your life find its way into the bedroom. Here’s how.
Master your everyday mind
The key to a mindful erection starts at the office. No, we’re not saying you need to think about sex when you’re at work — quite the opposite, in fact. To get into a truly present state of mind, you’re going to want to train yourself to focus on the specific task at hand.
“You can practice what I call ‘everyday mindfulness,’” says Dr Rich. “This approach entails giving everything you do your complete attention, and staying in the present moment while experiencing it.
“When you catch your mind jumping into the future or back into the past, you redirect your focus onto what you are doing in the now.”
What you’ll lose in Twitter procrastination hours you’ll gain in productivity and eventually, an ability to focus on better things when the working day is over.
After interviewing 140 people at the top of their fields, productivity mentor Tim Ferriss recently discovered almost all of them shared the same habit: mindfulness or meditation.
It’s a practice that’s spreading well beyond top-knot-sporting gym bunnies and stoic CEOs, with great apps like Headspace and Calm leading the charge towards a generation who can be switched on but are still capable of switching off.
Sustained meditation has been proven to reduce stress, and with it comes possible benefits for our sex lives. The science certainly checks out: the sort of relaxation that meditation involves is helpful in activating your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS), which is crucial to achieving arousal (and therefore an erection).
Don’t phone it in
Despite the apps we just mentioned, mobile phones and mindfulness don’t always mix so well. The link between screen time and stress or anxiety issues is well documented, so it’s no surprise that the first thing any advocate of mindful sex will tell you is to put your phone away.
That doesn’t mean on the bedside table, face down or in your trousers on the floor. If you want to make sure you’re both truly in the moment, put both of your phones in the next room — far enough to not hear the buzz of an email or your PPI chums calling.
Stop the performance
It’s not just external factors that can impact erectile function. It’s called performance anxiety for a reason: men in particular have a tendency to treat sex like a one-man porn audition, which can make it a source of erection-softening stress for themselves. Though the desire to make it a magical night for all involved is admirable, stressing out over a non-existent post-sex evaluation isn’t an effective way of going about it.
That’s why, in the interests of being mindful, it’s best to stop worrying about what your partner thinks of you and consider - and pay attention to - what your partner wants from you.
That means foreplay is good, and bedroom ceiling mirrors are largely bad. “The goal isn’t just to come,” Dr Rich says. “It’s more about being in the present moment every step of the way. This makes sex less of a genital experience and more of a whole body experience.”
Pay close attention
It’s the main tenet of mindfulness — your mind has to be absolutely and completely in the here and now. No work deadlines, no Facebook notifications, no allowing your brain to replay that time you accidentally deep-liked someone’s Ibiza 2012 photo. Just you, your partner and a reliable erection.
“It’s about staying in the present moment, and looking at each sexual encounter with your partner as potentially new and different,” says Dr Rich. “That means you can experience your partner with all five senses, in the moment, without distraction. You give them your undivided attention.”
Switch off from the outside world and it’ll pay dividends in the bedroom, lounge or matinée movie at the cinema (we won’t judge).
Come to your senses
The other key tenet is paying attention to all of your senses, which requires more focus than you might think.
Focus on specific sensations — the feel of your partner’s skin, the smell of their hair or the sound of their voice — it’ll help stop your mind wandering. The result will be great sex, with none of the noise of the outside world.
If you want to go a step further, there are a number of ways to play with senses in the bedroom, from blindfolds to ice cubes to something as simple as a nice-smelling massage oil. If you really want to make the most of the touch side of things though, there are plenty of great couple’s sex toys on the market — see our guide on which are best for you soon on Numankind.
The bottom line
Being in the moment is key to great sex. Practicing mindfulness can help keep you in the here and now, and aid with relaxation. The latter is essential to getting and maintaining a hard erection.