author: niplav, created: 2024-01-29, modified: 2024-01-29, language: english, status: in progress, importance: 3, confidence: possible

In which I investigate whether not masturbating makes my mind clear.

Does Recent Masturbation Decrease Meditation Quality?

Maybe65%? Correlations between mindfulness and time since last masturbation are generally <0.2, and sometimes negative. But there seems to be a pretty clear trend of positive correlation with concentration if we only look at sessions with >20 days of abstinence.

There is some received wisdom that ejaculation and masturbation in particular decreases meditation quality: The retreats of dhamma.org in the tradition of S.N. Goenka forbid any sexual activity, and Taoist sexual practices recommend semen retention. Since I track both my meditations and (a.m.a.b.) masturbations, I can check whether this is observationally true. Of course results from observational data can be due to confounders, but such results are more valuable than pure speculation, and may point to possible experimental investigations.

First, I load both meditation data and masturbation data (using my loading code from here):

    >>> meditations=get_meditations()
    >>> masturbations=get_masturbations()

Since I only started tracking my masturbations on 2021-01-15, I have to filter out all meditation I did before that:


And then I merge meditations and masturbations so that each meditation is relation to the masturbation last before it:

    combined=pd.merge_asof(meditations, masturbations, left_on='meditation_start', right_on='datetime', direction='backward')

All hail merge_asof!

Just to check whether the difference computed is the right one, I do a quick sanity check:

    >>> combined['diff'].describe()
    count                         1462
    mean     3 days 21:46:44.564929548
    std      6 days 10:27:57.403873207
    min         0 days 00:03:45.389000
    25%         0 days 16:00:47.628250
    50%         1 days 12:27:33.874500
    75%         3 days 14:14:14.750500
    max        39 days 09:24:06.877000
    Name: diff, dtype: object

And now I can simply compute the correlation with time since last masturbation and concentration & mindfulness during meditation:

    >>> combined[['mindfulness_rating', 'concentration_rating', 'diff']].corr(numeric_only=False)
                          mindfulness_rating  concentration_rating      diff
    mindfulness_rating              1.000000              0.687853  0.088458
    concentration_rating            0.687853              1.000000 -0.049699
    diff                            0.088458             -0.049699  1.000000

As one can see, the correlation between time since last masturbation and concentration/mindfulness are weak and contradictory, and I weakly conclude that masturbation does not influence meditation quality noticeably in practice regimes like mine. One might criticize my analysis for not including periods of long abstinence from ejaculation, which I guess is fair. So we can simply restrict the dataset to meditations 4 or more days after the last masturbation. We still have n=329, which is appreciable.

    >>> combined_long=combined.loc[combined['diff']>pd.Timedelta('4d')]
    >>> combined_long['diff'].describe()
    count                           329
    mean     12 days 19:50:39.986796352
    std       8 days 20:16:12.256869649
    min          4 days 01:15:13.941000
    25%          6 days 09:45:24.187000
    50%          9 days 21:45:40.422000
    75%         14 days 12:50:55.863000
    max         39 days 09:24:06.877000
    Name: diff, dtype: object
    >>> combined_long[['mindfulness_rating', 'concentration_rating', 'diff']].corr(numeric_only=False)
                          mindfulness_rating  concentration_rating      diff
    mindfulness_rating              1.000000              0.542909  0.169900
    concentration_rating            0.542909              1.000000 -0.040382
    diff                            0.169900             -0.040382  1.000000

The correlation of ≅0.17 of abstinence-time with concentration is still not strong enough to convince me, but perhaps points in some interesting direction.

What if we look at exclude up to 30 days?

    for i in range(0,30):
            mindfulness_correlations.append(combined_long[['mindfulness_rating', 'concentration_rating', 'diff']].corr(numeric_only=False)['mindfulness_rating']['diff'])
            concentration_correlations.append(combined_long[['mindfulness_rating', 'concentration_rating', 'diff']].corr(numeric_only=False)['concentration_rating']['diff'])


    import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

    _, ax1 = plt.subplots()
    ax2.set_ylabel('Sample size')
    ax1.plot(mindfulness_correlations, color='red', label='Mindfulness correlations')
    ax1.plot(concentration_correlations, color='blue', label='Concentration correlations')
    ax1.set_xlabel('Time since last masturbation (days)')
    ax1.set_ylabel('Correlation (Pearson)')
    ax2.plot(sample_sizes, color='green', label='Sample size')

"Plot of three variables: Concentration correlations, mindfulness correlations and sample sizes, with the x-axis being days since last masturbation. The mindfulness correlations merely oscillate between 0 and 0.2, while the concentration correlations rise from below zero at one day to more than 0.3 at ~20 days, just to fall back to 1.5 after that. Sample sizes start high at 1600, and fall rapidly to near zero.

Now this is interesting! Even just eye-balling suggests that abstaining from masturbation might improve concentration, but has no effect on mindfulness. That could be worth testing, so I'd like someone to do an experiment on this (keeping a strict meditation schedule and randomizing 4-week pairs for masturbation/abstinence), since the sample sizes in the upper ranges are so small (62 at 20 days, 45 at 25 days).

But I won't do it in the forseeable future, since other experiments have higher priority.