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.

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!

I went to a Gay Sex Workshop

I never thought one weekend could make such a difference. Click To Tweet

A guest post by Andreas

I came across the ad for the sex workshop on one of the online dating sites. Interested in what it was, I clicked the ad to find out more. Looking through the website of the workshop I found a few weekend classes being held in my city, one of which starting in two weeks. Without much thinking, I decided to give it a try. My sex life for the last few months had been pretty dull. I had only a handful of online dates, and nothing ever was a real connection. Even the sex was just dull. I hadn’t been out on the scene, and didn’t really want to go, as I find it too competitive and hard for me to speak to someone. So a sex workshop seemed a thing to try and revive my sex life, maybe learn a few things or even make some friends.

With the date approaching I started to get a lot more nervous than I anticipated when I signed up: I started to have doubts about the guys. How they would react to me. I was getting nervous about being naked, as the workshop information said. If there would really be sex? How would that work? What if I don’t want to do it? A lot of questions came to my mind.

A day before the workshop all the doubt got the better of me, and I almost pulled out. What rescued it was that an email with the directions had the phone number of the workshop trainer. Full of doubts I called him, secretly hoping he would tell me not to come.

He answered and was very patient with my questions. I never expected that. I’m not a really confident guy when it comes to sex. I see lots of guys who are just going for it, in bars or wherever. But that is not me. I get horny, I think I can do it, but then I get scared. That’s how I would describe me. And the workshop was exactly this.

So I was glad to hear some reassuring words from the trainer, who also told me that I could always pull out. But before, he encouraged me to give it a try. The environment would be quite different to a sex club or sauna. And they also had a separate space where one could go and take a break. Also he told me that my doubts were totally normal. Most guys had those doubts, and I’ll see how they are nervous on the day, too.

Nervously I went to the venue on the day. It was an early evening “check-in”, where everyone arrived before the start of the main workshop the next day. I was way too early, so I went to a have a coffee around the corner. Again, I nearly pulled out, but eventually I got myself together and went over to the venue.

The venue was a little hidden. When I arrived I was greeted by the trainer and a few other men sitting in what looked like a kitchen. To my relief they were all dressed. Most people also seemed quiet and normal, not at all how I imagined this to be. More men joined us, but most seemed not to know anyone. This was a bit of a relief, as I imagined lots of couples would be there. But it also meant many people were just sitting there quietly.

When the time came to start, we were asked to take off our shoes and move to the main room. The trainer started by explaining the rules of the workshop. Still fully dressed, we eventually started to have some ice breaking activities. These included hugging and touching at some point, but it was all very respectful and in a really supportive and positive way. After the introduction session everyone walked to a nearby restaurant to have dinner together. It really felt very different from anything I have ever experienced: like a connection had been made.

I’m not going to give away too much of what happened over the next two days of the workshop. But for me it was an amazing experience. We talked about our fears, our sex life, our sexual roles. Yes, we did get naked. No, we didn’t have any full on sex with each other. But what we did was built trust and shared an amazing experience. Different to the hook ups and dates I had met on the scene. Something much deeper than I imagined. It was a different experience to anything I had ever experienced.

The outcome of the workshop was not just that I had made new friends. I also learned some techniques. The most important outcome, however, was that I learned how to face myself and my fears. I embraced the core theme of sex-positivity and although it still is a journey to be traveled for me,  I feel now a very changed man. Changed for the better. And I just booked my next workshop. This time, without the fears. But looking forward to a weekend with like-minded guys, making new connections, learning new things and exploring more about what I really want.

Andreas is in his mid-forties and lives alone together with his dog in a big city in a small country…   Thank you to Andreas for this guest post!

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.

Activity:
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
Amazon Kindle: USUKCADEFRITNLINJPBRAU

Day 2: Gratitude

It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy! (Anonymous) Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Understand why gratitude is so important for self-love and how to develop this skill.

Following on from yesterday, the main area of concern is thus self-esteem. In particular, the aim of the program is to develop not just esteem (it is always there in a form or another) – but a specific type of esteem: Accepting and unconditional love. A love that recognises the little problems, but doesn’t loose sight of the bigger picture. In other words, a love that is based on a realistic evaluation of yourself. Often self-esteem programs fall into the trap of trying to foster self-love based on the principles of “I’m great, therefore I’m great”. It seems easy to repeat this a hundred times and eventually believe it. But the results are less then stellar: either people just force their deficiencies into hiding even more, as they are scrambling to be as truly perfect as they claim to be. Other people start to believe in their ultimate perfection – and develop a completely narcissistic outlook. In this program we want to avoid both: the aim is to deeply and truly love yourself.

Many psychologists, philosophers and scientists have tried to find a magic formula that can achieve this delicate balancing act: The result seems to be that there are a five simple mental tools in which we can achieve this. These five are gratitude, kindness, caring, forgiving and generosity – both for your yourself as well as for others. Together these five lead to a positive outlook on and attitude towards life and others, which in turn is the basis of happiness.

For today, let us focus on the first one: gratitude. Easily put, gratitude is simply to stop, smell the roses and remind yourself how good it is that you can smell them. In short: remind yourself of the good things in life – right now. Gratitude doesn’t mean forgetting about the problems you face or that are around us. It just means focusing not only on the problems but also on the good things. Or in short: getting a more balanced outlook. Of course, it can be difficult to be grateful when you are loosing a job, the days are grey or life just doesn’t seem to be fair. Remember, gratitude isn’t to talk those problems away – nor will it make these problems go away. But if you look deeply enough, I’m sure you’ll always find a few little things to be grateful for, that can help to put the bad things in perspective.

The great thing about gratitude is that it is (relatively) easy to learn, and with a bit of repetition easily turns into a habit. Even better, the gratitude-skill can then be “recalled’ and used as a tool in stressful situations, those situations that could otherwise really get you down. What I’m saying is, once you learn the skill, you can defuse many situations by using gratitude skills to give you some time to breath and put things into perspective. Coincidentally, performing gratitude regularly also increases sleep quality and even has the power of decreasing sickness symptoms (possibly via a strong link to making you happier and loving yourself, which really has a big impact there!). So there really are some very convincing arguments to start some gratitude training right now.

Of course, real gratitude is a bit more than just saying: “thank you, at least I’m alive”. In many ways such a statement is actually the opposite of good gratitude: it implicitly assumes that good things (such being alive) are a birthright. And that is a big fallacy in gratitude: because if you assume you have the right to something, you are most likely not grateful for it!

So what makes “good” gratitude? Here are a few tips to make gratitude more powerful:

1. Really savour the moment
Really take the time to stop, even just for a few seconds or a deep breath, when something happens that you enjoy. Savour the moment!

2. Learn to be specific
Learn to be really specific when you express your gratitude: it helps to make the gratitude “stick” in the brain. So instead of simply saying something like “It is a wonderful day today”, cultivate the habit of saying “Today is really wonderful, because the sun is shining, the smell of roses is in the air, I have some time to be outside…”

3. Remember the most powerful gratitude is showing gratitude towards other people
What makes gratitude most gratifying? It seems the most powerful effect of gratitude happens is when you actually don’t look at what good happens to you, especially in terms of material or worldly things or events. The most powerful gratitude is when you feel and share it with a person that has done something to make you feel good, especially a person you are close to.

Take-home message for today: Practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to achieve self-love and happiness.

Activity
You will need your notebook.
Time: just a few minutes extra during the day plus the reflection.

For today take one of each of the three tips for gratitude, and put them into practice.
For today take one of each of the three tips for gratitude, and put them into practice.
1. Really savour a moment that you are having a positive experience (like eating something you like, having a quiet moment on a busy day etc)
2. Find one thing to be really grateful for today and describe it in as much detail as possible.
3. Show gratitude to a friend, colleague or loved one. Express specifically why you are grateful. E.g. Don’t just say “thank you” when someone brings you a coffee in the office. Instead say “thank you so much for taking the time and making the coffee and bringing it to me.”

At the end of the day, use your notebook to briefly reflect on the different experiences you had with gratitude and how you felt about being grateful in three different ways. You may also want to think about incorporating regular gratitude into your daily life. Some people find it helpful to create regular gratitude check-ins or have a gratitude diary. For example, it may be an idea to write down three things you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep.

How were the activities for you?

Best thing about each of the activities combined and overall?

What did you learn from these three ways of showing gratitude?

End of the Day 2 preview. Day 1 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
Amazon Kindle: USUKCADEFRITNLINJPBRAU

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.

Activity
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
Amazon Kindle: USUKCADEFRITNLINJPBRAU

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
Amazon Kindle: USUKCADEFRITNLINJPBRAU

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
Amazon Kindle: USUKCADEFRITNLINJPBRAU

Day 11: Compliments

Next time you think of great things - don’t forget yourself! Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Learning to give yourself small compliments, and how this can affect your day and rest.

Today we are rolling self-love and gratitude into one: and make it a habit for 10 days. Are you ready for this?

What do you normally think of before you go to sleep? Bills? What could have been better during the day? What you’ll do tomorrow? Those are probably the most frequent things people think about just before they rest. The result: sleeping with worries on your mind can seriously disrupt

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
Amazon Kindle: USUKCADEFRITNLINJPBRAU

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
Amazon Kindle: USUKCADEFRITNLINJPBRAU