Steps to Being More Grateful
She opens her wardrobe. Two dozen dresses of red, yellow, orange, pink and you-name-it colours are hanging in there. After a cursory glance, she bangs the door shut. “Mom, I have nothing to wear for the party. I’ve been begging you to take me shopping since ages. You never listen to me. What do I do now?”
He is rummaging the fridge for the fourth time. Pizza, chocolate, ice-cream, fruits and juices are stuffed inside. He leaves the kitchen despondently. “There’s really nothing much to eat in here. Let’s go to the café and have some decent food today.”
She wakes up with the same feelings of depression and dread. Thoughts of suicide are again floating in her mind. She is married to a handsome man, with two lovely kids, a home, and a car, everything most women would ask for. Apparently, life is perfect but there is “something” missing. It is just because she is not married to the man of her dreams.
He thinks his life sucks. He is 17. He has an iPhone, Core i7 Dell, $1,000 monthly pocket money but according to him, his life sucks. Unable to focus on his textbook, he slams it shut and starts pacing in the room as he thinks out aloud. “If my friend can own a Jaguar, why can’t I? Everything sucks.”
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
The Effect of Gratitude on Productivity
As we grow up, we get tuned to be ungrateful and not to see the blessings in our life. We focus all our energy and attention towards finding out what we lack. This is really ironic because the more we focus on scarcity, the more we tend to attract it.
You tend to get what you focus on. Being ungrateful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) adversely affects our productivity as the mind – which is in a negative state – can hardly contemplate the productivity in life. It goes without saying that a mind that is always looking for shortcomings is not the best tool for a productive lifestyle – be it spiritually, physically, socially, or emotionally.
Western Research vs. 1,400-Year-Old Message
Research has shown that through our thoughts and emotions, we emit powerful signals; these signals have the ability to attract signals of the same frequency. In other words, our positive signals will attract all other positive signals and same goes true for negative signals.
Whenever we are being ungrateful, we are in the negative state of mind and allowing the self-defeating thoughts to emit all sorts of negative energy from us. These can include thoughts such as “I never seem to have enough of money”, “I can never be healthy”, or “I can never find a practicing husband”. This will lead us to attract more negative energy.
Ultimately, we will end up becoming a black hole of despair and getting what we do not want. All the worries, arguments and frustration lead to more of the same. Considering all this, if we want to attract more signals of what we desire to experience, for example, peace, joy, harmony, ease, prosperity, etc., then why not choose our thoughts consciously and carefully? The more you focus on what you have in life, the more you will attract it. In other words, the more grateful you become, the more Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) will bless you.
Today, non-Muslim researchers have discovered these secrets in the name of “natural laws”, while these “open secrets” were given to us in the Qur’an 1,400 years ago.
Psychologists and philosophers have painstakingly conducted researches and have come up with new theories and ideas. This so-called newly discovered information was presented to us in the Qur’an in no uncertain terms. Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) promises that the grateful will be given more:
“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]
Robert A. Emmons from the University of California Davis and Micheal E McCullogh from the University of Miami conducted a long-term research project designed to study the effects of gratitude. Here are some of their findings:
In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis, exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared with those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.
Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress towards important personal goals over a two-month period compared with subjects in the other experimental conditions.
Grateful people reported higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress.
This is a readymade formula for attracting more of what you want in life.
Why is gratitude such a key ingredient in a successful life? Does it make sense now?
Gratitude helps us make the shift. Consequently, we are able to attract more good, more love, more joy, more money, as well as better health and blissful relationships in your life. Gratitude is one of the easiest and most frequently used methods to alter the signals one is emitting. What we need to master is the attitude of gratitude – the attitude of appreciating everything in life.
Surah al-Fatihah: A Pillar’s Pillar
It is well known that prayer, one of the pillars of Islam, is incomplete without Surah al-Fatihah. It begins with expressing our gratitude to our Lord for the countless blessings He has showered upon us. Have you ever noticed that many duas taught by the Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) also start with the same expression of gratitude, “Alhamdulillah”?
The day starts with the morning supplication, “Alhamdulillahilladhi ahyana…” (All praise and thanks be to the One who gave us life…). What is the significance of this? Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) wants you to start your day in His remembrance. This can put us in a super charged state, attracting ample happiness and abundance in life.
The Practice of the Companions
Ibn Mas’ud raḍyAllāhu ‘anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “He who (on befalling a calamity) slaps his cheeks, tears his clothes and follows the ways and traditions of the Days of Ignorance is none of us.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
It is reported that some of the Companions of the Holy Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) were grateful for the calamities that they faced and presented their gratitude to Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) for not letting something worse befall them. Now that is the attitude of gratitude!
Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude and Focus
Gratitude is one of the quickest ways to regain our focus. When we are stuck, it means we are giving too much attention to something that does not really deserve our attention. Most so-called problems are usually mundane preoccupations and mental obsessions. We focus so much on one area to the exclusion of everything else that we create and then magnify our problems. Guess what? When we focus so much on what is not working, we cannot even access the part of our brain that provides us solutions. Surprised?
When something is not working, focus on what is working and say, “Alhamdulillahi Rabbil ‘Aalameen” (All praise to the Lord of the Universe) aloud. What do you think you are doing by saying this? It reminds us of the power of the Creator subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) and reminds us to be thankful for all the good things that is happening without our knowledge. You are freeing your mind from those thoughts that bog you down and you are reinforcing strong positive beliefs that even if some areas are not working in life, others definitely are. In this way, you are able to think in a quicker and better way to resolve what is not working in life. Try it out yourself.
A Miraculous Phenomenon
Being grateful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) does wonders. When you acknowledge His Hand in your life, miracles happen. You may be in the middle of a problem and not have the least bit of knowledge about what would happen next, then suddenly the solution will dawn upon you. It is like when someone would return you an old loan that you completely forgot about, when you are in dire need of money; or when you are thinking about your loved ones and they give you a call right then. And when something you are longing to happen, finally happens.
Appreciate the Small to get Big
We usually ignore many things that are readily available to us; they are incredible reasons to be grateful. Our family, friends, body, health, job, leisure time, education, food, wisdom, smiles, children and even the painful lessons that life teaches us (and the list goes on) are tremendous blessings to be grateful for. If you do not have the same feeling, just close your eyes and imagine one of these blessings vanishing from your life. Take a break from reading this and do it, seriously. How does that feel? This is exactly why you need to be thankful every moment, each day.
“And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” [Qu’ran: Chapter 14, Verse 34]
Steps to Being More Grateful
It is a pity that since childhood we are tuned to have lust for more and never to be satisfied with what we already have. This is why being grateful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) for what He has already blessed us with is sometimes very challenging for us. All of us need a bit of fine tuning, so below are some tools I am sharing with you so you can show your gratitude to Him and let the blessings unfold.
Make a list of 20 things that you appreciate: Write “Alhamdulillah” in front of every blessing. Make a list of the things you feel good about and why you are grateful for that thing, situation or person in your life. How did you feel doing this? Here is the good news: You have just increased your positivity and now you are able to attract more happiness, abundance and prosperity in your life.
Appreciate the little things too: Start looking for everything you can be grateful for in life and start talking about it all the time, no matter how insignificant it is. If you find a Dollar from your old shirt’s pocket, celebrate. Go around and tell everyone how grateful you are for that. That is how you are tuning your mind to show gratitude for tiniest blessing in your life.
Share the gratitude: At least once a day, share a gratitude status on Facebook or whatever social media you use and ask others what they are grateful for. In sha Allah, you will get blessings for your shukr and theirs too.
Sense the gratitude: Standing in front of the mirror, focus on your eyes that can see, ears that can hear, a nose that can smell, rather than just measuring the size and diameter of that small pimple.
Learn positivity: Try to seek the positive out of every negative. List at least three good lessons from every painful experience and be grateful that life threw that situation at you so that you could learn. And then, move on.
In a nutshell, developing the attitude of gratitude to Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) will do wonders to your life. Identify those wonders and be grateful for them so you can have more.
Do share with us a list of some blessings in your life that you are grateful for. We would like to hear from you in the comments section below.
About the Author:
Bela is the founder and Chief Inspirational officer at Muslim Women Empowerment. She is a life coach, speaker and a student of Qur’an. She helps women to overcome their obstacles and make a difference in their lives and the world. She can be reached at www.belakhan.com