Many of us grow up with the notion that a great sensual life requires having a partner who knows how to please us. Once we realize sensuality is not partner-dependent, its ability to enhance our lives becomes even more empowering—and all-encompassing.
Clinical sexologist Dr. Patti Britton, PhD, MPH, has guided people of all ages to tap into their sensual selves. The key to a sensual life? Prioritizing pleasure wherever possible.
While younger people are hormonally driven, aging changes our appetites. According to Britton, one study shows that “women, in particular, stopped being sexual as they aged and leaned into becoming more sensual in their expression of both their erotic and their sexual energy.”
What does this mean? Sensuality can be well-expressed independently from sexuality and without reliance on a partner. “Pleasure can be self-administered,” says Britton. “Sensuality is often the pathway or the gateway to the experience of pleasure, but you don’t need another person in order to experience the joy and the abundance of self-sensuality.”
Here are a few of Britton’s favorite practices for embracing pleasure:
- Change your consciousness. Sensuality starts in the mind. “Our thoughts create our reality,” says Britton. “When we move into a more abundant mindset, we begin to attract and manifest the abundance that we are entitled to and that we deserve to experience.”
- Assess your pleasure tolerance. Ask yourself how much pleasure you have in your life—and how much you can currently withstand. “We can create pleasure at the mental, emotional, spiritual, or physical parts of ourselves,” she says. “But we may also deny ourselves pleasure, and we don’t always know how to go for pleasure.” Understand your own resistance to pleasure in order to begin to claim it.
- Give yourself permission. Denial of pleasure often comes from imprinted beliefs. “Sometimes we feel that if we go for pleasure, we’ll be misperceived as selfish,” she says. Try reframing the idea of pleasure as self-care. “We have to understand that pleasure is part of health and wellness,” says Britton. “Pleasure allows us to expand.”
- Identify joys. Seek out what pleases you. “Maybe it’s going to a diner and just having a luscious breakfast with home fries and ketchup,” she suggests. “Maybe it’s a bubble bath with essential oils to help you have a great night’s sleep.” Choose anything that brings a sense of wellness and fulfillment.
- Feed your senses. Put down your phone and devices, turn off the TV, and focus on the pleasure of your dinner. “Experimenting with the textures, flavors, and the aromas of food can become sensual,” says Britton. Sit quietly and eat mindfully to stay in the moment with each bite. If you love to cook, start with slow, thoughtful preparation. Or, skip right to the pleasure of ordering in or treating yourself to a beautiful dinner out.
- Track your pleasure. Keep an account of where you are excelling at sensual pleasures—and where you need a boost. “I have my clients keep track, either on an app, their phone, or in a little notebook,” says Britton. “In a pleasure log, you can see where pleasure is infusing and feeding you.”
- Redefine “enough.” People with a consciousness of lack or a poverty mentality may struggle with pleasure. Use a technique that defines the three boxes of enough: “The first box on the left is ‘Not Enough’ or ‘Never Enough,’” she says. “The middle box is ‘Just Enough’. And the third box is on the right and is ‘More Than Enough,’ or ‘Reserve.’” Notice which box you are currently in and set your intention to move to the right and claim bliss and sensual pleasure.
- Touch and be touched. Britton formulated a “continuum of touch” to identify five levels of touch: healing, affectionate, sensual, erotic, and sexual. There are many ways to experience healing, affectionate, and sensual touch. You may also want to experience erotic or sexual touch with another, with yourself, or by using your imagination, a book, or an inspiring movie. [Read: Healthy Aging: 5 Sensual Practices for Couples]
- Connect with your body. Getting lost in thought can disconnect us from our bodies. Mindfulness techniques and sensory awareness can help. “Feel the pressure of your buttocks on the chair that you’re sitting on, inhale deeply, slow down your breathing, and notice what aromas might be in the room,” she suggests. “Be aware of what’s around you, open up all the senses so that you are present, centered, and conscious of what is in the moment.”
- Create a soulful bedroom. Designate your bedroom as a “sacred temple” free of mess, distractions, bad memories, office items, and chaos of any kind. Fill the room with inspiring art, crystals, candles, and other items that add positive energy. “Sensuality can also be what we hear,” she says. One of her clients loves Brazilian jazz and bossa nova and gets in the mood the minute she hears it.
Daily Pleasures for Singles
Feel like you’re being denied pleasure, connection, and sensuality? Singlehood is actually prime time to lean into the pleasurable moments of everyday life. “Walk along the ocean or the lake and allow your toes to dig into the mud. Feel a breeze on our cheeks. Have a second glass of Prosecco after our hors d’oeuvres.” suggests Britton. “Whatever it is that can give us pleasure, and that can give pleasure to our bodies, that’s where the self-sensuality really comes in. It begins with permission to ourselves to have it.”
- by Laurie Sue Brockway