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The states and traits of gratitude (DW#625)

Yesterday we talked about how focusing on gratitude even once a week can make us happier. Today, let us try and understand this a bit more.

Gratitude makes us feel more gratitude. And more gratitude means more happiness.

The truth is that the actual boost in gratitude and happiness by spending a 2-5 minutes writing a gratitude journal once a week is small. However, the state of gratitude and happiness felt during those five-minutes is enough to trigger a grateful mood.

And while we are in a grateful mood, we tend to feel gratitude more frequently. We tend to notice more things that are going well in our lives. Our focus changes from scarcity (what is missing) thinking to abundance (what we have) thinking.

In other words, the practice of gratitude triggers positive feedback loops. These feedback loops create recurring feelings of gratitude which tend to more intense and they last longer.

The repeated practice of gratitude has the power to change the initial state of gratitude into a...

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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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Appeal to reason (DW#610)

The Quran exemplifies the model of appealing to our sense of logic and reasoning. It does this by asking questions for us to ponder over and reflect on.
 
In the following verses, the Quran uses rhetorical questions to help us reflect and come to logical conclusions:

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]

These questions are posed to those who rejected the resurrection and final accounting. Their argument was: how can we be recreated if our bones have already turned to dust? The counter-argument presented through rhetorical questions is that the recreation cannot be harder than the original creation. He who created you in the first place, can He not bring you back? 

 
When...
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How to debate and dispute (DW#609)

In the following verse from Sura Nahl, Allah says: 

and dispute with them in a manner that is best [Quran16:125].

 

Communicating effectively and mindfully with respect and compassion does not mean that we always agree with the other person. Reality is that in relationships and in life, we may find ourselves on opposing sides of an issue.

 

This verse reminds us how to engage in communication when there is clearly a difference of opinion or values.
 
Firstly, such conversation needs to be done with the right intention. We can speak up for what we believe, defend our truth, remove doubts and misconceptions, but we must always do with respect and compassion. When we dispute or argue in this way, we are not defending our own power of status. We come from a place of respect, love and compassion, intending good for all concerned.
 
For the next few days, let us explore the elements of a good discussion or argument. 
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Let not aggressive speech upset you (DW#608)

Yesterday we discussed how to deal with aggression towards our faith and values. 

Today’s verse is related to the same idea. In Sura Yunus, the Prophet (saw) is told: 

And let not their speech grieve you; surely all honor belongs to Allah; He is the Hearing, the Knowing. [Quran 10:65]

 

As we have been saying, words are powerful. They have the power to heal and the power to hurt. Even if we work on being mindful of our words, reality is that not everyone will respond. We may still encounter aggression and criticism. And sometimes such words will greatly impact our emotional and mental wellbeing, especially if we sense that they are unfair and are motivated by hate rather than love. We may replay these words again and again in our minds, allowing them to fester and unbalance our wellbeing. We may lose faith and confidence in our beliefs by being subject to such hate speech.

 

This verse reminds us that the words that others may speak are not necessarily...
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Speak insightful words (DW#607)

These are they of whom Allah knows what is in their hearts; therefore turn aside from them and admonish them, and speak to them effectual words concerning themselves. [Quran 4:63]

The verse from Sura Nisa teaches the Holy Prophet (saw) how to deal with the hypocrites – those who professed belief with their tongues but harboured resentment and ill will towards the Prophet (saw). They were perhaps the most challenging enemy that he dealt with because they posed as friends and used covert means rather than open warfare to try and derail his mission. 

The Prophet (saw) is instructed to turn away from these disbelievers—that is, to avoid openly punishing them. Instead, he is to admonish them and seek to persuade them with penetrating words rather than confronting them aggressively with force. 

Scholars explain that turning away here may also mean to refuse to accept their excuses. Instead, he is to politely but firmly speak to them with Qawlan Baleegha,...

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Worship at night (DW#595)

And during a part of the night, say the night prayer beyond what is incumbent on you; perhaps your Lord will raise you to a praiseworthy position. Quran 17:79

Reflection: These verses from Sura Israa (The Night Journey) are addressed in the first instance to the Holy Prophet (saw) advising him that the best means of closeness to his Beloved Lord is to stay up and worship in the night when the rest of mankind is sleeping comfortably,

It is said that the fastest means of transportation towards Allah is to worship at night. During the day so many things occupy our time and mind. We are distracted and it is challenging to find silence, solitude and peace to communicate with the Divine. It is easier to connect spiritually with Allah during the stillness of night when the demands of work and family are on hold for the moment. It is also easier to be free of the ego-drives of looking good that can sometimes creep into our worship, especially when they draw praise from others.

There is much...

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Mental rehearsal (DW#577)

Yesterday we talked about how it is not enough to simply dream of an exciting future. 

Let me repeat that. 

It is not that dreaming of an ideal future is not important to manifest your dreams. 

It is. 

Very. 


However, it is not enough. So what’s missing?

You also need to visualize and plan for the work involved in achieving that goal or manifesting that dream.

Dr. Joe Dispenza in his book You are the Placebo, talks about how you can determine your future. One of the key ways, he explains, is through "mental rehearsing". 

[Controlling your destiny] "is possible through mental rehearsal. This technique is basically closing your eyes and repeatedly imagining performing an action, and mentally reviewing the future you want, all the while reminding yourself of who you no longer want to be (the old self) and who you do want to be. This process involves thinking about your future actions, mentally planning your choices,...

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Visualizing success is great except for this (DW#576)

Do you remember the sensation created by the book The Secret? After it came out, many many people started visualizing what they wanted and what success looked like for them, on a regular basis, believing that it was the key to success.

Here’s the thing: it is important to dream. It is also valuable to allow yourself to dream big and let your imagination come up with what wild success looks like. And to feel the good feelings that come from dreaming about these successes.

But you should know one big caveat.

Research shows that when you indulge in this type of day dreaming, it releases all sorts of feel good chemicals and hormones in your brain and in your body. And your brain and body are tricked into feeling that you have already achieved this ….. which in turn dampens your motivation to take action towards your goal!

WHAT???

Yes. Your strategy for success may actually be holding you back from the very thing that you are chasing. (I have been down this rabbit hole many...

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Productive procrastination (DW#573)

Can I share a secret?

When I am working on a creative project, such as writing, planning or working on a presentation, I get very productive. I clean out closets, cook up a storm, get my filing done, find great deals on Amazon, clean out more closets and drawers, organize the pantry . .

Anything to keep busy and stop feeling the anxiety that comes from producing meaningful work. . . .

I call it productive procrastination. A lot of stuff gets done.

Except what really matters.

Let’s not fool ourselves. Just because we are busy, it does not mean that we not procrastinating.

We need to make sure that we are doing work that really matters rather than merely busy work.

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