How do you intimately connect with yourself and others? Do you allow yourself to feel vulnerable? How do you feel about your sexuality? Are you comparing yourself to others too much?
Sexual wellness is not just about good sexual health but has more to do with how you feel about sex. It's a way for you to explore your connection with yourself and others in your own way. If you are interested in expanding your sexual wellbeing or are struggling with bedroom uncertainties, let’s look at what that can mean for you and what support might be out there.
So why are people interested in their sexual wellbeing?
There seems to be a growing industry in sexual wellness (and wellness in general). It's become big business, in fact. Subscription-based apps like OMGYES aim to help their members develop increased pleasure through educational clips. And certain high street stores are now stocking sex toys on their shelves. Even though some people find sex a taboo subject and tricky to talk about, others seem to be opening up more and sharing their experiences too.
What does sexual wellness even mean?
Sexual wellness to me is a space to be your wholehearted self, experiencing everything moment by moment. It’s time to express yourself in the fullest sense; to travel inwards. It has less to do with how it looks from the outside. Not so much about comparisons, appearances, or expectations. And more about surrender, vulnerability, and expression.
During my time as a hypnotherapist, I would encounter people who held shame around sex. Their journey of becoming more sexually confident would involve us working together on the obstacles and limiting beliefs surrounding intimacy. Sexual empowerment can be important for women especially; some women I saw felt they had been unnecessarily objectified or repressed, and felt fearful of being shamed or labelled a certain way by others.
Are there drawbacks to sexual wellness?
Sexual wellness doesn’t mean having wild sex every night. Even though I think more liberal attitudes towards sex are great, one issue with ‘sexual wellness’ is the pressure it puts on people to feel like they’re having really great sex all the time - this isn’t realistic with the demands of everyday life. When we start to pile on the pressure, we can start to compare ourselves to what others may or may not be doing.
Usually what people are really looking for is intimacy; to connect with that person and to be truly seen by them. In their article, Is sex good for your mental health? Disree Shaw talks about the quality of sex rather than the quantity.
But the key is in the satisfaction of the sex, not just the sex itself.
They point out the unrelatable and unreal aspects of how sex is sometimes portrayed, making sex look “impossible to compete with”. What’s important is the way you connect during sex. Counselling Directory member, Elisabeth Marriner confirms this unrealistic approach in society to sex and relationships in their article, Why is it difficult to talk about sex? They talk about why people can feel anxious or inadequate when it comes to their sexual experiences, “A readily accessible porn industry makes it easy to make assumptions about how much and what sort of sex 'successful' people are having”. So true sexual wellness is about enjoying sex in a way that works for you, and not about living up to unattainable expectations.
So how can I increase my sexual wellbeing?
It isn’t something that may transform overnight but with some practice, you may feel more comfortable in your own skin when it comes to sexual intimacy.
Understand your needs
This can include many things. Exploring your own body through touch or masturbation is one way to connect with yourself and accept your body in the here and now. If you are in a relationship, you can express your needs more clearly once you understand yourself on a deeper level. If you are feeling insecure about being intimate with yourself, it may be worth seeking help from a professional.
Speak to a counsellor
Experiencing sexual difficulties can be stressful and lonely. You may find it tricky to speak to your partner or find many aspects of sexual wellbeing scary. Sexual issues are actually really common and the most effective way to deal with them is to share how you feel. Reaching out for support from a qualified practitioner can help you get to the root of how you are feeling and develop a plan to feel more comfortable in your own body.
Being aware of your breath and your body can be a lovely way to increase sexual pleasure. Sinking into the moment in the basic premise of mindfulness- whether that's cooking something in the kitchen, going for a walk, or having sex. Giving yourself over to whatever you are doing is great, not just for your sexual wellbeing but for your mind and body in general.
Staying rooted in the here and now means you will compare yourself less to others and focus on your individual experiences in life. A good motto to have all-round.