What is grounding? The technique for anyone who struggles to stay focused during sex

Grounding is a simple technique that can help you stay in the moment during sex, as one in four women struggle to have an orgasm

Woman with eyes closed, half lying down in bed, and sun coming through window against her face, practising exercises after learning what is grounding
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Grounding is the idea of re-centering yourself during sex. If you often find your thoughts moving away from yourself or your partner in the bedroom, you may find it useful.

Studies have shown a cyclical link between feeling distracted during sex and issues having an orgasm, leading to more automatic distracting and negative thoughts. Questioning a partner's attraction, sexual failure, sexual control and passivity, and thoughts of a completely unerotic nature were among the most common. Breaking this cycle is the key to enjoying sex if you often find yourself drifting off, whether that's while masturbating or being intimate with a partner.

Grounding is one such way to do this. Here, woman&home speaks to an expert in the world of sexual wellness to determine how best to stay in the moment, using alternative masturbation techniques (with the best sex toys, if you want to), and exercises for mindfulness. 

What is grounding?

Grounding is a way to centre sexual energy through touch, explains sex expert Samantha Marshall. It can help remove distractions from your mind as you refocus on yourself, your body, wants and needs, and if relevant, your partner. 

While there's no one set way to ground yourself, there are some common practices recommended by the experts - including mindful sex and meditation exercises like body scans, deep breathing, and sensory awareness exercises. 

You can also practice grounding post-orgasm as a way to stay in the moment and increase intimacy with your partner (or yourself). One way to do this is through cupping the vulva post-orgasm: "Just think of it like a vulva hug, a key source of our favourite love hormone, oxytocin," says Marshall, who works with sexual wellness brand Smile Makers.

Man with arms round woman at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to try grounding

Body scan

  • Get into a comfortable position and close your eyes, if you feel comfortable doing so. 
  • Take a few deep breaths. 
  • Starting at the top of the body with your head and neck, consider the sensations you're feeling in this area of your body. Any tension? 
  • Moving toward the middle of your body, be mindful of your chest and stomach. Any tightness? Any discomfort? It's important not to have any judgement about how you're feeling here, just an awareness of it. 
  • Moving down the body, how do your arms and hands feel? Vulva and pelvic region? Thighs? Right down to your calves and feet, consider how you're feeling in this moment, taking mental stock. There's no such thing as a 'wrong' feeling.

"This helps you become more aware of how your body feels and allows you to be fully immersed in the experience," says Marshall. "You can do this alone or with a partner guiding you through each body part, offering the chance to be intimate and to appreciate every part of the body. This could be all that you do, or it could be something you do to build arousal or even wind down after having an orgasm."

Vulva cupping

  • Use the palm of your cup or a vulva vibrator to cup and hold your vulva as the intense post-orgasmic sensations dissipate.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly.
  • Tune into what your body is feeling in the moment.
  • After a few moments, return to sexual stimulation patterned or solo. 
  • Be mindful of any difference you might have sensitivity-wise - and maybe even the potential for another orgasm. 

Post-orgasm, Marshall says, this technique can help to "maintain a broader touch and soothe sensations, keep the intimacy, and build you up for more pleasure."

Deep breathing

  • Inhale deeply past your lungs and into the diaphragm, not just into your chest.
  • To help, put one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest while you breathe. This way, you'll visualise which hand is moving and whether you are breathing deep enough.
  • Pace your breathing - for example, count for one as you breathe in, one as you breathe out, one as you breathe in, two as you breathe out, and so on.

Many experts say that diaphragmatic breathing is the route to learning how to have a better orgasm, as many of us hold our breath without realising it during sex. This grounding technique increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain and muscles, activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and encourages relaxation. 

When we hold our breath during sex, we can accidentally activate the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This system controls the 'fight or flight' response and when activated, the body is on red alert for danger, rather than focusing on pleasure, leading to distraction and negative thoughts. 

Sensory awareness

The 5,4,3,2,1 method encourages you to actively engage with your surroundings using each of your senses and can help to alleviate feelings of anxiety or distress and bring your attention back to the present moment, says Marshall. Here's how to do it:

  • Take a deep breath. 
  • Name five things you can see.
  • Name four things you can feel.
  • Three things to can hear.
  • Two things you can smell. 
  • One thing you can taste. 
  • You can do this by yourself to centre your attention or with a partner, taking it in turns to go through the steps. 

"Sex is way more than just touch. The senses help us make more sense of ourselves, the scenario and our lovers - powerful tools to stimulate and enhance pleasure," says Marshall. "Making a conscious effort to recognise the different senses can bring us to the present and help us focus." 

The 5,4,3,2,1 method can be a particularly beneficial way to do this. It "makes for a fun and connecting game with a partner during sex too," she says.

Benefits of grounding

1. Helps you stay in the moment post-orgasm

The primary benefit of grounding exercises is that they can help you avoid distractions during sex. Whether it's because of negative thoughts or stresses outside of the bedroom, this technique has been proven to help. 

"It's a soothing practice that allows you to stay in the present, rather than immediately moving on with your day - or grabbing [another distraction like] your phone, and can help ease you back into the world after an orgasmic high," says Marshall. 

2. Connect with your body

Connecting with your body is essential to learn how to have better sex generally and grounding can help with this. "Taking the time to be with ourselves can be rare, and just like meditation or mindfulness, focusing on the sensation can help us connect deeper with ourselves," says the sex expert. "It also allows us to show our vulva some love, and consider how different parts of our anatomy play a role in our pleasure."

3. Multiple orgasms

The vulva cupping technique is particularly beneficial for anyone looking to try having more than one orgasm - known as multiple orgasms - with a partner in one of the best sex positions or on their own with a vibrator. "People with vulvas have a refractory period that is much shorter than those with a penis, meaning the body physiologically can become aroused and enjoy stimulation again very soon after orgasm," says Marshall. 

Grace Walsh
Health Channel Editor

Grace Walsh is woman&home's Health Channel Editor, working across the areas of fitness, nutrition, sleep, mental health, relationships, and sex. She is also a qualified fitness instructor. In 2024, she will be taking on her second marathon in Rome, cycling from Manchester to London (350km) for charity, and qualifying as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. 

A digital journalist with over six years experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace has covered (almost) everything in the world of health and wellbeing with bylines in Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more.