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How does gratitude help couples? (DW#631)

Experts try to explain the link between gratitude & appreciation and marriage success by suggesting that gratitude can help relationships thrive by promoting a cycle of generosity. When one person is grateful, it is likely to prompt both spouses to think and act in ways that help them signal gratitude to each other and promote a desire to hold onto their relationships.

Here is how this cycle works:

When you feel more grateful –> You want to hold onto your relationship
Moments of gratitude help people recognize the value in their partners and a valuable partner is a partner worth holding onto. A number of studies have found that on days when people feel more appreciative of their partners than typical, they also report increased feelings of commitment to their relationships. And the benefits of gratitude are not just in daily life – the more grateful people are at the beginning of the study, the more committed they are nine months later. So it seems that feelings of...

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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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Increase motivation (DW#621)

Sometimes people who are high achievers begin to believe that they must only focus on the future target in order to achieve more. Focusing on what you already have and showing gratitude for it, they think, can leave you feeling complacent and would dampen ambition. In other words, "If I have enough, maybe I don’t need to achieve more."

This prevailing but unproven idea has been debunked by the research done by rock-star gratitude researchers Robert Emmons and Anjali Mishra.

This particular study involved students listing goals they hoped to reach over a two-month period. One group of students were asked to maintain a regular gratitude practice and the other group was not given this instruction. Ten weeks later, when the researchers checked back on the students’ progress, they found that grateful students were closer than others in the study to reaching their goals.

Emmons and Mishra concluded that "gratitude enhances effortful goal striving." In other words, it makes...

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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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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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