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A stress-busting practice (DW#620)

Research shows that gratitude activates our parasympathetic (the calming part of the) nervous system and this results in decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and therefore reducing stress.

The connection between gratitude and stress may not be immediately obvious. After all, why would my stress go down when I feel grateful for something?

Here are some possible explanations:

The directing of attention: Our brain can generally only focus on one thing at a time. When we intentionally move our attention away from stressful thoughts and instead direct it to a positive memory or experience, it can create a sense of wellbeing and cause us to let go of stress.

Recognizing support:When we direct your gratitude towards people, we recognize that we have been on the receiving end of love and support from people. We realize that we are not alone and that we have resources to deal with stress.

Switching away from automatic negative thinking:Stress is often caused by catastrophizing and...

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An antidote to worrying (DW#619)

Yesterday, we discussed how insomnia is a common ailment in modern times. Today’s let’s talk about another very common ailment of life in the 21stcentury: anxiety.

If you ever worry, have nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome, know that you are not alone.

As humans, we are naturally inclined to worry about things. It may help to understand that although it does not feel good at the time, worrying can actually have a calming effect on the limbic system of the brain. When you are worrying, your mind feels like it is "doing something" about the situation by trying to see all of the possibilities or figure out a solution (often obsessively).

However, although understandable, worrying is uncomfortable and generally not productive. So do you want to consider a way both to feel good AND give your brain something to do to keep it occupied? If so, consider interrupting the anxiety/worry spiral by asking yourself one or...

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A cure for insomnia (DW#618)

Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep? So many of us do, these days. Sometimes the insomnia is caused by our busy lives, by thoughts about what went wrong during the day or what might go wrong the next day. These thoughts spin around in our heads and stop us from relaxing so that we can drift off to sleep.

Here is how gratitude can help.

Various studies have found that people with sleep disorders responded well to a gratitude practice. A gratitude practice such as journaling improved both duration and quality of sleep.

In research, gratitude was related to having more positive thoughts, and fewer negative ones at bedtime. This, in turn, was associated with dozing off faster and sleeping longer and better.

So it seems that when you cultivate gratitude throughout the day, and practice it at bedtime as well, you're more likely to have positive thoughts as you're drifting off to sleep. Rather than ruminating over the friend who let you down, you are more likely to think of...

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Gratitude is good for health (DW#617)

In case you need some motivation to start a regular gratitude practice, we will explore some of its benefits over the next few days.

There is a lot of solid research showing that gratitude is a key component to help people live happier, longer lives.

Here are just some of the positive impacts on physical health that various studies have found:
Keeping a gratitude journal caused participants to report:

- fewer physical symptoms
- more time spent exercising
- less physical pain
- Patients with hypertension reported a significant decrease in their systolic blood pressure.
- A gratitude practice increased levels of energy and vitality experienced by the participants.
- Keeping a gratitude journal increased the participants likelihood of self-care and wellbeing-boosting behaviours such as healthy eating, going to the doctor and exercising.

Given these results, it appears that gratitude has both a direct and an indirect impact on our physical health. It makes sense that we incorporate a...

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Understanding gratitude (DW#616)

Today inshallah we start a series on the emotion and practice of gratitude: what it is, why it matters and how we can cultivate it.

Before we go any further, let us explore what we mean by gratitude. Here are some ways that psychologists and social scientists define gratitude:

"[Gratitude] has been conceptualized as an emotion, a virtue, a moral sentiment, a motive, a coping response, a skill, and an attitude. It is all of these and more. Minimally, gratitude is an emotional response to a gift. It is the appreciation felt after one has been the beneficiary of an altruistic act" (Emmons & Crumpler, 2000).

"[Gratitude is] a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals–whether to other people, nature, or a higher power" [Harvard Medical School ]

Robert Emmons, is...

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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...

Continue Reading...
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