A Neuroscientist’s Top 8 Mental Hacks To Help You Have Better Sex Tonight

Photo: Getty Images/Dean Mitchell
I was this many days old when I learned that the brain is a highly underutilized sexual organ. And it does make sense; arousal is a cerebral experience, so using the brain as a pleasure receiver can ostensibly make sex more enjoyable. More enjoyable sex, in turn, can mean a more healthy version of you. In fact, neuroscientist and sex therapist Nan Wise, PhD, wrote Why Good Sex Matters to highlight mental sex tips by showing how pleasure plays into overall well-being and is necessary for proper mind-body functioning.

"I use the term 'mind-body' because of the intimate connection between our minds and bodies," Dr. Wise says. "Understanding that is key to what I call operational intelligence, or the ability to effectively work with our wired-in emotions." To that end, Dr. Wise has some brainy advice she wants pleasure-seekers to heed in order to connect the mind and body for leveled-up pleasure.

Experts In This Article
  • Nan Wise, PhD, licensed psychotherapist, cognitive neuroscientist, and certified sex therapist

So, ready to put your mind to work and switch on your pleasure receiver? Below, Dr. Wise shares eight mental sex tips to supercharge your sex life with your partner.

8 mental sex tips to connect the mind and body, and supercharge your sex life, according to a neuroscientist.

1. Cultivate a pleasure mind-set

According to Dr. Wise, good sex starts outside the bedroom. That's why learning how to cultivate a pleasure mind-set is key for sexual enjoyment. "Designate time and space for feel-good fun," Dr. Wise says. "Pleasures of all kinds, not just sexual pleasure, are good for the brain. Anything that feels good and is good for you can help you access that pleasure mind-set next time you're in the bedroom."

And according to recent research from the University of Zurich and Radboud University in the Netherlands, short-term, hedonistic pleasure can lead to long-term happiness, too. So, go ahead and enjoy some ice cream, set aside time for your favorite binge-watch, or soak for an extra-long time in the tub. Cultivating your pleasure mind-set in your daily life will help you bring that energy into your sexual encounters, whether partnered or with yourself.

2. Expand your idea of what having sex is

If your understanding of partnered sex is essentially a version of "I come, you come, then we watch seven minutes of John Oliver and fall asleep,” cool, but know there's so much more to explore. Dr. Wise encourages embracing an approach to sex that's not objective-based, because all the phases of the sexual response cycle should be enjoyed.

"Good sex is about connection, it's about play, and it's about fun," says Dr. Wise. "Think of the bedroom as a sandbox, and just go for it."

3. Get turned on by life in general

"This is a key point to becoming turned on and present in the bedroom," says Dr. Wise. That said, if you're finding this hard to enact given huge stressors presented by pandemic, not to mention the tension-filled upcoming election, that makes sense, too.

"Thinking of your future self on the other side of the challenges presented by life can help us intentionally steer toward reinventing ourselves, and that can be truly a turn-on." —Nan Wise, PhD, neuroscientist

While there’s not an easy solve for the warranted worry about life in general right now, Dr. Wise says that point alone can be viewed as a reason to explore erotic energy. "Crisis presents an opportunity for growth, and growth is enlivening," says Dr. Wise. "Thinking of your future self on the other side of the challenges presented by life can help us intentionally steer toward reinventing ourselves, and that can be truly a turn-on."

I’ve started practicing this by making gratitude lists for what I love right now and also noting my [super out-there] dreams for the future. Will I someday be eating lasagna with John Cusack in Tuscany? Maybe not. Have crazier things happened this year? Absolutely. So, no harm in being open to a brighter, pleasure-filled future.

4. Use your mind to tune into the body

In 2016, Dr. Wise published a study that revealed how "just imagining" having your genitals pleasurably stimulated sans touch could “light up the reward centers of the brain like a Christmas tree,” she says. “Thought alone turned on the brain's sensory pleasure centers. And using your imagination is something that can be honed.”

In light of these results, Dr. Wise developed an exercise called Touch Plus Imagery as a mental sex tip to help people learn to connect the dots between their genitals and their brain's pleasure hot spots. The idea is to find a calm, comfortable, and (ideally) private space to unwind, wearing (or not wearing) anything to obstruct touching yourself. If you're a vulva owner, for two to five minutes, rhythmically stroke your clitoris and paying attention to the sensation without intending to make the experience erotic. Pause. Now just imagine being touched for a minute or two. Repeat this pattern in rounds, and you'll eventually be able to activate heightened sensations through the power of imagined touch.

5. Breathe intentionally to supercharge your erotic capacity

According to Dr. Wise, harnessing the breath via yogic breathwork, "which incorporates 'energy locks' involving the pelvic floor muscles," can put us in a calm receptive state. This is key to accessing our ability to experience pleasure.

You can also start small with this breathing technique to reach your highest climax yet.

6. Show renewed interest in your partner during the day

When we first fall in love and are basking in that honeymoon-period glow, the sex tends to be incredible. Part of that is because we’re powered by what Dr. Wise calls new relationship energy, when our minds are ablaze with all sorts of feel-good chemicals. During this time, we seek, want, crave, and lust for contact with our new squeeze, and we become fascinated by the nuances of their lives. When familiarity sets in, so can routine...in your relationship, and in bed. But that doesn't have to be the case.

"One good way to re-stoke the fire that leads to better sex is by deliberating stoking the SEEKING system to pump up the dopamine by putting more attention on our partners and their worlds,” says Dr. Wise. “Ask them simple questions such as what's the high point and low point of their day."

7. Take risks

"Flirt with your partner in ways you haven't done so," Dr. Wise says. "Tell them a secret thought, wish, fantasy, or fear. The ability to reveal ourselves is the key to our ability to be truly intimate. Remember better sex comes from better connection."

8. Go slow and explore sensations

"When we are present to the experience we are having, rather than focused on our mind watching the experience, love-making becomes hugely more fun," Dr. Wise says. “One of the biggest bummers in the bedroom is when we are watching ourselves and monitoring our sexual ‘performance.’"

The mind inevitably wanders, but bring attention back to the sensations from the body is possible. Focus on how you’re feeling in the experience and if you're feeling good, eventually, your mind will succumb to the sensations, and your body will follow.

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  1. Bernecker, Katharina, and Daniela Becker. “Beyond Self-Control: Mechanisms of Hedonic Goal Pursuit and Its Relevance for Well-Being.” Personality & social psychology bulletin vol. 47,4 (2021): 627-642. doi:10.1177/0146167220941998
  2. Wise, Nan J et al. “Activation of sensory cortex by imagined genital stimulation: an fMRI analysis.” Socioaffective neuroscience & psychology vol. 6 31481. 25 Oct. 2016, doi:10.3402/snp.v6.31481

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