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The 2-minute exercise to increase happiness by 25% (DW#624)

We have been hinting at how gratitude improves many markers of mental and emotional wellbeing. In everyday language, wellbeing markers simply mean how happy and satisfied you are.

Did you know that a very short practice of gratitude can boost our happiness levels by 25%?!

The very first study by Robert Emmons was very simple:

Three groups of people were asked to write a short journal entry once a week for ten weeks.

The groups had to briefly describe in a single sentence:

(Group 1) Gratitude condition: five things they were grateful for
(Group 2) Hassles condition: five things they were displeased about
(Group 3) Events condition: five neutral events

Here is how Emmons reported the results:

"What did the first study reveal? At the end of the ten weeks, we examined differences between the three groups on all of the well-being outcomes that we measured at the outset of the study. Participants in the gratitude condition felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic...

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Increase your “financial patience” (DW#623)

As we discussed yesterday, practicing gratitude can counteract our tendency to give up on goals if we do not get instant gratification.

Another very interesting study has looked into how the patience and perseverance developed by gratitude plays out in financial decision making.

David DeSteno of Northwestern University led a study where participants were asked to recall an event that made them feel grateful, happy, or neutral. After writing about this event, they reported their mood and then made a series of financial decisions.

The participants in the study had an interesting choice at the end of the session: they could either take a cash reward right there or they could choose to receive a larger amount of money in the mail at a later date.

The researchers found that those who had experienced gratitude were much more likely to wait for the bigger payout.

DeSteno reported that the "financial patience" of participants in the study had increased by about 12 percent just by recalling...

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Don’t say good bye (DW#615)

O mankind! There hath come to you an admonition from your Lord and a healing for what is in your hearts. [Quran 10:58]

As we end the Holy Month of Ramadan with the festivities of Eid, let us pause for a minute and remind ourselves that the passing of the Holy Month does mean that our relationship with the Quran has to be put on hold until next year.

In the above verse from Sura Yunus, Allah reminds us that this Book has something that we human beings need: It has timeless wisdom to help us navigate the challenges of modern life by reminding us of the eternal principles of virtue in the quest of peace and happiness. For those who are receptive to its guidance, the Quran is a cure for various ailments of our hearts, including ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy, rancor, hatred, enmity, grief and despair. The book is a mercy as it helps one acquire virtue and perfection of character and adorns one with wisdom and knowledge.

So let us take the spiritual energies of this great Book of Wisdom...

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The five principles of healthy discussion (DW#614)

Let’s remind ourselves of the principles of healthy discussion and debate from the Quran which we have been exploring over the last few days

1) Use respect and compassion during conflict
and dispute with them in a manner that is best [Quran16:125].

2) Appeal to reason
Has man not seen that We created him from a drop, and behold, he is a manifest adversary?
And he has set forth for Us a parable and forgotten his own creation, saying, "Who revives these bones, decayed as they are?"
Say, "He will revive them Who brought them forth the first time, and He knows every creation [Quran 36:77-79]

3) Do not offend
Do not revile those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they should revile God out of enmity, ignorance. [Quran 6:109]

4) Present a balanced perspective.
they ask you about wine and gambling. Say, ‘There is a great sin in both of them, and some profits for the people, but their sinfulness outweighs their profit’ [Quran 2:219].

5) Respond rather than react
Repel...

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Respond rather than react (DW#613)

Despite our best intentions, things can get heated when we are in the midst of a conflict. The other can say things in a way that triggers us and potentially make us lose our emotional balance.

This verse from Sura Fussilat advices us to not react when others fall short of respectful conduct.

Repel [evil] with what is best. [If you do so,] behold, he between whom and you was enmity, will be as though he were a sympathetic friend [Quran 41:34].

Scholars explain that the absence of a direct object after repel in the above verse means that the verse is open to many meanings and possibilities: we can repel anger with patience, error with truth, ignorance with clemency, and the commission of evil with pardon.

In other words, instead of reacting to people’s behavior out of anger, we can practice responding in a way that is aligned to our value system.

When we do this, it gives the other person a chance to calm down, it diffuses the tension and the aggression and allows the...

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Present a balanced perspective. (DW#612)

Do not revile those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they should revile God out of enmity, ignorance. [Quran 6:109]
This verse from Sura Anam cautions believers not to turn to offence and aggression in the midst of an argument, especially on matters of faith. It also provides a solid reason why it is not a good idea to do so: because such behaviour will most likely lead to a retaliation of like for like.

When we are in the midst of an argument, it can be easy to become triggered and angry. If we sense we are losing an argument, we can become aggressive, attacking that which is most sacred to the other in an effort to prove our point, hurt the other or to defend ourselves.

Such tactics never work. Behaviour like this will lead to a tit for tat competition that will only increase anger and hostility between the arguing parties.

A verbal assault has the same impact on our physiology that a physical attack does. And when human beings are attacked, they defend themselves using...

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Do not offend (DW#611)

Do not revile those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they should revile God out of enmity, ignorance. [Quran 6:109]

This verse from Sura Anam cautions believers not to turn to offence and aggression in the midst of an argument, especially on matters of faith. It also provides a solid reason why it is not a good idea to do so: because such behaviour will most likely lead to a retaliation of like for like.

When we are in the midst of an argument, it can be easy to become triggered and angry. If we sense we are losing an argument, we can become aggressive, attacking that which is most sacred to the other in an effort to prove our point, hurt the other or to defend ourselves.

Such tactics never work. Behaviour like this will lead to a tit for tat competition that will only increase anger and hostility between the arguing parties.
A verbal assault has the same impact on our physiology that a physical attack does. And when human beings are attacked, they defend themselves using...

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Acquire wisdom (DW#594)

And whosoever is granted wisdom has been granted much good. Quran 2:269

Reflection: This verse from Sura Baqara (the Cow) tells us that the attainment of wisdom is worthy in the eyes of Allah.

Hikma, or wisdom is quite different from the simple accumulation of knowledge. Today, we have a lot of information at our finger tips. Google can answer many questions for us and give us many facts in a split second. While it is worthwhile to acquire knowledge and learn facts (and a highly recommended act of worship in Islam), this by itself will not lead to a happy, useful or worthwhile existence. Or to salvation.

The facts and knowledge that we learn must be reflected upon, tried tested and practiced – in other words reflected upon, engaged with, and applied to gain insight beyond the apparent and the mundane. Only upon such engagement with acquired knowledge can our lives be transformed for good and we can be said to "be wise".

How: There is, of course, no simple formula for acquiring...

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Be courteous guests (DW#593)

O you who believe! Enter not the dwellings of the Prophet for a meal without waiting for its time to come, unless leave be granted you. But if you are invited, enter; and when you have eaten, disperse. Linger not, seeking discourse. Truly that would affront the Prophet, and he would shrink from telling you, but God shrinks not from the truth. Quran 33:53

Reflection: This verse lays out some rules of social engagement for the early Muslim community. The Holy Prophet (saw) was highly sought after not only due to his wisdom but also because of his amiable personality. When people would be invited to his house, they sometimes overstayed, chatting, causing the Prophet (saw) inconvenience. He was much too polite and kind to tell them to leave. Here Allah tells his companions to be mindful of the time and privacy of the Prophet’s household. It is a lesson for all of us on how to be courteous guests.

What: The verse has these injunctions:

- When you are invited for a meal, accept the...

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The overthinker’s guide to taking action (DW#590)

If you need to figure everything out before taking the first step, PLEASE STOP.

Continuously learning without application is a particularly dangerous rabbit hole to fall into (don’t ask me how I know). Researching and trying to find out more and more about something before putting it in practice makes us feel like we are taking action.

But knowledge rarely changes our lives. Only taking action on what we know can do that.

So here is a suggestion:

Take action on what you already know before learning anything else. Act before researching. Act before you feel like you are ready to take action.

You may be surprised to find that taking action on what you already know will make learning more and further research much more effective.

Do something. Make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes. Find out where you went wrong. Do better next time.

Ready. Fire. [Improve your] Aim. Get it?

Here are examples for using this idea:

I can’t read anything about fitness unless I have...

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