Two easy ways to have a Happy Holiday Season

Taking care of your happiness is especially important during the holiday season. Two “mental concepts” are essential for your own happiness and mental well-being. Here is a repost of an original post from the Happiness part of the Bootcamp program about the two concepts: Empathy and Gratitude.

Empathy and Gratitude

Two concepts repeatedly turn up when you try and find out the secret of “happy” people: empathy and gratitude. They are also essential to the practice of mindfulness. Why specifically these two? Today I invite you to try them out for yourself – ad see how practicing empathy and gratitude can change your mental “position”, and help you become a more happy person.

Empathy is trying to see, feel and experience the world through the eyes of someone else. As so many concepts in the bootcamp, this seems a really easy thing to do – but is very hard when you put it into practice.
On the other hand, once mastered, it allows you to be more sensitive and open to the feelings of other people, which in turn will make it much easier for you to communicate with them. As you develop empathy, you’ll notice how people increasingly change from being aggressive to open with you, because you learn to treat them the way they want to be treated. This can be a truly powerful motivator for people, and is fundamental to building strong relationships. At the same time, it will help to deal with negativity from people: simply by understanding “where they are coming from”, and trying to help them, many negative situations will become much less stressful – and can even turn out to be an opportunity to grow for everyone.

Think of how often it is easy to just be annoyed at someone who is unfriendly, taking the last seat on the train or complaining. But while it is easy to simply react annoyed, it is often better to stop, think and … practice empathy. You’ll be surprised at the reactions you are getting!

The first activity today is to try and react to three unpleasant or annoying situations with empathy.
To do this, when you experience a situation where you feel annoyed today, try to take a deep breath. Resist the temptation to react to whatever it is annoys you – or judge the person who is annoying you.
Simply switch into mindfulness mode – but instead of focusing o your ow mind, try and focus on the other person: experience how they are experiencing the situation. Imagine actively that you are that person in this moment. Maintain their point of view for as long as you can, especially when you are talking to them or are close to them.
Once you are back to “yourself”, ask yourself how the experience was different for you and them. See how experiencing the same situation from “the other” side has changed your view of the situation.

The second activity for today focuses on gratitude. As a popular saying says: “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy”. Being grateful is, luckily, a lot easier than training empathy. However, we simply often lack the time or motivation to do this important task. So, as a second activity for today, I’ll ask you to write down three things you are particularly grateful for about today – just before you go to bed. This can be things related to anything that happened today. Even if it was a really bad day, I’m sure you’ll find at least three things to be grateful for (and probably many, many more once you start thinking about it!).

By simply stoping and asking yourself “what am I grateful for today”, many people notice how their mind immediately switches from the stress they may be experiencing during the day to a much more positive frame. This is a very powerful little tool: you can use it anytime you feel stressed or annoyed – or even just a bit unhappy: simply stop for a second. Take a deep breath and list three things you are grateful for in this moment or today. Try this out over the next few days – and see how your mind will slowly change and more readily focuses on the positive. You can even have certain “check-ins” during the day: for example, try having a gratefulness moment during your lunch break tomorrow.

Two little tricks today, but both are potentially life changing. I know they are not very easy – especially in the heat of the moment when you are annoyed or feeling stressed. But sometimes this little stop and think can really make a big difference.

Have you called a friend today?

Feeling a little low today? Or maybe just in need of a small dose of happiness? A little boost to your self-esteem?
One easy way to make you smile right now might be to call a friend. Here is what Rob had to say about it while he was doing the “Happier, Healthier and more Active: the 30 Day Challenge” workshop:

“Another [activity] I liked. Actually calling rather than liking a few friends’ posts on Facebook made a difference. It made me think a bit that we are loosing the ability to “just call” and have a chat. Putting it on my agenda helped a lot to remind me of the task, too.”

P.S.: The complete workshop with all activities is still available for free here! See here for all the posts.

5 Reasons to schedule a long sex session with your partner – right now.

With the nights getting longer, here are five great reasons to make room in your busy schedule for a longer sex session with your partner – right now.

1. Really feel the sex
Spontaneous and quick sex is great, however, it is often over before your mind had time to “arrive”. Scheduling a longer session gives both of you time to prepare, look forward to and really bring your mind with you to feel all the sensations and be present.

2. Create intimacy
Often sex is confused with creating intimacy in a relationship. And while sex is really important in maintaining a relationship, what really counts is not the number of times you have sex – but the intimacy you are creating while having sex. Slow sex really gives time for intimacy feelings to develop, injecting tons of intimacy into your relationship.

3. Feel good afterwards
Long sex is a master in giving you afterglow. Why? It gives time for all the happy hormones you produce during sex to really play their role in your body. The result? A happy smile for hours to come!

4. Connecting beyond your sexual partner
Long lasting sex actually helps you connect to people beyond the ones you are having sex with. Feelings of intimacy with your partner and satisfaction often reflect into other parts of your life, and help you make more friendly and positive connections beyond the person you had sex with!

5. De-stress
Finally, sex is one of the best ways to de-stress. Had a hard day at work? There is an easy way to be more productive again the next day: switch off the TV and bring some real intimacy into your life with your partner.

Ready for some slow sex?
Check out some of the tips of creating long-lasting intimate connections in the Sexual Discovery workshop and book: From connections through touch with your partner – to edging yourself if you don’t have a partner right now. And don’t forget, the Tantric Vibes workshop starts in January!

Three reasons to get active for every gay man

A guest post by Paul, who is the curator for the @urbangay twitter this week, follow him, interact and talk to him on twitter until Sunday!

This week I’m taking over the @urbangay twitter account for a week. My interest is mainly in being healthy and active, and I think it is something really important. Not just because of the obvious and well-known health reasons (and making for better sex!). But there are three more reasons why it is especially important for gay men. Here they are:

1) It’s great to make you feel good
Engaging in sports and eating a healthy diet to help you fuel your activities has an unbelievably great influence on how you feel about yourself and your life. Simply engaging in regular exercise has the same effect on you as taking antidepressants, but with only positive side-effects. With gay men much more likely than straight folks to have mental health issues for many reasons, exercise can be a key to make us happier and healthier. Of course, you don’t have to feel down, or even start an overwhelming exercise program: even small steps will have a great effect, at least when you do them regularly. So start and get active today and within a week you will see how much better you feel!

2) It will improve your body image
Not just your mood and how you feel about yourself and others around you will improve: but your body image will also become much better. Body image problems are endemic in the gay community. I used to hate my body when I was a teenager, and even into my twenties. Only when I started exercising regularly did I start to love me and my body. And I’m not saying this because I became muscular and looking like a sex god (I didn’t!). But because exercise influences how you feel about your body!

3) You can make so many new friends!
Finally, I found that exercise is a big benefit for a great social life. It binds together like nothing else. I love joining in with LGBT-sports groups or events, and I bet you’d love it, too! If you live in or near a bigger city see if there are any gay sports organisations you can join. There are lots of these around and many organisations have something for every taste: from yoga to rugby. And don’t forget outdoor sports away from the big cities like skiing and hiking, too! You won’t believe how it changes your social life!

Let me know what you think about sport, being active and healthy and gay! Tweet to me and follow my tweets @urbangay all this week!

Welcome to 30 Days for Self-love!

Self-love seems so often unrequited. Anthony Powell Click To Tweet

Welcome to the 30 Days Self-Love! Starting on the 1 May and over the next 30 days this program will focus on developing and fostering your self-love, as loving yourself is probably the most important thing you can do. Without loving yourself, it is hard to develop and keep good relationships, stick up for yourself and support others.

But loving yourself is not as easy as it sounds: with the stresses of modern, daily life, especially as gay men, it is hard to find time and motivation to look at yourself and see how beautiful you really are. But not only time and motivation are a problem: all too often, it can be the environment in which we live, too. Sometimes even supposedly safe spaces, such as the gay scene, can make it really hard for people to love themselves. With constant demands for being perfect, being young, fit, the perfect lover… the scene, the media and people around us can have a seriously detrimental effect on our self-love. With all the demands and stresses related to these constant demands for perfection, it is no wonder that gay men are three times more likely to suffer than straight men.

In fact, the statistics when it comes to gay men and mental health, especially confidence and self-love are truly shocking: in a recent survey by London gay group GMFA, more than half of the men questioned had suicidal thoughts. Almost a quarter of the men surveyed had actually attempted to take their own lives. 70% of the men talked about low self-esteem, with relationship issues, isolation and not feeling attractive major factors. And while for straight men things get better as they age, sadly, this isn’t the case for gay men: Older gay men suffer significantly more from depression and low self-esteem than both their straight and younger counterparts.

So what can we do about this? The first step is to recognise the issue, and to learn and look at ourselves more objectively, and see how we really are. Just think: if you go into a gay bar, would you think that over half of the guys there think that they are not attractive? Probably not. But that is exactly what the statistics tell us. And I’m not talking measuring men about an abstract beauty ideal here. In fact, more than half of gay men think they are unattractive to all or the majority of other gay men. Is it really surprising then, that so few would even think about themselves as loveable?
But luckily, you have decided that it is time to love yourself. And that is, after all, the first and probably biggest step to a develop a happier, healthier, sexier and more attractive you, no matter what your body looks like. Because, as the saying goes, there is nothing as attractive as someone who actually loves himself.

I should briefly add here that loving yourself shouldn’t be confused with narcissism, arrogance or self-centredness: These are the exact opposites of self-love. Mostly they are behaviours developed to hide crippling self-hate. This is a fact worthwhile remembering when you come across someone like that next: behind a facade of criticising and belittling others, mostly hides someone desperately trying to hide his real self from anyone else.

But enough of the backstory, let’s begin with some points about how the program will work:

The program is divided into days. 30 days exactly (hence the name!). Every day will consist of a brief introduction of the topic or concept and how it helps to create real and lasting self-love.
Each day, there will also be an activity to perform. Most of these will be reflective, but some will be actual physical activities. Some of these activities are designed to be a one-off, like making a list of things you like. Others are activities that you can repeat daily if you want. Each activity will tell you about this.

After each activity there are three questions to help you reflect on the activity and to deepen your learning. If you are following the program online or using an eBook version, I suggest you invest in a small note book to keep the notes for each day. If you are using the printed/PDF version of the program, it will have the boxes to put your notes in printed for you.
Importantly: please don’t skip these questions! They may seem trivial and it is often tempting to just focus on the activity. But it is only by reflecting on the activity by using the questions that you can really create actual change.

The program is divided into three parts:

The first part of the program introduces a few basic principles, such as gratitude, kindness, positive thinking and some skills, such as reframing. These form the basic tool kit for the main program.

The second part then uses this tool kit to develop self-esteem and confidence, and identifies strategies for longer lasting, positive change in the way you see yourself.

The third part focuses on developing a realistic body image and identifies strategies and ways to deal with body image issues, including assumptions about the perfect body and challenging negative thinking. In the round-up, the program focuses on developing resilience for the future.

Before we start though a little word of caution: much can be achieved in 30 days. In fact, many people who have followed a 30 day program are often like changed people. However, change doesn’t just happen in 30 days. Keeping up the hard work and sticking with a few of the tools that you’ll be introduced to in the next few days and strategies you’ll develop during the month will help you to really make the change permanent.

And now… sit back and relax. On Monday (Day 1), we will be looking at the concept of self-love in more detail.

To follow the full program, remember to check back on every day from Monday, 1. May. You can also subscribe to the newsletter (sent weekly) here. I’ll be making the full program, including all activities available for free on this website until 31 May. During May, you can save all the daily activities or print them for your own personal use. After this date, you will be able to download all activities and the full text as a PDF-file – or a printed book.

Take-home message for today: It’s not easy to love yourself, but it is probably the most important investment you will make and the basis of a happier future.

Day 1: Self-love basics

It is not what you are that is holding you back. It is what you think that you are not. (Anonymous) Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Understand the concept of self-love and how it relates to self-confidence and self-esteem.

Today let’s start with the very basics of the program: looking at the three concepts which are often confused when it comes to how we relate to ourselves: self-confidence, self-esteem – and the idea of self-love. Of course, it is true to say that all three are inter-connected. But it is very important to figure out the differences to achieve actual self-love. To do this, I’ll first look briefly at the very traditional concepts of self-confidence and self-esteem – and then show how self-love relates to these two concepts.

Self-confidence and self-esteem themselves are often confused and used interchangeably, although they are quite different. Confidence is the belief that someone (something) has the ability and is able to “deliver” on something: for example we can be confident that a performer in a theatre can perform well in front of an audience. In the same way, self-confidence is our own confidence in doing something well. Often this can be very specific to certain situations: for example you may have a lot of confidence finding out about great new places in your home city. But you may have little confidence in speaking a foreign language well.

Self-esteem on the other hand is how we relate to ourselves overall: it is the emotional appraisal of ourselves. It is much more global than self-confidence: a person with high self-esteem, will have little motivation, for example, to show off or try to impress others, as he is happy with himself. High, self-esteem is linked to healthy and respectful behaviour towards one-self. This person maybe confident or not in his particular ability to deliver or do something well.

On the flip-side, people with low self-esteem often hide behind areas of their personality, money, prizes etc… which appear to show their ability. If all fails, people with low self-esteem may often seek refuge in drugs or compulsive sexual behaviours. It may appear as if these people have high self-esteem, but, in fact they are not: For example, someone who hides behind titles, money or other ‘confidence props’, is most likely suffering from low self-esteem. This often becomes a very toxic cycle, both for the person himself and for others around him. People with low self-esteem often resort to “falling back on” one area they are confident in: As they are usually able to “deliver” in the area, the success then makes them even more confident in this area. But this may become an avoidance strategy of dealing with areas they are less confident in, in order to avoid exposing their low esteem of themselves.
For people around them, people with low self-esteem can rarely be a supportive or motivating friend: Recognising the potential in others and helping someone to be better than one-self takes a lot of self-esteem.

Self-love complements the idea of self-esteem. While esteem can be high or low, love (at least true love), can only have one true form: unconditional and accepting. Think of someone you loved. You may be able to identify many, many flaws in that person – but you still love that person. This is the basis of the idea of self-love, only this time, the idea is to love yourself – with all your little flaws and imperfections. Thus, it isn’t blind or exaggerated love for yourself, but a way to see your positives and your little imperfections – loving all of them together. The aim of the next 30 days is to achieve exactly this.

Take-home message for today: There are three different concepts how we relate to ourselves. The most important one is self-love: accepting yourself in a realistic way, recognising your imperfections and loving your strengths.

You will need your notebook.

The activity today is to identify areas in your life I which you feel you are particularly confident – and areas in which you feel you are not confident at all. The aim is to reflect on the difference between esteem and confidence, and also identify different areas and levels of confidence for working on during the next few days.

Time: approximately 30-40 minutes.

1. In your notebook draw a line in the middle of the page.

2. On the one side of the line, list all the areas you can think of that you are confident in.

3. On the other side of the line, list all the areas you feel not confident in.

4. Finally, take a look at the list and see how the items on both sides relate to your self-esteem. Identify areas which you may be using as “fallback” areas to boost your self-esteem, and those areas you maybe avoiding.

Please note: this can be a quite challenging activity. Take your time with it and be gentle but honest with yourself. After completing the main activity please complete the reflection questions below. These are an important part of the daily activities. By thinking about the activity you help yourself to “digest” what you have learned and make it stick more easily.

How was the activity for you?

Best thing about the activity?

What did you learn?

End of the Day 1 preview. Day 2 and Day 3 are also available online as previews.

“I went from questioning myself and self doubting to
building love for myself. Thank you!”

The full workshop with all activities is available as a digital download directly from here

30 Days of self-loveor buy the book now from any good bookseller.
ISBN 978-1546592815 (soft cover)   978-1370141586 (eBook)
To order online – via bookfinder
Amazon:   US – UK – CADE – FRIT – IN – JP – BR

Day 29: Gains and Progress

Let the gains begin! Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Review the personal journey you have made over the course of this program.

Well done on reaching almost the end of the 30 day program! Before we review all of the key messages of the 30 days tomorrow, today is your opportunity of reviewing your immense personal journey that you have made.

The most important thing is now that you keep up the great work that you have started. Making changes is never an easy process. You were probably used to doing things and seeing yourself in the old way for a very

“I went from questioning myself and self doubting to
building love for myself. Thank you!”

The full workshop with all activities is available as a digital download directly from this site

30 Days of self-loveor buy the book now from any good bookseller.
ISBN 978-1546592815 (soft cover)   978-1370141586 (eBook)
To order online – via bookfinder
Amazon:   US – UK – CADE – FRIT – IN – JP – BR

Day 28: Coping Statements

These are just feelings and they will pass. Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Identify a series of coping statements

As the final step in building ways to deal with potential setbacks or problem situations on your way to a happier and more self-loving person, today’s focus will be on developing a set of coping statements.

Coping statements are small, supportive sayings, ideas or quotes that help you through tough times. They are an example of positive self-talk, which you can recall when a situation gets challenging. There is really no

“I went from questioning myself and self doubting to
building love for myself. Thank you!”

The full workshop with all activities is available as a digital download directly from this site

30 Days of self-loveor buy the book now from any good bookseller.
ISBN 978-1546592815 (soft cover)   978-1370141586 (eBook)
To order online – via bookfinder
Amazon:   US – UK – CADE – FRIT – IN – JP – BR

Day 13: Smile

Use your smile to change the world. Don’t let the world change your smile. (Anonymous) Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Remind yourself of the power you have to make yourself and others happy by smiling.

Yesterday you already experimented with the power of changing your feelings and emotions through postures, gestures and facial expressions. While yesterday we mostly focused on the effect it has on you, today we try and expand the circle a little – and focus on the effect changing the way you act can have on others. You know the saying: “When I smile, the world smiles back.” Today is the day to put that into action.

There are, of course, many reasons to smile. And I’m not just talking about things that make you happy. Smiling releases a host of different hormones, like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. Yes, these are exactly those hormones that are responsible for moderate exercise being nearly as powerful as anti-depressants (we come back to that in two days), the hormones that make us feel loved and that reduce pain and stress. In other words, when you smile you

End of the preview.

“I went from questioning myself and self doubting to
building love for myself. Thank you!”

The full workshop with all activities is available as a digital download directly from here

30 Days of self-loveor buy the book now from any good bookseller.
ISBN 978-1546592815 (soft cover)   978-1370141586 (eBook)
To order online – via bookfinder
Amazon:   US – UK – CADE – FRIT – IN – JP – BR

Day 8: Reframing

If you reframe who did you wrong as one who led you define what is right, wisdom replaces pain (Stace… Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Learning the powerful tool of reframing minor irritations as opportunities for improvement and positivity.

After completing the section on the main “tools” for self-love: gratitude, kindness, caring, forgiving and generosity – and the main outcome, positivity, today we start to put these into action with an exercise that starts to challenge self-loathing behaviour and assumptions – and replaces them with self-loving and also often more realistic ideas.

The idea behind the exercise today is to train the mind to “reframe” minor negative events

End of the preview.

“I went from questioning myself and self doubting to
building love for myself. Thank you!”

The full workshop with all activities is available as a digital download directly from here

30 Days of self-loveor buy the book now from any good bookseller.
ISBN 978-1546592815 (soft cover)   978-1370141586 (eBook)
To order online – via bookfinder
Amazon:   US – UK – CADE – FRIT – IN – JP – BR