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Become more popular (DW#628)

An attitude of gratitude makes us more likeable and popular.

If you think about the opposite of a grateful person, the above claim makes sense. People who continuously grumble or complain about things are draining. Moreover, most of us when we encounter people who complain, feel compelled to point out their blessings to make them feel better. (this seldom works, by the way, but it does cause us to be exhausted!)

On the other hand, people who are grateful, notice the good in their lives, both in people and in circumstances. Such a person is more likely to be a positive person whose company is sort out by others as they may find themselves uplifted by the positive mood (rather than working to uplift other’s mood)

To put it in terms of psychology, gratitude generates social capital - namely goodwill, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse - among the individuals and families who make up a social unit. Studies have found that participants who were just 10% more grateful than...

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Gratitude keeps things fresh (DW#626)

Human beings are remarkably adaptable creatures. When something bad happens to us, after a while, we tend to get used to the new state of affairs and our happiness goes back to what it was before the negative occurrence.

This is good news, right?

This same tendency of adaptability can work against us when good things happen to us. When our circumstances change for the better – when we start earning more money, find a new love, buy a new car, recover from illness – we experience a boost in happiness and contentment. This boost in happiness though, is short lived. When the novelty or "newness" of this good fortune wears off, we get used to it and we get back to the same level of happiness (or unhappiness) that we were at before the good fortune.

Psychologists call this phenomenon hedonic adaptation. The dictionary defines hedonistic adaptation as the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness (or unhappiness) despite major...

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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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