Sex is a natural human desire. Many people enjoy physical intimacy and want more of it. Sex with new or multiple partners, different kinds of sex, better sex with your current partner — all are completely normal goals.
Yet, sometimes, it can feel as if improving your sex life is easier fantasized about than done.
Sure, you can find plenty of practical guides offering physical tips for better sex to people of any gender or anatomy.
But good sex doesn’t just involve your body. Your emotions and mood also play a pretty big part.
Like other aspects of wellness, good sexual health relies on the mind-body connection.
This interaction between mind and body can have some significant implications for emotional and physical health, both in and out of the bedroom.
Positive emotions such as joy, relaxation, and excitement help boost physical pleasure and satisfaction.
At the same time, distraction, irritability, and stress can all settle into your body, affecting your ability to remain present and fully enjoy experiences — from G- to X-rated — as they come.
Here’s the good news about the mind-body connection: Improvements in one area often yield similar improvements in the other.
In other words, increased emotional awareness could just help you have the best sex of your life. Nurturing this connection may take a little work, but these tips can help you get started.
Mindfulness refers to your ability to stay present in the moment.
Robyn Garnett, LCSW, a psychotherapist based in Long Beach, California, who specializes in sex therapy, describes mindfulness as “being fully engaged in an activity, fully experiencing the moment with physical senses rather than the thinking mind.”
You can probably imagine how a lack of mindfulness can detract from a sexy experience.
You might try to stay focused, for example, but thoughts of that midterm you need to study for, the pile of dishes in the sink, or how early you have to get up in the morning keep creeping in.
This fragmented awareness is incredibly common, but learning to boost powers of observation in other areas of life can help you overcome it.
As you go about your day, pay more attention to your body. How do you feel when you exercise? Eat breakfast? Walk to work? Do chores?
Notice the physical and emotional sensations that come up. What feels good? Not so good? If your thoughts start to wander away from the activity, gently return them to what you’re doing.
Many people find meditation and yoga make it easier to get in tune with emotions and practice mindfulness throughout the day.
If you have trouble expanding your awareness alone, giving these wellness practices a try could help.
It can take some time to get the hang of mindfulness, but the increased self-awareness that develops as a result can facilitate greater connection during sex.
Generally speaking, great sex means everyone involved is getting their needs met on some level.
It’s fine to want to please your partner(s), but you should also have some idea of what you enjoy and want from a sexual encounter.
Staying present during sexual encounters, whether solo, partnered, or multipartnered, can help you notice:
- what types of touch feel best
- how your body feels from moment to moment (let yourself move naturally)
- the noises you and your partner(s) make (don’t be afraid to make noise, even when on your own!)
- how your breath and movements speed up and slow down (take time to enjoy yourself instead of rushing toward climax — unless that’s what you’re into!)
When something feels good, don’t be shy about speaking up. Discussing what you like and want more of can strengthen your connection and lead to even better sex.
The same goes for things you don’t love. Participating in activities you dislike, just for a partner’s benefit, can lead to disconnection (or dread) during sex.
Also keep in mind: Good sex doesn’t always require a partner. In fact, exploring sexual interests through masturbation can help you get more comfortable with your desires.
It becomes much easier to communicate with partners when you know exactly what you enjoy — if you do choose to share with a partner, that is. Solo sex can be equally fulfilling!
First of all, you can have fantastic sex without maintaining a romantic relationship.
(That said, if you’ve tried no-strings-attached sex and find it somewhat lacking, it’s worth considering that you may need more of an emotional connection.)
If you are in a relationship, though, you’ll want to take into account the ways stress and conflict can affect not just individual well-being but also partner interactions.
It’s often easier to recognize serious issues threatening your relationship, but smaller concerns can also build up, adding to worry and anxiety.
If you don’t know how to bring these issues up, even minor problems can cause strain and affect overall emotional wellness over time.
These effects can make it more challenging to connect with your partner and enjoy intimacy.
If you’re struggling to connect with your partner — physically or emotionally — couples counseling can offer a safe, judgment-free space to explore the issue and work on healthy, productive communication.
Arousal takes time and effort for many people. Some days, you might just not feel it (totally normal, in case you wondered). Regardless, you might want to go ahead with it anyway.
Maybe you don’t get a lot of chances to have sex and think you should make the most of it, or perhaps you don’t want to let your partner down.
Keep in mind, though, your body usually knows what it’s talking about.
Remember, your mind and body work together, so pushing yourself to connect intimately when you’re drained, tired, achy, or unwell generally doesn’t end well.
Instead of fully engaging with your partner, you might get distracted, notice physical discomfort or annoyance at being touched a certain way, or have difficulty maintaining arousal and having an orgasm.
Your good intentions could even trigger conflict if your partner notices you’re less than enthusiastic.
It’s always better to communicate instead of trying to force a mood you don’t feel. You can still enjoy yourselves without having sex.
In fact, Garnett explains, exploring nonsexual activities together could promote more meaningful connection that can, in turn, lead to an improved sexual relationship.
Don’t forget: A sexual partner who doesn’t respect your physical needs and tries to pressure you into having sex anyway is not one worth keeping.
Sex therapy might sound a little terrifying when you don’t know what to expect, but it’s basically just talk therapy.
“It provides a space for you to openly discuss concerns and potential barriers so you can better understand your own needs,” Garnett says.
“Sometimes the inability to enjoy sex comes down to a misunderstanding of your own body, so psychoeducation is often where the conversation starts,” she says.
Garnett explains that while your sex therapist might suggest activities for you to try outside of therapy, by yourself or with a partner, sex therapy itself doesn’t involve touch or demonstrations.
Your primary goal in sex therapy is exploring any issues potentially affecting your sex life, such as:
- mental health symptoms and their underlying causes
- gender dysphoria
- body image concerns
- unaddressed sexual abuse or violence
- side effects of antidepressants or other medications
- untreated health concerns, which might require a referral to a healthcare provider
Although mental health symptoms can affect sexual desire and contribute to difficulties enjoying intimacy, the reverse is also true.
If you find intimacy challenging, for whatever reason, you might become anxious when thinking of sex or feel so low that your arousal fizzles out.
This can create an unpleasant cycle. Not only can missing out on the benefits of sex bring your mood down further, you might notice tension between you and your partner if you don’t communicate what you’re feeling.
A professional can help you take a holistic look at the challenges in all areas of life, from work stress and sleep troubles to normal life changes, and consider how they could be holding you back from a more fulfilling sex life.
Better sex might not happen overnight, but dedicated efforts toward increased mindfulness can help you employ the mind-body link to improve self-awareness.
This stronger connection within yourself can pave the way toward a powerful, more deeply satisfying sexual connection with others.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.