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Mindful Masturbation as Self-Care

Take time to prioritize your pleasure by reconnecting with your body.

by Niki Davis-Fainbloom
December 9, 2020 | Health
Silhouette illustration of woman with love in her heart, mindful masturbation, Rewire
Credit: Mary Long // Adobe

I'm going to be real with you: My masturbation routine is not always glamorous.

I've touched myself on my unmade bed while "Six Feet Under" played in the background — not because death turns me on, but because I just happened to be watching it before the mood struck.

I've tearfully masturbated, in the midst of a breakup, thinking about an ex-partner while swiping on tinder with only a half-eaten bag of Oreos on the bed beside me to drown my sorrows.

I've masturbated on my couch, not even bothering to take off my pants all the way, in the hopes that it will help me relax before a big presentation.

The scenarios are plentiful.

These are all fine ways to masturbate, but in these situations, I was not truly connecting to my body. I was in my head with a specific goal in mind: often distraction, avoiding life or simply to orgasm.

I have recently worked on shifting my self-pleasure routine by learning to connect to my body during masturbation on a deeper and more satisfying level.

During the pandemic, many of us have been stuck at home without a partner and have more solo time on our hands than usual. We might as well put those hands to good use and learn to engage in a more immersive, mindful form of self-pleasure.

What is mindful masturbation?

Dr. Nazanin Moali uses an analogy to describe how "regular" (i.e., not mindful) masturbation is like driving a car to your final destination without being conscious of the journey or paying attention to how you even got there.

Whereas mindful masturbation, Moali said, "involves actively taking in the beauty of your environment as you drive, paying attention to detours and new routes. Not infrequently, you may discover exciting new paths that will make the trip even more enjoyable."

As individuals, we often develop a masturbation technique that leads us to orgasm as quickly as possible. We end up rarely deviating from this pattern.

"Mindful masturbation is about cultivating an active awareness of your body and immersing yourself in the immediate experience of masturbation," Moali said.

Mindful masturbation involves slowing down, giving love and attention to your whole body, and learning to relax and enjoy the journey — without having an orgasm as the goal. Although, if it happens, that's great!

Who would benefit from mindful masturbation?

It's very common to get caught up in our thoughts instead of paying attention to our bodies during partnered sex.

I used to worry about how my stomach looked from certain angles, if my partners were actually enjoying themselves and if I was going to orgasm (and, if not, whether I should fake it).

Many men get in their heads about performance in a different way, wondering if their penis is big enough, if they will be able to get and stay hard, and if they will orgasm at the "right" time.

All of these thoughts take away from the experience of connecting to our bodies and having a satisfying sexual experience in a more personally intimate way.

Photo of bare feet under a gray blanket in bed, mindful masturbation, self care
If you're going to engage in a mindful masturbation practice, create an environment that feels comfortable and relaxing to you.  |  Credit: Prostock Studio // Adobe

"Mindful masturbation is great for everyone," said Nancy Owen, a Washington-based licensed mental health counselor and sex therapist, "but in particular for those who struggle with orgasm or sexual shame that impedes pleasure, as it gives permission for the person to engage in touch simply for pleasure's sake, with no specified goal."

Moali believes tuning in to your body is an essential skill that everyone can benefit from.

"As an example, many of my female clients struggle with low desire. This can occur when we are mostly 'in our heads' and not 'in our bodies,'" she said.

"We become victims of the stories that our minds tell us and are frustrated with our bodies for not being responsive. How mindful masturbation can help is that it allows us to train our bodies to 'get out of our head' and truly enjoy this immersive experience."

Owen also notes a number of additional health benefits of mindful masturbation, including decreased stress and anxiety, as well as improved emotional regulation.

How do you engage in mindful masturbation?

There is no right way to engage in mindful masturbation, which means it will look slightly different for each individual.

The general principle is to spend the time connecting to your body and exploring new and different sensations. Here are some specific tips that will enhance your practice:

  • Create a positive environment

If you are going to engage in a mindful masturbation practice, move the chips off the bed and create an environment that feels comfortable and relaxing to you.

For a lot of folks, cleaning their bedroom will help to create a space of relaxation and enjoyment. Some folks enjoy taking a bath, lighting a candle and putting on some relaxing music to set the scene.

I highly suggest turning off your phone and clearing your calendar for at least an hour (if not seven) so that you can really sink in and enjoy the experience.

  • Focus on your whole body

Mindful masturbation is about taking your time in exploring and getting in touch with your whole self.

You could begin by standing naked in front of a mirror and looking at your body. Take notice of at least three parts of your body that you like. Then lie down and begin to touch yourself, focusing in and thinking of those three parts.

Take the time to explore your erogenous zones from your chest to your inner thighs, before narrowing in on the bullseye. Pay attention to the types of pressure, rhythm and movement that feel good for you.

Moali suggests not using a toy or anything that might accelerate the process. If you usually watch porn, take a porn break. Instead, slow down and enjoy the slow build up.

If you get close to the edge, go back to touching other parts of your body. You may try using your non-dominant hand to touch yourself, as this can help turn off autopilot and help you really experience the moment and sensations.

  • Incorporate mindfulness practice

You can also incorporate a mindfulness practice into your self-pleasure.

For example, Owen suggests learning some simple meditation or breathing exercises, and then applying those during solo sex. The goal is to learn how to experience sensation in your body and, when your mind wanders, to be able to focus back on the practice quickly.

Moali recommends engaging in the practice two to three times a week, as the journey to connect and learn about your body may take repeated effort.

The first few times I attempted the practice, it simply felt like slow masturbation. However, around the fifth attempt I remember having a few moments where my mind went blank and I felt overwhelmed by the intensity and beauty of my hand slowly touching my body.

I also played around with different types of pressure and learned that I enjoyed a firmer grip when touching certain parts of my body. Most notably, I remember leaving the practice feeling calmer and more content — despite it being 2020!

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with distractions. One way to prioritize your pleasure is to take time out of your busy day and fight off the pandemic blues through exploring self-pleasure.

Niki Davis-Fainbloom
Niki Davis-Fainbloom, MA, is a New York-based sexuality writer, educator and coach who uses research, humor and practical advice to help people improve their romantic and sexual relationships.
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