Better sex is (almost) all in your head, UBC prof’s new book says
|Toronto Star 24 Apr 2018 at 13:48|
Participants sit in a circle at Moment Meditation, a secular meditation studio in Vancouver. Meditation can help foster feelings of safety and self-worth that lead to better sex, says Moment clinical counsellor Hiroko Demichelis. This concept is explored in the new book Better Sex through Mindfulness. (Contributed)
By Melanie Green StarMetro Vancouver
Tues., April 24, 2018
VANCOUVER—Despite the long-standing belief that a woman either has a high sex drive or she doesn’t, new research shows sexual desire can be cultivated.
The answer is not medication but instead mindfulness, said University of British Columbia professor of medicine Lori Brotto. And, according to her new book, science supports it.
Brotto, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Women’s Sexual Health and a clinical psychologist, told StarMetro mindfulness improves sexual desire, arousal and satisfaction — allowing women to live healthier and happier lives.
“Mindfulness targets distraction directly and encourages a person to tune back into the body,” she said. “It actually amplifies the arousal response.”
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Brotto turned 15 years of research findings into a book called Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire, which hits shelves today.
“There are a lot of similarities with patients who report disconnecting from their body and people with sexual problems,” she said. “There’s this kind of feedback that happens brain to body and body to brain.”
With so many myths about how to have “great sex”, Brotto dove into compiling the data. By doing a variety of studies involving self-reported questionnaires as well as psychological and physiological testing, Brotto taught women to pay attention to the present moment and found improved moods as well as reduced stress and anxiety.
“Distraction is at epidemic levels and we’re constantly pulled in a multitude of directions,” she explained, noting research showed people’s minds drift during sexual activity— from to-do lists to dinner plans.
But they also get distracted by judgemental thoughts. “Women are thinking what if I don’t orgasm, or what if I don’t have enough of a response … will my partner leave me,” she said.
Marisa Collins, medical director of the non-profit group Options for Sexual Health, said most people think they’re the only ones with low sexual desire, and many seek information on how to manage mismatched desire with their partners.
That’s why mindfulness can help.
And healthy sex supports overall well-being. For some women, sexual pain is a limitation and programs evolved from mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, such as the one Brotto developed, are the most effective method for managing these conditions, she noted.
“Sex doesn’t just happen in the genitals,” Collins said. “It’s greatly influenced by the mind.”
We exist very much in our heads but can still take action through mindfulness, said Hiroko Demichelis, clinical counsellor and co-founder of Moment Meditation, a meditation studio in Vancouver. There are two problems that happen in the brain causing women to disconnect, she added. One is not feeling safe and the other is the sense of worth.
“My body is not enough … who I am is not enough,” Demichelis said. “That disconnection becomes really deep and might trigger a sense of anxiety, discomfort, hopelessness and suffering.”
Inviting the brain away from those areas and back into the body changes everything, Demichelis added.
But debunking the myths about mindfulness is the first barrier to women testing it out in the bedroom. The incorrect assumption that mindfulness requires silencing the brain completely — which Demichelis said is nearly impossible — can deter some from the practice.
“There’s a lot of bells and whistles around meditation,” she said. “Meditation is not necessarily relaxing or comfortable. Sometimes we are sitting with those fears and before we learn how to deal with them. It will be hard.”
It just takes time and practice to retrain the brain. “We may be used to instant gratification,” she said. “Mindfulness is really falling passionately in love with this very moment.”