Thursday, 12 October 2017

How You Can Tell if Someone is Grateful

I’m terrible at gratitude.
How bad am I? I’m so bad at gratitude that most days, I don’t notice the sunlight on the leaves of the Berkeley oaks as I ride my bike down the street. I forget to be thankful for the guy who hand-brews that delicious cup of coffee I drink mid-way through every weekday morning. I don’t even know the dude’s name!
I usually take for granted that I have legs to walk on, eyes to see with, arms I can use to hug my son. I forget my son! Well, I don’t actually forget about him, at least as a physical presence; I generally remember to pick him up from school and feed him dinner. But as I face the quotidian slings and arrows of parenthood, I forget all the time how much he’s changed my life for the better.
Gratitude (and its sibling, appreciation) is the mental tool we use to remind ourselves of the good stuff. It’s a lens that helps us to see the things that don’t make it onto our lists of problems to be solved. It’s a spotlight that we shine on the people who give us the good things in life. It’s a bright red paintbrush we apply to otherwise-invisible blessings, like clean streets or health or enough food to eat.

Gratitude is the mental tool we use to remind ourselves of the good stuff.

Gratitude doesn’t make problems and threats disappear. We can lose jobs, we can be attacked on the street, we can get sick. I’ve experienced all of those things. I remember those harrowing times at unexpected moments: My heart beats faster, my throat constricts. My body wants to hit something or run away, one or the other. But there’s nothing to hit, nowhere to run. The threats are indeed real, but at that moment, they exist only in memory or imagination. I am the threat; it is me who is wearing myself out with worry.

That’s when I need to turn on the gratitude. If I do that enough, suggests the psychological research, gratitude might just become a habit. What will that mean for me? It means, according to the research, that I increase my chances of psychologically surviving hard times, that I stand a chance to be happier in the good times. I’m not ignoring the threats; I’m appreciating the resources and people that might help me face those threats.

If you’re already one of those highly grateful people, stop reading this article — you don’t need it. Instead, you should read Amie Gordon’s “Five Ways Giving Thanks Can Backfire.” But if you’re more like me, then here are some tips for how you and I can become one of those fantastically grateful people.

Gratitude increases your chances of psychologically surviving hard times.

1. Once in a while, they think about death and loss
Didn’t see that one coming, did you? I’m not just being perverse—contemplating endings really does make you more grateful for the life you currently have, according to several studies.
For example, when Araceli Friasa and colleagues asked people to visualize their own deaths, their gratitude measurably increased. Similarly, when Minkyung Koo and colleagues asked people to envision the sudden disappearance of their romantic partners from their lives, they became more grateful to their partners. The same goes for imagining that some positive event, like a job promotion, never happened.

This isn’t just theoretical: When you find yourself taking a good thing for granted, try giving it up for a little while. Researchers Jordi Quoidbach and Elizabeth Dunn had 55 people eat a piece of chocolate—and then the researchers told some of those people to resist chocolate for a week and others to binge on chocolate if they wanted. They left a third group to their own devices.

Guess who ended up happiest, according to self-reports? The people who abstained from chocolate. And who were the least happy? The people who binged. That’s the power of gratitude!

The power of gratitude.

2. They take the time to smell the roses

And they also smell the coffee, the bread baking in the oven, the aroma of a new car—whatever gives them pleasure.
Loyola University psychologist Fred Bryant finds that savoring positive experiences makes them stickier in your brain, and increases their benefits to your psyche—and the key, he argues, is expressing gratitude for the experience. That’s one of the ways appreciation and gratitude go hand in hand.

You might also consider adding some little ritual to how you experience the pleasures of the body: A study published this year in Psychological Science finds that rituals like prayer or even just shaking a sugar packet “make people pay more attention to food, and paying attention makes food taste better,” as Emily Nauman reports in her Greater Good article about the research.

This brand of mindfulness makes intuitive sense — but how does it work with the first habit above?

Well, we humans are astoundingly adaptive creatures, and we will adapt even to the good things. When we do, their subjective value starts to drop; we start to take them for granted. That’s the point at which we might give them up for a while—be it chocolate, sex, or even something like sunlight—and then take the time to really savor them when we allow them back into our lives.

That goes for people, too, and that goes back to the first habit: If you’re taking someone for granted, take a step back—and imagine your life without them. Then try savoring their presence, just like you would a rose. Or a new car. Whatever! The point is, absence may just make the heart grow grateful.

If you’re taking someone for granted, imagine your life without them.

3. They take the good things as gifts, not birthrights

What’s the opposite of gratitude? Entitlement—the attitude that people owe you something just because you’re so very special.

“In all its manifestations, a preoccupation with the self can cause us to forget our benefits and our benefactors or to feel that we are owed things from others and therefore have no reason to feel thankful,” writes Robert Emmons, co-director of the GGSC’s Gratitude project. “Counting blessings will be ineffective because grievances will always outnumber gifts.”

The antidote to entitlement, argues Emmons, is to see that we did not create ourselves—we were created, if not by evolution, then by God; or if not by God, then by our parents. Likewise, we are never truly self-sufficient. Humans need other people to grow our food and heal our injuries; we need love, and for that, we need family, partners, friends, and pets.

“Seeing with grateful eyes requires that we see the web of interconnection in which we alternate between being givers and receivers,” writes Emmons. “The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed.”

The web of interconnection in which we alternate between being givers and receivers.

4. They’re grateful to people, not just things
At the start of this piece, I mentioned gratitude for sunlight and trees. That’s great for me—and it may have good effects, like leading me to think about my impact on the environment—but the trees just don’t care. Likewise, the sun doesn’t know I exist; that big ball of flaming gas isn’t even aware of its own existence, as far as we know. My gratitude doesn’t make it burn any brighter.

That’s not true of people — people will glow in gratitude. Saying thanks to my son might make him happier and it can strengthen our emotional bond. Thanking the guy who makes my coffee can strengthen social bonds—in part by deepening our understanding of how we’re interconnected with other people.

My colleague Emiliana Simon-Thomas, the GGSC’s science director and another co-director of our Expanding Gratitude project, puts it this way:

"Experiences that heighten meaningful connections with others—like noticing how another person has helped you, acknowledging the effort it took, and savoring how you benefitted from it—engage biological systems for trust and affection, alongside circuits for pleasure and reward. This provides a synergistic and enduring boost to the positive experience. By saying ‘thank you’ to a person, your brain registers that something good has happened and that you are more richly enmeshed in a meaningful social community."

By saying ‘thank you’ to a person, your brain registers that something good has happened.
5. They mention the pancakes
Grateful people are habitually specific. They don’t say, “I love you because you’re just so wonderfully wonderful, you!” Instead, the really skilled grateful person will say: “I love you for the pancakes you make when you see I’m hungry and the way you massage my feet after work even when you’re really tired and how you give me hugs when I’m sad so that I’ll feel better!”

The reason for this is pretty simple: It makes the expression of gratitude feel more authentic, for it reveals that the thanker was genuinely paying attention and isn’t just going through the motions. The richest thank you’s will acknowledge intentions (“the pancakes you make when you see I’m hungry”) and costs (“you massage my feet after work even when you’re really tired”), and they’ll describe the value of benefits received (“you give me hugs when I’m sad so that I’ll feel better”).

When Amie Gordon and colleagues studied gratitude in couples, they found that spouses signal grateful feelings through more caring and attentive behavior. They ask clarifying questions; they respond to trouble with hugs and to good news with smiles. “These gestures,” Gordon writes, “can have profound effects: Participants who were better listeners during those conversations in the lab had partners who reported feeling more appreciated by them.”
Remember: Gratitude thrives on specificity!

Spouses signal grateful feelings through more caring and attentive behavior.

6. They thank outside the box
But let’s get real: Pancakes, massages, hugs? Boring! Most of my examples so far are easy and clichéd. But here’s who the really tough-minded grateful person thanks: the boyfriend who dumped her, the homeless person who asked for change, the boss who laid him off.

We’re graduating from Basic to Advanced Gratitude, so pay attention. And since I myself am still working on Basic, I’ll turn once again to Dr. Emmons for guidance: “It’s easy to feel grateful for the good things. No one ‘feels’ grateful that he or she has lost a job or a home or good health or has taken a devastating hit on his or her retirement portfolio.”

In such moments, he says, gratitude becomes a critical cognitive process—a way of thinking about the world that can help us turn disaster into a stepping stone. If we’re willing and able to look, he argues, we can find a reason to feel grateful even to people who have harmed us. We can thank that boyfriend for being brave enough to end a relationship that wasn’t working; the homeless person for reminding us of our advantages and vulnerability; the boss, for forcing us to face new challenges.

“Life is suffering. No amount of positive thinking exercises will change this truth,” writes Emmons in his Greater Good article “How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times.” He continues:
So telling people simply to buck up, count their blessings, and remember how much they still have to be grateful for can certainly do much harm. Processing a life experience through a grateful lens does not mean denying negativity. It is not a form of superficial happiology. Instead, it means realizing the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity. It means reframing a loss into a potential gain, recasting negativity into positive channels for gratitude.

That’s what truly, fantastically grateful people do. Can you?
This story originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

10 Best traits of people born in November.

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

1. They are unique
People born in November are so different from others. They are so unique that it’s hard to find someone like them. What makes them different is that they do things their own way. And their ideas are out of this world because they prefer to think outside the box. They have a certain way of doing things, which leaves a lasting impression on whoever they come across.

2. They are loyal
People born in this month are the most loyal people you will ever meet. When it concerns their relationship with friends, family and partners, they will never let you down. You can trust them with all your heart and not worry about them going behind your back or cheating on you. So what are you waiting for?! Go and find yourself a November-born! There's more to come!

3. They are good looking
People born in November just can’t help themselves but look very attractive. Without even trying they attract attention like bees to honey. People love to be in their witty and laidback presence. This may sound good, but there are some people who may get envious of November borns because wherever they go they somehow seem to be the centre of everything. Let’s face it, they’re natural!

4. They are hardworking
November borns are not the people for procrastination. They prefer to do things on time without any delay because if they make a mistake or get stuck, they have time to correct it. They know they are not perfect but they always try to stay fully committed to anything they do or are involved in, like 200%! They are diligent and fast!

5. They are calm and collected
People born in November are usually calm and can control their emotions unless they are provoked to the maximum. They will try their best not to have an outburst. They hardly ever get angry and annoyed but if they have ever snapped at you, then you probably did something bad in your life to deserve that. (LOL, just kidding!)

6. They have their own rules
November borns are different from others, especially in this case. They don’t care what others do, they make their own and unique way of doing things. They prefer to take the road no one else has taken before. This is when their thinking outside the box comes in handy. Their friends and family admire them for this trait of doing things differently. Yup, everyone needs the next one!

7. They need their space
People born in November often prefer to keep things on how they feel to themselves. They don’t like people knowing about their deepest secrets, fearing they will be judged. But that doesn't stop them from offering their shoulder to lean on for people in need. They may be secretive and private, but they will always be there for you.

8. They are often mistaken
November borns couldn't hurt a fly! They don’t hurt anyone intentionally, and if they do, they were not aware of doing so. Unfortunately, November borns are often being misunderstood for their words or actions, so people who mostly does not take a liking to them, blame them for the problems in their lives. Which is quite unfair, don’t you think?

The next one is what makes them even more different to others!

9. They are fair to everyone
Another good trait of many people born in November. They see everyone as equal who has the right to do whatever they want. They don’t judge others for their point of views or opinions and instead, they respect that. But they don’t stand around and accept if they see people doing anything wrong. They will make it their responsibility to correct others from making a mistake.

10. Too stubborn
November borns have their own views and opinions and they will only believe what they think is right. Sometimes they are too stubborn to accept that they can be wrong too. Since they respect others' opinions they expect everyone else to respect theirs too. Well, it only seems fair, don't you think?

Monday, 31 October 2016

How much love do you have in your Heart?

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

By Michelle Schafieh

Think of a person that you may have fallen in love with or are already in love with. Then answer Yes or No to the following questions to determine if your love is real.

1. Does your heart race every time you hear his/her name?

2. Do you feel at peace every time you are around him/her?

3. Do you love learning everything about him/her? Do you spend hours stalking their Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter?

4. Do you sometimes feel restless or lose sleep just thinking about him/her?

5. Do you do whatever you can to impress him/her? For example, do you dress a certain way just for him/her?

6. Do you find the words he/she says charming and eloquent? 7. Do you love spending time with him/her?

8. Do you not mind giving up some things you love such as hanging out with your friends for him/her?

9. Do you try to learn new skills just for him/her?

10. Do you think about your future and see him/her in it?

11. Do you spend countless hours trying to get to know the person?

Count all of your responses, and if you answered more Yes’s than No’s, then congratulations, you have fallen and/or are in love.

Now, I want you to go back through the list and instead of thinking of a person, think of Allah (SWT). Again count all of your responses. Do you see any differences?

A lot of times, we say that we love Allah (SWT) more than anything in this dunya, but do we ever stop to think about the strength of our love for him? Our love for our Creator should be endless, which is why we need to constantly work to strengthen this love. To help you build your relationship with Allah (SWT), just go through the list, and see where you need improvements. Here are some examples.

1. If your heart does not tremble when hearing about Allah (SWT), maybe you can spend more time reading or listening to the Qur’an.

2. If you constantly worry and aren’t at peace, try to remind yourself that this world is only temporary, and these worries will not last.

3. Rather than spending hours on Facebook, spend those hours on Youtube watching videos on the miracles of the Qur’an or try memorizing the 99 names of Allah (SWT) and their meanings.

4. If you do not lose sleep, then maybe try waking up on time for Fajr prayer. If you already do so, maybe stay awake before or after Fajr and make dhikr.

5. Maybe you can set weekly goals to help you impress Allah (SWT).

6. Maybe spend more time reciting Qur’an to see its eloquence and beauty.

7. If you do not make enough time to build your relationship, maybe make a weekly schedule where you leave an hour a day to study Islam.

8. Maybe try to set small goals to help you get rid of bad habits. If you smoke, for example, maybe try to smoke a bit less every day. If you tend to raise your voice every time you are mad, maybe learn a new method that helps you cope with anger.

9. Maybe you can try to learn a new skill. For example, learn to understand Arabic and the meanings behind the prayers you recite.

10. Spend more time reflecting about the afterlife. By simply reminding yourself about the afterlife, you will remind yourself that this world is temporary and that we are here to love and worship our Creator.

11. In order to love someone, you need to know the person. Take a moment to really ask yourself this question: Do you spend countless hours getting to know Allah (SWT)? If you put in the effort to understand Allah (SWT), whether it is through his prophets, books, or names, that love will eventually grow.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) loved many things. He loved his wife, his daughters, his companions, his people. But what defined him as a Muslim was that his love for Allah was above anything else. I pray that our love for Allah (SWT) continues to increase, and I pray that we can all build our relationship with our Creator. Ameen.

“I once had a thousand desires,
But in my one desire to know
you, All else melted away.”


Sunday, 11 September 2016

Why Can’t We See God?

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

By Sister Dina Mohamed Basiony.
I was talking to a young sister over the phone. We haven’t seen or met each other before. She was referred to me by a common friend. We were discussing an issue that she needed help with.
So, we texted at first and then talked over the phone.
We both opened up to each other so much so that by the end of the call, we felt like we’re truly sisters and that we’ve known each for ages.
We then continued messaging each other until the issue was completely resolved.
Throughout this period, we felt a very deep bond with one another. We actually made each other tear up at some points. We felt so much gratitude and a mixture of other fulfilling and heart warming emotions.
We literally had so much love and compassion for one another through this experience.
One day, she texted me and said that she really feels that she is in love with God and that she reached a point where she loves and favours Him over anything else and anyone else in this worldly life.
But then she asked “I always wondered why we can’t see Allah? It would have made things easier. It would have made us deeply love Him easier.”
I told her, “You love me. Right? You actually said that you love me. But did you see me?”
We’ve actually never met. We loved and communicated deeply with one another even though we’ve never seen each other and we don’t even know how the other one looks like!
Connection and communication can happen on very deep levels without having to physically see matters.
The sister and I only communicated through words, yet we connected deeply.
Allah also sent us His Words! He sent His Direct Verbatim Words: The Qur’an.
This is how we communicate with Him; we receive His Words, read them, listen to them, and we speak to Him.

Through this experience, we are able to connect with Allah on very profound intellectual, emotional and personal levels.

Humans are intellectual beings. We are sophisticated creatures and we have the ability to communicate through much deeper means than merely vision.
We are not animals.
Animals don’t communicate through words or other deep long-distance communication. They are not intellectual beings. To them, seeing is believing. They have to see. They’re all about the physical.

But we are beyond the physical and it is a brilliance of our creation that we have the ability to learn, grow and communicate beyond the physical.
This is exactly what Allah intended for us. From the very beginning of the Qur’an when Allah revealed to us the story of creating our father Adam (peace be upon him), we see that the purpose of our creation was to learn and connect with the Creator on very deep levels.
“And He taught Adam the names – all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, “Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful.” They said, “Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise.”He said, “O Adam, inform them of their names.” And when he had informed them of their names, He said,
“Did I not tell you that I know the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed.” (Qur’an 2: 31-33)
So, we were created to learn beyond what other creatures can learn.
Among what we learn are the true meanings of faith, sincerity, perseverance, love and commitment…
I want you to imagine something.
Imagine you’re married and you’re sitting with your husband and he tells you, “you’re the most beautiful woman, I will never look at anyone else but you.”
You’re already there with him. So it’s not a big test for him to be faithful and loving to you when you’re sitting right there in front of him.
But if you’re away and for a long period, and he proves that he continues to love and be faithful to you and never look at anyone else, then this is true commitment and sincerity. Right?
To Allah Exalted is the Highest Example and Attribute…If we’re seeing Allah, there is really no challenge at all.

Allah is the Creator of everything we ever loved and admired in this existence. Think of anything you ever liked and multiply that by infinity!
He is The Source and Fashioner of Beauty, He is The Source of Power, The Most High, The Most Wise, The Most Merciful, The Most Majestic, The Healer, The Source of Light….
Who would disbelieve after seeing that? Who would see the Ultimate Source of Beauty, Power, Might, Majesty, Wisdom, Love….and then go to look for bits and pieces of that in something else or someone else!
If you see Him, there is not test and there is no challenge.
But to believe in Him in the unseen, THIS is true love, faith and commitment.
This is our test.

This is what Allah said at the opening of Surat Al Baqarah in the Noble Qur’an:
“This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah – Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them, And who believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith]. Those are upon [right] guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful.” (Qur’an 2: 2-5)

This is it: “Those who believe in the unseen”– those are the sincere ones, the true believers.
You know, even Moses (peace be upon him) out of love asked Allah to allow him to see Him. Allah told him that he can’t handle that now, but He taught him and us a lesson…

“And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, “My Lord, show me [Yourself] that I may look at You.” [Allah] said, “You will not see Me, but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.” But when his Lord appeared to the mountain, He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious. And when he awoke, he said, “Exalted are You! I have repented to You, and I am the first of the believers.” (Qur’an 7: 143)

Allah only revealed a fraction of Himself to the mountain, and it completely shattered and fell apart. How can we handle seeing Him, then!
But what happened is that Moses increased in love, admiration and gratitude to Allah. This Absolutely Mighty and Majestic Creator chose us to know about Him, and love Him and communicate with Him.

He chose us and honoured us… it is really a source of humility and gratitude.

“And We have certainly honoured the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” (Qur’an: 17, 70)

Imagine someone who has been sending you gifts, messages, showering you with kindness, love, mercy… while you haven’t seen him.
How would you feel?
You will have intense feelings of longing, gratitude and anxiousness to meet him. Right?
This is what we feel towards Allah. We’re growing in longing to see Him and meet Him… it is the ultimate goal and desire. This life is about building the momentum for The Day when we get to actually see Him!

“[Some] faces, that Day, will be radiant, Looking at their Lord.” (Qur’an 75: 22-23)
“[Some] faces, that Day, will be bright -Laughing, rejoicing at good news.” (Qur’an 80: 38-39)

Recall this hadith:
“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings upon him) recited this Verse: ‘For those who have done good is the best reward and even more.’ (Qur’an 10: 26)
Then he said:
‘When the people of Paradise enter Paradise, and the people of the Fire enter the Fire, a caller will cry out: “O people of Paradise! You have a covenant with Allah and He wants to fulfil it.” They will say: “What is it?” Has Allah not made the Balance (of our good deeds) heavy, and made our faces bright, and admitted us to Paradise and saved us from Hell?” Then the Veil will be lifted and they will look upon Him, and by Allah, Allah will not give them anything that is more beloved to them or delightful, than looking upon Him.'” [Sunan Ibn Majah]

Looking at Allah and seeing Him is the ultimate gift. It is what we’re working for and longing for…

At this stage of our lives, it is not right or befitting to see Him physically.

Can we see the ENTIRE universe in one glance? No.
Then how can we see The One who is Bigger than the entire universe in one glance?
“Vision perceives Him not, but He perceives [all] vision; and He is the Subtle, the Acquainted.” (Qur’an 6: 103)
Allah created time and space for us. These are His creations. But He is beyond that; He is beyond time and space. He is not restricted to a specific form or location and He is not like what He created.
“There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Qur’an 42: 11)
Imagine a person who created mobile phones, for example. Then imagine those mobile phones asking one another: “what do you think our creator looks like? How does his charger look like? How is his battery?”
Well, the creator is not like what he created! He is beyond that. But He is The Most Knowing of what He created.

“Does He who created not know, while He is the Subtle, the Acquainted?” (Qur’an 67: 14]
Now, you might ask: but then how are we going to see Him in the Hereafter?
Well, the hereafter is a completely different nature and setting. We do not apply the standards that were created for this worldly life to what was created and prepared for another life, the next life, the Hereafter.
Imagine a fish telling another fish, “It’s not possible that there is life outside the sea because how are we going to swim?”

Well, the sea is not like the land and the creation of the sea aren’t like the creation of the land.
It’s like a baby who tells another baby inside his mother’s womb that there is no life outside the womb because there is no umbilical cord and if that’s the case, then how are we supposed to eat, drink or sustain our lives out there!!

Well, again, different natures!
So, just trust The Creator.
He has already given us enough examples to think, reflect, connect and communicate with Him.

“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding.” (Qur’an 3: 190)
And those who reflect and communicate with Him will testify to how this has satisfied and fulfilled their hearts, minds and souls. How this gave them meaning and purpose, how it gave them hope and direction.

Allah is closer to His created beings than their own consciousness. Even if you’re physically sitting with someone you love, he/she might not be able to fully know what is going on in your mind and heart.
But Allah created this mind and heart, He knows what you think and how you feel without you even uttering a word.

The deepest, strongest, most fulfilling and most personal relationship we can have in this life is the one we build with The Creator of this life. He knows and sees what’s in your minds and hearts even as you read these words right now.
And that’s powerful and reassuring. We don’t have to explain, He already sees and understands.
So just submit to Him and speak to Him! There is so much relief and liberation in doing so.
We now have the opportunity to communicate with Him through His most beautiful ways: through His Powerful Words in the Qur’an, through what He asked us to do in order to actualize our purpose in life… and when we do that, we will truly know Him and we will know and understand our own selves and find the peace that our hearts are searching for…

“Those who have faith and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of God– truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace.” (Qur’an 13: 28)

Source: Hadith of the Day.