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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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Speak the best (DW#603)

And say to My servants (that) they speak that which is best[17:53]

This verse from Sura Bani Israel lays out the general and foundational principle for speech in Islam: Speak that which is Ahsan(beautiful, excellent, kind)

That which is the best encapsulates all rules and principles of good communication. The famous saying (which has been attributed to many different sages and masters over the years) comes to mind:

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:

At the first gate, ask yourself "Is is true?"
At the second gate ask, "Is it necessary?"
At the third gate ask, "Is it kind?"

This saying, although clichéd, has the wisdom to help us pause and become conscious of our words. Because talking is so natural we are often unaware of the power of our spoken words, our speech can sometimes run away from our mouths before we have had a chance to engage our brains.

So let us explore these three gates:

Is It True?

Few of us would ever admit to lying intentionally. But...

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A list of what annoys you (DW#540)

Any of us who are in long term relationships know that it is not always fun and games. In fact, our loved ones tend to trigger and annoy us in ways that we did not even think possible!

Here is the thing: this is completely normal – these petty annoyances are NOT a sign that your relationship is in trouble. (as we say repeatedly, there is conflict in the happiest of relationships – it is how you deal with the conflict that determines the health of your marriage and family). 

The bad news about these annoyances and triggers is that they are not likely to change. And unless we learn to take them lightly and with a good dose of humour, they might even increase over time. 

So how we learn to live with what drives us crazy? 

Today’s marriage hack comes from a list that I learnt about many years ago. It is rather unique. 

A long term married woman shared that she keeps a list of what she hates about her husband. When I heard this, my positively-oriented...

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How not to forget your intention (DW#537)

Despite our best intentions (pun intended :) ) life gets in the way and it can be challenging to keep self growth and living our best selves in the fore front on a daily basis. 

If we do not engage with our intention frequently, it can be so easy to forget it completely. 

A very effective way to keep your intention alive and up-front for the year is to share it with others who support our wellbeing and growth. Sometimes though, we find that those who are closest to us are not on the same wavelength. While this can be discouraging and challenging, please do not let it stop you from progressing on your own path. 

The great thing about social media (despite its many downsides) is that we can find virtual communities of like minded people. If we use social media in an intentional way, it can be a great way to connect with others on the journey. You may find that virtual communities are incredibly generous and supportive when you reach out, share and are authentic. ...

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What do you regret? (DW#524)

When we are reviewing the past year and reflecting on our stumbles, feelings of regret can sometimes surface. We may begin thinking about how our life would be different or better "if only" we had done this or not done that. 

The pain of regret can be intense and it is very tempting to want to distract ourselves, distance ourselves or push it away. Doing this too quickly can be a mistake. 

Janet Landman from the University of Michigan explains that there are some benefits of staying with the discomfort of regret. 

Firstly, there is information and instruction. Regret informs us that the course of action that we have taken in the past has not led to success. 

Secondly, the pain of regret can act as a motivation for change. It tells us that the course of action has not made us happy and we need to do something different in order to get better results. 

Thirdly, and related to the point above, regret can act as a moral compass. If we see negative outcomes for...

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The five domains of emotional intelligence (DW#456)

In Daniel Goleman's book "Emotional Intelligence", the author explains that there are five main domains of emotional intelligence: Self awareness, emotional regulation, internal motivation, recognizing emotions in others and handling relationships. 

So let’s begin to explore these domains one at a time. 

Self awareness:

This is the foundational basis of emotional intelligence.

Self awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your own emotions. As we mentioned last week, our emotions drive us to act. If we are unaware of our emotions, we will act in ways that don’t make sense to us or to others. Our unrecognized and unprocessed emotions may result in us acting against our own self interest and in ways that hurt other people.

Recognizing our emotions as they are happening also allows us to become aware of of the effect of our moods and behaviours on other people, both at work and at home.

Once we become aware of our emotions, we can begin to recognize the...

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I’d love to get your opinion (DW#442)

There are so many decisions we make on a daily basis: about work, about the household, about our own schedule and about the family. 

While it is not realistic or feasible to seek counsel from our spouses or loved ones on every small decision, there are so many small and not-so-small decisions that impact the whole family. When we can ask our significant others for their input on decisions, it benefits the relationship in many ways: 

1)   It expresses trust in the other: Requesting someone’s thoughts on a matter lets the other person know how important his or her opinions are to you. By singling that person out as your go-to for advice, you’re expressing that you trust his or her judgment. The advice-giver will likely get a confidence boost, feeling like an expert in relationships, career advancement, or whatever else you need help with. 

2)   It is a sign of respect: What we do impacts those who are close to us. If we...

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Please and thank you (DW#439)

When we are amongst those who are closest to us, we sometimes begin to take each other for granted. Words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and other forms of common courtesy that we use with strangers begin to slip away and sometimes disappear altogether.

We sometimes justify this slipping away of common courtesy by saying to ourselves that saying please and thank you should be reserved for favours that go beyond the expected responsibilities towards each other. That we do not need to thank people for ‘doing their job’ especially if they are not doing ‘their job’ up to our expectations.

Here’s the thing: such an attitude is a recipe for relationships going downhill. Even if our family members continue to ‘do their job’, they will be much more likely to do so with happiness and enthusiasm if their efforts are appreciated. As we may have experienced in our own lives, it is challenging to keep showing up as our best...

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I’ll talk to you when you can be rational (DW#427)

As we have discussed before, conflict is normal and even healthy in relationships. It is how we deal with the conflict rather than the absence of conflict that determines if the relationship is fulfilling or not. 

Even though conflict is normal, it can be unpleasant. When we are in the midst of an argument, it can trigger all sorts of strong emotions that make it difficult for us to have productive conversations. 

When we find ourselves triggered, it can be very helpful to take some time for ourselves to calm down so that we can get back to the conversation in a more helpful way. 

The key, though, is to take responsibility for our own emotional state rather than suggest that the other person is "not being rational"

A statement such as "I’ll talk to you when you can be rational" is guaranteed to make matters worse. It is a statement that is likely to inflict emotional injury and make the other person significantly angrier. 

So the...
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Fine whatever (DW#426)

Have you ever felt completely exasperated in your efforts to reach someone? To get them to understand your point of view? 

Ever felt so exasperated that you say: "fine, whatever" as a signal that you are giving up on this argument? As a signal that you are metaphorically throwing up your arms in resignation? 

While it is not realistic to agree on everything or even understand where the other person is coming from, it is important to keep talking about issues that mean something to you (or them). In the absence of continuing communication on important matters, misunderstanding and resentment is likely to grow in the relationship in the place of love and connection. 

In other words, if we say "fine, whatever" enough times we will find ourselves quitting on the whole relationship rather than just the argument at hand.

 

So the next time we feel defeated in an effort to be understood, let us be brave and remind ourselves that if the relationship is important to us, we...
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