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GRATITUDE EXCERCISES

Gratitude means appreciating the good things in life, no matter how big or small. Making the practice of gratitude a regular part of your day can build happiness, self-esteem, and provide other health benefits.

Gratitude Journal

Every evening, spend a few minutes writing down some good things about your day. This isn’t limited to major events. You might be grateful for simple things, such as a good meal, talking to a friend, or overcoming an obstacle.

Give Thanks

Keep your eyes open throughout the day for reasons to say “thank you.” Make a conscious effort to notice when people do good things, whether for you or others. Tell the person you recognize their good deed, and give a sincere “thank you.”

Mindfulness Walk

Go for a walk and make a special effort to appreciate your surroundings. You can do this by focusing on each of your senses, one at a time. Spend a minute just listening, a minute looking at your surroundings, and so on. Try to notice the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations you would usually miss, such as a cool breeze on your skin, or the clouds in the sky.

Gratitude Letter

Think about someone who you appreciate. This could be a person who has had a major impact on your life, or someone who you would like to thank. Write a letter that describes why you appreciate them, including specific examples and details. It’s up to you if you’d like to share the letter or not.

Grateful Contemplation

Remove yourself from distractions such as phones or TV and spend 5-10 minutes mentally reviewing the good things from your day. The key to this technique is consistency. Think of it like brushing your teeth or exercise—it should be a normal part of daily self-care. This technique can be practiced as part of prayer, meditation, or on its own.

Gratitude Conversation

With another person, take turns listing 3 things you were grateful for throughout the day. Spend a moment discussing and contemplating each point, rather than hurrying through the list. Make this part of your routine by practicing before a meal, before bed, or at another regular time.

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FOUR STEP TECHNIQUE: SENSATE FOCUS

Stress is a feeling of being tense, overwhelmed, worn out, or exhausted. A small amount of stress can be motivating, but too much stress makes even small tasks seem daunting.

Ground Rules

Choose a time and place acceptable for both of you, where you won’t be disturbed.
• Make the surroundings as pleasant as possible, choosing music, lighting and aromas to suit you.
• Turn off the phone and, if necessary, lock the door.
• Take turns giving and receiving touch, allowing equal time for each of you.
• The goal is enjoyment and pleasure. Enjoy the journey rather aiming towards any specific destination.
• Take as long as you want over each phase. Often, the slower you take it, the more you will get out of it.
• Only move from one stage to the next when both partners agree.

Instructions

• When it is your turn to touch, take plenty of time to explore the other person’s body. Experiment with different sensations and types of touch. Take pleasure in experiencing the texture, form and temperature of the other person’s body.
• Try to discover the degrees of pressure and types of touch your partner finds most appealing by encouraging feedback or by placing your hand under their hand so they can show you what they want.
• When it is your turn to be touched, make sure you let the other person know what you like and what you don’t. You can tell your partner how you feel, make appreciative noises, or move their hand to where you want to be touched.
• Avoid saying, ‘don’t …’ as it can be discouraging. It’s more encouraging to say things like ‘it feels better when you ….’
• You might find it useful to talk about your experiences afterwards, e.g. ‘I really liked it when you …’
• If there is something you would like to try, don’t be afraid to suggest it.

Phase 1: Non-genital Sensate Focus

The Aim

The first stage of Sensate Focus puts the emphasis on sensuality, the simple enjoyment of physical touch, rather than sexuality or the pursuit of orgasm. It’s important, therefore that you abstain from any form of sexual activity during this stage. Even if you become very aroused, you don’t touch one another’s genitals or breasts, attempt to have intercourse, oral sex or any other type of sexual activity. Do attempt to have or give an orgasm. Abstaining from sexual activity removes any pressure on either partner to get an erection, become aroused or perform in any other way. It also helps break any established patterns of behavior that may have become routine and/or boring.

Ground Rules

• While it is preferably to be naked, you can wear underwear or relaxed clothing if that feels more comfortable.
• You may find a book or DVD about massage useful, if you want to learn different techniques.
• At this stage, avoid touching the obvious erogenous zones: breasts, nipples, vulva, clitoris or vagina, penis or testicles.
• Sexual intercourse, oral sex and orgasm are not permitted during this phase.

Instructions

• Before the first session, decide who is going to go first, then take turns
• During first sessions concentrate on touching the parts of the body normally visible: the hands, arms, feet, scalp and face.
• When you are ready, include the back, neck, arms, buttocks and legs, not neglecting the hands, feet and face.
• Finally bring in the chest, stomach, shoulders and thighs, but avoid the breasts, tops of legs and the groin area.

Phase 2: Genital Sensate Focus

Ground Rules:

• Having spent some time on non-genital sensate focus you can bring in touching of the breast and genital areas. You might want to spend some time at this stage before moving on to the next.
• Continue to pay attention to the parts of the body that you explored in the previous sessions, as well as the new areas that you are incorporating.
• The main aim of these stages is to increase each person’s pleasure and awareness of each other’s responses to different types of stimulation. If one or both of you become aroused this is fine but it is not the aim of the exercise.
• During genital stimulation it is often useful to use a water-based lubricant. Oil-based products should not be used near condoms.
• Sexual intercourse and penetration is not permitted during this phase.

Instructions:

• First incorporate touching of breasts and nipples. Remember, men have nipples too.
• Next include the areas around the genitals, including the testicles of a man
• Then introduce touching of the genitals themselves (the labia, clitoris and entrance to the vagina on a woman; the penis, shaft and glans on a man)
• After a while you may also want to incorporate oral as well as manual touching (kissing, licking & sucking) into both non-genital and genital touching.
• You may want to try the ‘teasing technique’. Manually stimulate the other person’s genitals, gently at first then increase the speed of stimulation. Take a rest for a few minutes and then begin again.
• If orgasm occurs at this or later stages, that is fine, but that is not the aim of the process.

Phase 3: Penetrative Sensate Focus

Ground Rules:

• Having spent some time on non-genital and genital sensate focus you can begin to include penetration, using fingers, toys and the penis.
• Continue to pay attention to the other parts of the body that you explored in the previous sessions.
• The person being penetrated should be in control of the depth of penetration and the amount of time spent on it.
• While orgasm and intercourse is permitted in this phase, this is not the goal: the aim remains to enjoy the growing intimacy between you.

Instructions:

• First begin to incorporate forms of gentle penetration, initially try this with little or no thrusting, just enjoying the sensation of containment.
• Try it first with one person on top and then the other.
• Later you can incorporate more thrusting, again with the person being penetrated in control.
• You might find some books of sexual positions useful at this point so you can find out which positions are most comfortable and pleasurable for you, according to the part of the body being caressed.

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