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.

5 great reasons to practice mindfulness over the holiday season

… not just for gay men 😉

With still a few days to go until the “big days”, here are five great reasons why you should make mindfulness an integral part of your holiday season this year:

1. Holiday time can be stressful – especially for gay guys
Holidays, parents, friends. So much is great about the holiday season, but some can be downright horrible and stressful. The mini-agression from the aunt asking if you still haven’t found the “right woman”, being away from your partner – or being reminded of not having one. It’s just not an easy time for many. And it is ok to admit that not all is glittering joy at this time of the year. Luckily short bursts of mindfulness can centre you again and arm you against the stress and tribulations of navigating this family feast and holiday season.

2. You can connect better, when you are connected to yourself
Even if all of the socialising and family affairs are great news for you, mindfulness can make you more connected. Not just to yourself – but also to others around you. Regular mindfulness training increases your empathy and allows you to connect more intimately to people around you.

3. It’s bleak outside, so be kind to yourself
Unless you are lucky enough to be in the southern hemisphere, you’ll probably already had a few of those days where really the best option was to stay in bed. Rain, drizzle, mist, cold, fog, and a symphony of grey in grey outside. The best method to brighten up your day? Take a short break and treat your mind to a little vacation in a place the sun always shines!

4. Remember? Taking a break makes you more productive!
How many presents do you have to buy? Cards to send? Things to do? If your to-do-list is becoming longer than your Christmas card list it is definitely time to aim for maximum productivity power. Best power up? No, not more coffee… Instead a short, 15-20 minute mindfulness bodyscan will fully recharge your batteries. Try it out!

5. … And it lets you appreciate quiet moments, more!
And don’t forget, while the run up to Christmas and the New Year can be often hectic. The actual days (and sometimes the time immediately after) can be days with lots of opportunities to recover and rest. Sadly, many people are so in stress mode, that they don’t realise. There is a simple trick here though: Actively seek out quiet moments to check in with yourself. Not only will you find more than you probably expect, with a quick mindful “check in” you can enjoy the quiet time even more!

Have a great holiday season all around – and don’t forget to treat yourself to the most special gift of all: a healthy dose of self-love!

Check out more posts about mindfulness from the urbangay blog. And if you want to find out more about practicing some self-love and mindfulness, why not treat yourself to 30 Days of Self-Love, the workshop that transforms your mind and makes you fall in love with yourself again.

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!

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 3: Kindness

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. (Mark Twain) Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Identify the key role kindness can play in developing self-love – and love for others.

The next of the five mental tools to develop self-love is kindness, both for yourself as well as for others. While gratitude is traditionally mostly concerned with what you receive, the other four, including kindness are, in fact, two way streets: they have the amazing ability of being positive both ways – when used towards yourself as well as towards others.

But what exactly counts as kindness? Kindness is notoriously hard to define: It can be doing something “kind”, like running an errand for a friend. Or it can be doing something altruistic, such as giving money to charity. While it is hard to put a finger on, you instantly know when encounter it. It just feels “good”.

And just as much as it feels good, it is important: Did you know that the number one predictor for relationship success is kindness between the couple? One study looked at what created the most lasting and happiest relationships. Good sex, common interests and time spend together were all unsurprisingly important. But actually, when psychologists looked at what kept long-term couples together, they found the one thing that predicted both relationship longevity and relationship satisfaction the strongest was that both parties showed signs of kindness towards each other.

So, while kindness can do amazing things for your relationship, it can do even more amazing things for you:
1) Kindness is a way to connect to people
Simply put, it brings people together. A random act of kindness opens up small spaces where personal relationships can develop. They may not last for long in many cases, but they are seldom forgotten.
2) Kindness is contagious
Talk about karma and kindness: spaces and places where people care for each other have a completely different vibe then places where people try to compete with each other. Why? Even if kindness isn’t immediately reciprocated, it creates an atmosphere of kindness that is hard to escape – and very enjoyable! It lifts the mood of everyone around, including the person that has been kind.
3) Kindness makes a massive difference
Most people remember vividly acts of kindness, or even just kind words or a smile when they needed them. Although the giver may not always get an immediate kind response back, but he will have the knowledge that he has done something to really change the day of someone.

So what makes good kindness?
Some simple rules explain what makes kindness good kindness:
1) Be unconditionally kind
People may not immediately be kind back to you, maybe they are in a bad place at the time. But trust in the karma of kindness. So be kind because you want to be kind.
2) Genuinely care
Probably the most defining characteristic and simple trick to make normal actions kind actions is to inject just a little bit of care and empathy into them. Think how the other person feels and act how you would want to be treated in that situation.
3) Think of the other as a friend
If you’d treat a good friend like that, it is probably kind. That, by the way, includes treating yourself as a good friend!

And one thing that kindness is not… Kindness is not unconditional people pleasing. Recall the “good friend” rule from above. So kindness is not about doing everything that others want, and even less making your own self-esteem dependent on the approval of others. Kindness is treating people well, honest, helpful and friendly – as you would treat a friend. It is about making a positive difference, not being a slave to someone else.

Take-home message for today: Kindness is about being a good friend to yourself and to others.

You will need your notebook.

Time: 20 minutes extra during the day plus the reflection.

Today’s activity is about using kindness not just on others, but also on yourself. Often, people struggle with being kind to themselves, even if they are very kind towards other people around them. The activity today tries to bring the two together.

1. Think of a situation where a really good friend feels bad. Think in detail about how you respond to the friend, what you would do etc. and write this down on a list.

2. Now think of a similar situation where you feel bad. How do you usually respond to yourself feeling bad? Again write this down on a list.

3. Compare the two lists? Are there many similarities? Or are there many differences in how you’d treat your friend vs yourself? Why would you treat yourself differently?

4. Make a list how you should respond to yourself when you feel bad, based on your reflections above. Put this list in a safe place, so when you feel bad the next time, you can easily reach it and remind yourself.

Finally, think of the activity and record your reflections.

How was the activity for you?

Best thing about the activity?

What did you learn?

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 4: Self-Care

Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s the foundation for caring about others. Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Understanding that caring for yourself and others go hand in hand.

Regularly caring for yourself can seem like it is selfish. It also seems a contradiction to helping others: but it isn’t. At least not, if it is practiced in a way that is balanced with helping others (which in turn is a really great impetus for self-love). In fact, when self-care is exercised as balanced activity, it makes sure you have the power and ability to help others. Thus, it is an essential part of caring for others – and critical for maintaining you in a healthy and happy state. Self-care thus helps to avoid what is often referred to as compassion-fatigue, a state of mind where the person doesn’t want to help anymore. Compassion-fatigue in turn is can lead to less engagement with others and the community, and thus reduces an important source of self-love.

Yesterday you already looked at kindness not just towards others, but also towards yourself. Today it is time to look at regular self-care activities you can

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 10: Relaxing

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. (Burroughs) Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Appreciate the importance of relaxation and scheduling small, short relaxation exercises into the daily routine.

On day 4 we already briefly touched on relaxation as an important part of self-care. Not relaxing will leave you stressed, cranky, unproductive, unable to deal with every day problems – and actually less able to take care of both yourself and others. Therefore, even though it might sound paradoxical, if you don’t have time to relax, is probably the time you need to make relaxation a priority.

Relaxing doesn’t need to come in the form of a long holiday. In fact, it may be wiser to

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 9: Friends

My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me. (Henry Ford) Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Reflecting on the role of friendships and taking stock of your friends.

Friends and friendships are probably the most important asset when it comes to loving yourself and loving others: the time spend with people who really are your friends can be the most curative time. But all too often, friendships are left behind when life is busy or friendships are relegated to the few minutes you have between other things to do.

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

Coming soon on urbangay

Ready for more? Great! Because there is some great new and free stuff coming up on urbangay! All you need to do… is be there! If you haven’t looked at the upcoming “30 day” series coming up, have a look here. And the first one will start next Monday – so here is a sneak preview of what you can expect from Self love: body, mind, soul !

Time to love yourself: Check out this 30 day program for more love, confidence and happiness! Click To Tweet

The gay scene and modern gay life can be a hard place to love yourself. Much is about competition, being better and sadly, little is about recognising just how amazing you as an individual are. But there are a few simple tricks to remind you to love yourself more, get more confidence and develop as a happier you. And the 30 day program starting on Monday, 1 May is all about that.

The program is a 30 day, daily activity program to dramatically boost your confidence, self-love and self-image. No matter how you feel about yourself at this moment, it will help to boost how you really and authentically feel about yourself.

The program has three parts, particularly useful for gay men.

1) First, the program introduces basic principles of feeling happy with yourself. With daily reflections and activities, when you follow the 30 day program, you will learn a set of tools that can dramatically help to boost your confidence and happiness.

2) Secondly, the program applies the basic principles to yourself. You’ll learn how to appreciate yourself more, display your new confidence and become someone that can inspire others from a foundation of solid self-love.

3) In the third part we look specifically at body image, because relating positively to you and your body is an important basis for a happy life and sexual expression. In this part we will develop more confidence in showing your body and the ability to give and receive intimacy and reduce shame and doubt.

To join the program? It’s super easy! Simply come back to daily for the daily activity. During May, it will be completely free and available for you to take part, share and save as you wish. If you are already subscribing to the newsletter, you will get the weekly digest. After the program is complete, it will be available to download.

Please remember to tell your friends, you can do so easily by clicking the twitter banner below or above – I really appreciate it!

Hey! Check out this program for more self-confidence for gay men! Click To Tweet

And please share your progress and connect to other urgangays: use #urbangay hashtag on Twitter or tweet to @urbangay – I’m always excited to hear from you!


Making changes? Top 5 tips to keep on track!

If you read self-help advice or websites on how to make changes in your life, it often seems that change is fast and easy. But once anyone embarks on making changes, they quickly realise that things don’t go quite as quickly as planned. So it is really important to remember, when you make changes to your life, give yourself time for change to happen. You will have setbacks, you may even loose all motivation for a while. But that is just a sign that you are on the right track: it may feel like not making much progress, but you are. Don’t give up now.

Setbacks and loosing motivation show you that you're on the right track! Click To Tweet

There is nothing quite as powerful as remembering a U-curve when making changes, embarking on a big project or even trying to completely set your life on a different course: Why? It shows you how you will feel, and be prepared for it.

Most changes follow a U-turn: exciting at first, low in the middle, exciting when you see the results Click To Tweet

For people moving to a different culture (a pretty major change!), this is referred to as the culture-shock phase. It is well researched and so we know what often happens: People move to a new country, they discover many new things and are excited. People are often very positive at this stage.
After a while, they realise things are different and they become frustrated. Maybe start missing their old life (no matter how much better life is in the new place). Everything becomes annoying or irritating, no matter how irrational. The mood swings into very negative, often people suffer seriously at this point.
Importantly though, eventually most people will adjust to the new environment, and their mood returns to positive.

The same holds true for many other things in life, including making much smaller changes than moving countries: Take the example of going to the gym, giving up smoking, changing a habit or introducing a new one.
For example, it’s exciting to start training for a run. The first runs are exciting. After two or three weeks, it seems boring,… the weather isn’t quite right, you’ve done the route five times, it seems you’re not really able to progress…. You can imagine. Of course, trouble is, it is easy to stop it at this point. But then all your progress will be lost. But, if you stick with it, eventually running becomes natural, maybe you look forward to your runs and do your first competitive run.
It may not be quite as dramatic as the culture shock, but you can see the same “U-curve” in action.

Maybe you’ve done a few of the things from the bootcamp. Maybe started meditation. Maybe started to have more tantric connections, make changes to your life. Or maybe all of it. And maybe just about now you are starting to feel a little bored with it.

Knowing change needs time is the key to keeping on track and making changes successfully Click To Tweet

Does that mean the effort was in vain? There is a simple answer: only if you allow it to be in vain. Why? Because the most important step of any journey is always the very first one. You’ve probably stated a few steps in a direction that is right for you right now already.

The only way to make those great first steps not count is to give up now. Yes, it may feel like you have run the same track a few times. It may feel as if you have hit a bit of a plateau. You may lack motivation to change a bit more. So how do you best pull through and get to the good outcome? Here are a five tips:

1) Remember the golden rule of mindfulness: “All will pass”, including the lack of motivation or even temporary setbacks.

2) Identify and label the emotion: you are making changes. It is normal to feel disillusioned when you are making changes, or even questioning if it was a good idea. You are in the U-curve. On the way to get to the next high.

3) Remind yourself of why you made the changes in the first place. Yes, the past often looks rose-tinted, but there was a reason you made the changes.

4) Be gentle with yourself: If you make a step back, identify this. Importantly: Don’t blame yourself, just vow to do it better next time. You will get there when you are ready.

5) Gently guide your mind forward. Don’t dwell to much on the past, rather gently guide your mind to the present and remind yourself of the objective. Keep it in focus.

Hopefully with these five steps in mind, you’ll be able to progress your goals. Even if it doesn’t feel quite like you are making progress, remember, the only way to loose is to give up – always.
With that in mind, I guarantee you: one day you’ll wake up and look back and suddenly realise how far you have come.