Lose weight, drink less alcohol, consume less sugar, eat healthier, work out more – popular New Year’s resolutions tend to be about physical health. The western drive to be thinner, “healthier” (and trust me I’ve tried all the fad exercises and meal plans), and younger are inevitably the reason for the booming makeup industry, globally estimating at $524 billion dollar makeup business (US representing the largest consumer share). But what if we didn’t just focus on excluding or restricting activities and calories from our lives? What if instead, we enhanced our lives by honoring where we are intimately with our own sexual story and where we would like to be?
There are a few things you can add today, maybe RIGHT NOW, without worrying about that ball dropping at midnight. You can start right now.
Hugs! When was the last time you gave someone a long hug – where you didn’t let go until they did? Research shows when two people engage in a hug lasting for 20 seconds, a natural chemical is released to cause a person to relax. 20 seconds! The sensation of someone touching your skin activates pressure receptors which send signals to the vagus nerve of the brain. Those signals then encourage the release of oxytocin in the brain. Imagine that, taking a moment to hug trusted someone for 20 seconds, will release oxytocin and your body will become more relaxed as a result – you will become more relaxed as a result.
See, touch doesn’t have to be just about sex. In fact, that is only one of the potential outcomes. Touch is a sensory experience and level of comfort varies from person to person. And although the response to touch is unique to the person, humans tend to thrive as a result of touch. Montagu was one of the first to describe this notion of what is called “skin hunger”. [Awesome article on skin hunger here]. Essentially, humans need touch, in varying amounts across the lifespan.
Curious Adventurer! Besides a non-sexual hug, there are other ways to engage in non-sexual touching. For example, when was the last time you explored your partner/lover/boo with a keen eye and curious intentionality?
Like an adventurer of the human body, you explore the nape of their neck, their armpit, their elbow, their breasts, their back, and more. For 10 to 15 minutes, explore and touch your partner’s body. You can change up the type of touch and you can focus on one area. As long as sex is not the ultimate goal and the person receiving the touch consents, HAVE FUN! Take the time to inquisitively explore the beautiful terrains of your partner’s body.
With no goal in mind but to stay present and mindful, you can have the lights on, down, or off. Clothes can be semi-on or completely off. From the way their hair feels to which toe is longer than the other, this exercise is all about getting to know your partner’s body without fear of whether it turns them on or if it gets you off. Performance is not the name of this game and this is not a race – there are no rules but the ones you create.
Kissing! I know many who claim that kissing is overrated. But how many actually take the time to kiss with tenderness? A quick ‘pucker up’ can be as pleasant as someone saying ‘HI’ with their face. But what messages are we really trying to send with a kiss? Consider what your last kiss meant to you and to your partner.
David Schnarch has this exercise called “eyes open” kissing. This exercise not only asks you to feel your lips and your partner’s but also to engage in eye contact while kissing. The purpose is to confront insecurities and deepen intimacy between you and your partner. It can be super awkward but having fun with this particular exercise is half the battle. This isn’t your first kiss but it may very well be your first one with eyes wide open; it is an intentional kiss with your partner. Consider the messages we convey with a kiss. What messages are we trying to convey with our lips? Is it “I see you”? Is it “I adore you”? Could it be “I honor us!”? Consider how each kiss is presented and how it best represents your true intentions.
No matter what you decide to take on in 2020, remember to consider yourself as a perfectly imperfect human being capable of touching honestly and compassionately – ever deserving of love, time, and tenderness.
Be sure to make YOU and your sexual self a priority this year!
Angie Schubert, PhD, LPC