What is ‘mindful masturbation’ and what are the benefits?

“Mindful masturbation” is the integration of self-pleasure practices and mindfulness techniques. Both involve being present in the moment, focusing on the sensations you’re experiencing, and personalizing the experience based on what feels right for you.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a psychological construct of moment-to-moment awareness. While similar to meditation in its focused, non-judgmental perspective, mindfulness is a more active state of consciousness that can be used while eating, exercising, or engaging in intimacy, among other activities.

Mindfulness is based on the premise of “notice, don't judge.” Far from complacency, mindfulness is a gentle acceptance of the present moment that can help us be kinder to ourselves. Psychologist Carl Rogers elegantly encapsulated mindfulness when he said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself, just as I am, then I can change.” Mindfulness can reduce stress and self-imposed pressure, help us connect more deeply with ourselves, and as a result, help us shift our lives to experience more pleasure and peace.

You can practice mindfulness by slowly scanning your body and noticing any sensations that come up, facing your partner and noticing what emotions arise as you gaze into each others’ eyes, or taking a minute to notice your breathing throughout the day. The goal of mindfulness is to notice, not judge, your sensory and emotional experience in the present moment.

What is mindful masturbation?The benefits of mindfulness are widely recognized by spiritual and academic circles.

Psychologists agree that mindfulness-based practices are effective for emotion regulation, improving self-control, and other psychological and physical benefits. If you’re in the camp of “the brain is the biggest sex organ,” this is especially exciting. Exploring the mind-body connection through erotic mindfulness can enhance your solo and partnered pleasure.

Erotic mindfulness

Erotic mindfulness adds another dimension to the practice of nonjudgmental, moment-to-moment awareness. Eroticism and mindfulness are both deeply personal, and erotic mindfulness practices can bring awareness to the most enjoyable and challenging aspects of your sensual self. As you explore an erotic mindfulness practice, I’d recommend having a support system (a therapist, your partner, trusted friends, etc) to help you navigate potential shame, stressors, or other uncomfortable feelings that may surface. Mindfulness brings all sensations and emotions to our awareness, so as you move through any difficult feelings, increased joy and pleasure will arise as well. Acknowledging and accepting your mental and physical experiences can help you accept all aspects of yourself and others.

Mindfulness and sexuality share the idea that it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. When integrating mindfulness and eroticism, remember that orgasm is not the goal. Recognize and enjoy the sensations and emotions that arise, and allow drifting thoughts to come and go like ripples in a placid lake.

Good Vibes: Mindfulness and MasturbationHow can mindfulness benefit masturbation?

Mindfulness can help you better connect with your physical and mental selves. By exploring your physical sensations, emotions, and preferences without judgment, you can allow yourself to relax into your self-pleasure and enjoy whatever comes of the experience. Research on self-objectification theory shows that constant self-monitoring (keeping tabs on the way your body looks, the faces you’re making, etc) during sex leads to lower sexual satisfaction. In contrast, being yourself and letting go of the worry allows you to genuinely enjoy yourself, be more creative and playful, and be kinder to yourself. Taking the pressure off of yourself can produce a positive snowball effect, making it more likely for you to experience orgasm and its accompanying hormone releases: dopamine, the “feel good” hormone, and oxytocin, the “love” hormone.

Mindfulness is so beneficial to sexuality that it stars in many sex therapy techniques. Sensate focus, for example, involves focusing all of one’s attention on a specific area and noticing all the accompanying sensations without judgment or pressure. You can try this anywhere by focusing all of your attention on your pinkie finger for a few moments, and noticing the heightened sensation in your pinkie as you continue focusing on it. Apply this technique to masturbation by dedicating all of your attention to whatever area you’re stimulating, noticing all the sensations you’re feeling (i.e., the rumble of your vibrator, the texture of your skin, the coolness or warmth of your lube), and gently noticing any emotions that come up. Keep yourself present in the moment, and allow yourself to enjoy these sessions for as long as you’d like, without the expectation or pressure to orgasm. Ironically, taking the pressure off of yourself to orgasm may make you more likely to!

In addition to being more open, creative, playful, and gentle in your solo sexuality, mindful masturbation can help you to be kinder to yourself overall. In a world that often teaches us the opposite, self-compassion can be the greatest gift we can give to ourselves.

Good Vibes: Mindfulness and MasturbationHow to practice mindful masturbation

Practicing mindful masturbation can be as simple or ornate as you’d like. The essentials are already within you: relaxation, open-mindedness, and playfulness. Whether you have five minutes or five hours, make sure you’re dedicating the time entirely to your joy, pleasure, and peace.

Start by creating a relaxing and inspiring environment for yourself. Foreplay is especially important for mindful masturbation; if you can, set the scene hours beforehand by taking yourself on a solo date. When you’re ready to self-pleasure, turn your phone off, remove any distractions, and set out whatever you might need. Consider where and what makes you feel the most relaxed: the bath, the bedroom, lighting candles, playing soft music, etc. Ground yourself and clear your mind with a few deep breaths or a guided meditation.

Begin slowly, exploring the pleasure of your breath. Scan your body, noticing and gently releasing any tension. Run your hands over your skin, exploring your entire body gradually and intentionally: you might discover some new erogenous zones along with your familiar favorites. Remember that this is a time to be open, curious, and compassionate about exploring your body. Think kindly about yourself, and experiment with giving yourself full, unconditional love and admiration.

Mindful masturbation can be whatever you want it to be.

You can explore self-massage, solo stimulation of your favorite erogenous zones, solo kink exploration through self-tying or impact play, or mental stimulation by exploring your fantasies. The key is to stay focused on the physical sensations and emotions of the moment. If you find your focus wandering to self-criticism or your to-do list, gently bring yourself back to center by re-focusing on your breath and your body’s sensations.

New and intense sensations can command your focus out of your mind and into your body.

Toys can offer infinite sensations to explore: try suction if you’re used to vibration, or experiment with internal sensations using dildos. If you’re practicing mindfulness with a partner, couples toys and games can help you connect on a deeper level.

Mindfulness is like a muscle, and it will strengthen with practice.

It’s okay if you struggle to calm your mind or think kindly about yourself. Mindful masturbation is about connecting with yourself and your curiosity, creativity, and compassion; it does not have to look a certain way or follow certain steps. Practicing mindfulness during masturbation can help gently release years of sexual shame, repression, and self-deprecation, and it is a practice, not a quick fix. By prioritizing your pleasure and yourself, you can expand your curiosity, creativity, and self-kindness into every area of your life.