• 4 Easy Principles to a Solid and Lasting Relationship

    We all want strong and tranquil relationships, but do we know what the steps are to achieving this goal? In this week’s article, my guest writer Sister Takwa Sharif talks about four steps to stronger bonds. Using examples from the Quran, Sunnah, and science, she shows you that secure, long-lasting relationships are founded on four easy principles.

    Relationships are hard to juggle. You’ve probably heard that they require patience, gratitude, compromise, and a whole lot of other things. In this week’s post, I want to simplify the different factors that contribute to stronger relationships–whether it’s at work, school, or with family. 

    Why Relationships Matter

    As social beings, humans need strong relationships for our mental, physical, and spiritual welfare.

    For example, in Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It, sociologist Dr Roman Krzanaric cites a research study conducted on infants living in two different environments:

    1. The first group of infants lived in an orphanage. In this orphanage, the infants were taken care of physically and materially: they were well-fed and clean. However, they rarely experienced any physical or emotional affection in the forms of touch and attention.
    2. The second group of infants lived in a prison. In this prison, mothers were allowed to visit their children. However, compared to the orphanage, the cleanliness of the prison was subpar.

    When researchers compared both groups’ longevity, they found that infants in the orphanage passed away more frequently as babies. That’s because they did not have the strong human bonds they needed to develop and grow. The infants in the prison, however, did have affection and secure relationships, and hence lived longer.

    So, as this study and countless other studies suggest, human beings need strong connections in order to flourish and be the best that we can be.

    Here are four ways to cultivate long-lasting and fulfilling relationships. All these four ways are grounded on the Quran, Sunnah and science!

    #1. Be empathetic

    In Empathy, Roman Krznaric defines empathy as “the art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives, and using that understanding to guide your actions.”

    To understand this definition, let’s look at an example of empathy from the lives of the Sahaba.

    It is reported that once, during the Khilafa (leadership) of Umar (RA), a man went to Umar’s house upset that he and his wife were arguing. However, before he could knock on the door, he heard Umar and his wife also arguing. He told himself, “If Umar and his wife are arguing, then what does that mean for me?” Then, Umar opened the door, and the man told him about his situation and what he had overheard. Umar told the man about how he should view his relationship with his wife by reminding the man of all that his wife does:  “She looks after my food, the children, the clothes, the home, my lust, my whims, and desires. She’s my partner in life. Will I not then have some patience?”

    Umar (RA) gets the man to be empathetic by thinking about the things that his wife does for him, and the way that she might feel because of this.

    Umar gets the man to think about what empathy expert, Krznaric writes about in his book on empathy:

    “Empathy is a constant awareness of that fact that your concerns are not everyone’s concerns and that your needs are not everyone’s needs, and that some compromise has to be achieved moment by moment.”

    Here’s how you can practice empathy:

    • Imagine how the other person might feel or what their perspective may be
    • Attempt to act in a way that would benefit the other person based on your empathetic understanding.
    • Have husunl-dhaan. Think well of others by assuming the best.

    #2. Be generous

    Being generous is highly regarded in the Sunnah and the scientific literature on relationship-building. For example, In Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet (SAW) said: “Give gifts, and you will love one another.”

    Likewise, Dr Catherine Sanderson provides examples of research studies on gift-giving in her book, The Positive Shift. She says participants who were more generous tended to live longer and experienced less stress. That’s because, generosity, like the Prophet (SAW) said, strengthens relationships. Moreover, stronger bonds lead to better health.

    Of course, there are different ways to be generous.

     In The 5 Love Languages, relationship expert Gary Chapman lists five ways of expressing love:

    1. Words of Affirmation: This is when you’re generous with the words that you say to your spouse. It can be in the form of compliments and reassurance.
    2. Acts of Service: This is when you’re willing to be generous with the things that you do, such as taking out the trash, helping with schoolwork, and offering rides.
    3. Giving Gifts: Recall the time when someone gave you a gift that you loved. Don’t you get a smile on your face when you think of that person? That’s the power of giving gifts.
    4. Quality Time: In How To Transform Your Marriage From “Meh” To “Wow!”, Brother Rushdhi explains quality time “as the greatest gift” that you can give to improve your relationship.
    5. Physical Touch: Although we might not be able to implement this language of love in all our relationships, physical, non-sexual touch is essential to trust and connection.

    As you can see, each language of love involves being more generous. It also means thinking outside of your own needs.

    Ironically, by thinking of someone else’s needs, you also fulfil your desire for stronger connections; I mean, that’s why you’re reading this, right? 

    #3. Be present

    No one likes having a conversation with someone who’s barely listening. Being present in a conversation means being an active listener.

    In Easier Than You Think, psychotherapist Dr Richard Carlson writes, “By becoming more present, you’ll experience better communication, increased productivity, better relationships, and greater peace of mind.” By focusing on the conversation, you not only are more productive, but you also show the other person that they matter.

    In the book, Shamaa-il Tirmidhi, which is a book onthe description of the Prophet (SAW),it’s narrated:

    The Apostle of Allah fulfilled the rights of every person present, and that means whatever right was due to talking and showing happiness was fulfilled by him, so much so, that every person would think that the Messenger of Allah is honouring me the most.

    You can implement some of the ways that the Prophet (SAW) made others feel important by

    • Turning your entire body to the direction of the speaker
    • Listening without interrupting
    • Asking questions when appropriate. Ask questions that are relevant to the topic that the speaker is talking about. Remember also not to be too inquisitive as that could put the speaker in an awkward position.
    • Making others aware of the fact that you appreciate the time that you have with them by having a cheerful and positive attitude

    In Empathy, Dr Krznaric cites a study conducted by a hospital in Boston. Doctors in this hospital were told to make simple changes such as analysing facial expressions, changes in voice, and facing the patient when they spoke to them.

    By doing these things, doctors were able to create a stronger relationship with the patient as these patients reported: “feel[ing] more at ease, [felt the doctor] showed greater care and compassion toward them, and [that the doctors] had a better understanding of their concerns.”

    Allah subuhanawuta’la reassurances that “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad SAW) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (Al-Quran, 33:21)

    So follow his (SAW) footsteps by being fully present in your communication. That single act can strengthen your relationships astonishingly.

    #4. Set boundaries

    While it’s important to be empathetic, generous, and present in the conversation, all of these traits, like many things in life, need to have boundaries. When you don’t have boundaries, it’s hard to establish consistency, trust and respect.

    Let me explain what I mean by this.

    In the book, Fostering Resilient Learners, the therapist Kristen Souers and a principal of a school, Pete Hall cite countless studies in which students who had experienced significant trauma such as the death of a parent during childhood or who had experienced a natural disaster, reported feeling safer in classrooms where educators had clear boundaries and expectations.

    When teachers had clear directions and expectations, the students felt safe because they knew what was expected of both the teacher and themselves. Students didn’t have to worry about the inconsistent application of classroom rules or the unpredictability of what would happen in the classroom, e.g., “He said that it was ok to sit on the couch yesterday, but today, he’s saying that I can’t sit there.

    Similarly, in your relationships, having clear boundaries creates a safe space where both you and the other person know about each other’s expectations, roles, and limits. This boundary, in turn, allows the relationship to flourish.

    Mark Manson, a relationship expert and blogger, writes:

    People with strong boundaries are not afraid of a temper tantrum, an argument, or getting hurt. People with weak boundaries are terrified of those things and will continuously mould their own behaviour to fit the highs and lows of their relational, emotional roller coaster.

    People with strong boundaries understand that it’s unreasonable to expect two people to accommodate each other 100 per cent and fulfil every need the other has.

    Setting boundaries in and outside of relationships is crucial to creating a healthy and long-lasting one.

    So, what does having boundaries look like?

    • Communicate respectfully what you are willing to do and what you aren’t willing to do. When appropriate, provide reasons for your choice. For example, if you know that you have a vacation with your family planned for a specific weekend, then don’t volunteer for a masjid event. This will only breed resentment.
    • Learn to say no to things and situations that are harmful. You should also say no to things that make you or the other person uncomfortable. An example of this would be telling your coworkers that you can’t join them for social hour if it involves drinking. I know that I’ve turned down many book clubs (which are great places to make new relationships!) because they were being held in bars or lounges.
    • Hold yourself accountable to a standard (e.g. at work) or your word (at home, with your family). An example of this would be turning your phone off after work so that you can focus on your family. During this time, you promise yourself not to respond to work emails.

    Now let’s look at what the Quran and Sunnah talk about setting boundaries.

    In the Quran, we’re taught to set boundaries in our relationships. For example, in Surah Al-Hujuraat, the Sahaba are taught to set boundaries in their relationship with the Prophet (SAW).

    Allah (SWT) says:

    “O you who have believed, do not put before Allah and His Messenger but fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing. O you who have believed, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet or be loud to him in speech like the loudness of some of you to others, lest your deeds become worthless while you perceive not.” (Al-Quran, 49:2).

    The Sahaba are taught that if they want to talk to the Prophet (SAW), then they need to lower their voices. They learn that they can’t raise their voices in front of him (SAW). They’re reminded that he (SAW) is not like everyone else.

    What You Can Do

    As you think about your relationships, don’t forget to

    • Use the Quran and Sunnah to guide you,
      • Study the description of the Prophet (SAW) contained in the book Shamaa’il Tirmidhi. This will help you fall in love with the Prophet. It will also simultaneously help you understand what makes Him (SAW), and eventually you, a great person to be around. 
    • Be empathetic with the person that you’re trying to establish a strong relationship with,
    • Be generous,
    • Be present and,
    • Set boundaries. Remember that setting boundaries isn’t about being “mean”; It’s about creating a safe and fulfilling relationship.

    About the Author: Takwa Sharif is a freelance writer and editor from Salt Lake City, Utah. She holds a Master of Arts in English and also has minors in comparative literature and literacy. She’s a runner and loves cooking.

  • 3 Common Misconceptions Preventing You from Practicing Gratitude

    Gratitude is essential to a balanced, fulfilling, and spiritually positive life. In this article, I talk about three common misconceptions that might be preventing you from practising gratitude. Specifically, I talk about why you should keep a gratitude journal and how to maintain this journal throughout the year.

    The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Gratitude, or rejoicing over all the good in your life, is essential for your spirituality and physical and mental wellbeing.

    Because gratitude has been extensively discussed on this blog, my focus today is on how to keep a gratitude journal. Countless studies have proven the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. For example, in the book The Positive Shift, Dr Catherine A. Sanderson, a psychologist, talks about why you should maintain a gratitude journal.

    She cites a research study conducted by a group of scientists on three groups of people:

    1. one group wrote down three problems that occurred during their week,
    2. another wrote down three events that happened that week,
    3. and the final group wrote that three things that they were grateful for.

    Researchers found that those who wrote down three things that they were grateful for every day “were […] 25 per cent happier—they were more optimistic about the future and they felt better about their lives.

    So, maintaining a gratitude journal is a solid and well-researched method of practising gratitude in your life. In order to help you start and keep a gratitude journal, let’s talk about three common misconceptions.

    #1 Misconception: “I Don’t Have Time for It.”

    You don’t want a gratitude journal because you claim that you just don’t have time for it. But, I’m here to tell you that jotting down a few notes every day won’t take up much of your time. To combat this negative assumption, you can…

    • Set a reminder on your phone for a 3-5 minute part of your day when you’ll write on your journal. This reminder is just to help you to remember to write in your journal, but the journal can be written at any time and anywhere.
      • It’s better to have a physical journal where you record what you’re grateful for. Research finds that things that we write down with a paper and pen tend to stick in our minds and are easy to remember. But if it’s inconvenient to write down things in an actual journal, you can do this digitally through an app on your phone or other handheld devices. For example, Coach Rushdhi likes to write down his acts of gratitude in a journal that he calls his “Alhamdulillah Journal,” whereas I like to write mine on the “Notes” section of my iPhone.
    • Jot down quick notes. Writing things like “Grateful for a sunny day” or “Grateful for lifting 25 pounds today.” This shouldn’t take a lot of time.
    • Limit the number of things that you write down to 5 things three times a week. Of course, you can do less or more, but research has found that a minimum of three times a week is required for fostering gratitude and a more positive outlook on life.

    #2 Misconception: “It’s Tacky and Unnecessary.”

    A lot of things may seem tacky and unnecessary, but they’re still necessary for a healthy life. For example, you might not want to eat healthy or exercise, but that doesn’t mean that your emotions or preferences should dictate your choices.

    You also might think that you’re already grateful and don’t need to write down what you’re grateful for. But as I mentioned previously just the act of writing something down solidifies it in our brain and research has found that writing things down makes us remember what we’ve written.

    So, while having a gratitude journal might not be the only way to be grateful, it is a great way to remember to be grateful.

    #3 Misconception: “I Don’t Think I’ll Have Things to Be Grateful For” or ” I Might End Up Repeating Things”

    Sometimes, we might be so consumed by the negatives that we can’t think of the positives in our lives. For example, we might take the air that we breathe, the home that you live in, or the experiences that we’ve had for granted.  But, this is when it’s the most crucial to remember all the things that we have going on for us–the things and people who are essential but overlooked.

    Also, here are some ways that you can avoid repeating the same things every day:

    • Keep track of things that might seem insignificant. Examples of this are, “I’m grateful for coffee” or “I’m grateful for getting a good night of sleep last night.”
      Dr Brene Brown, one of the top researchers studying vulnerability, writes in her book Daring Greatly.
      Joy comes to us in moments—ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.
    • Make sure your writing is specific and concrete. Don’t simply generalize. Examples: “I’m grateful for cleaning the house today” instead of “I’m grateful for doing things that I didn’t want to do.” This makes it easier to list all the other things that you might not have wanted to do, such as washing the dishes.
    • Realize that it’s OK to repeat the same things each day. Some of the things that we value are priceless and can never be accounted for even if we tried. Things and people like family and friends or a place to live might be examples of this.

    Still Unsure About Keeping a Journal?

    Try keeping a journal for a week. You have nothing to lose!

    Please also remember to leave a comment on Lean and Healthy’s social media about your experience with keeping a gratitude journal.  

    About the Author: Takwa Sharif is a freelance writer and editor from Salt Lake City, Utah. She holds a Master of Arts in English and also has minors in comparative literature and literacy. She’s a runner and loves cooking.

  • 3 Scientifically Proven Ways to Improve Your Willpower

    Willpower. It’s something that many of us wish that we had more of. Willpower is the thing that helps you turn down the cake, go for a walk when you’d rather sit, and give up smoking. In this article, I’ll talk about 3 ways that you can strengthen your willpower.

    “I’ll have one more piece of cake and then it’ll all be good. After, all I’ve been good for over a month now.”

    “But you won’t stop there! You’ll eat the entire thing before you know it. Why throw away all your hard work?”

    Chances are that, like myself, you’ve had these inner conversations, especially in your lean and healthy journey. You’ve had a part of you that wanted to reach your goal, but then also had another part of yourself that seemed to always want to sabotage your goals.  

    In this blogpost, I’ll talk about how you can use willpower to reach your goals. Willpower is what will keep you motivated even when you feel like giving up.

    But before I get to talking about how you can use willpower to help yourself, let’s talk about what willpower is.

    Defining Willpower: Your Two Competing Selves

    In the Quran and Seerah (the Prophet Muhammad’s history), a special event takes place. During the battle of Uhud, the Prophet (SAW) told the archers to remain at a specific location near the mountains so that the opposing side couldn’t surround the Believers. However, after witnessing the Believers winning the battle in the initial stage, some of the archers decided to leave their post since they thought that the battle was over. But right at this moment, the opposition recognized a gap, which then led to the defeat of the Believers.

    In talking about this incident, Allah (SWT) says:

    “when you lost courage and fell to disputing about the order [given by the Prophet] and disobeyed after He had shown you that which you love. Among you are some who desire this world, and among you are some who desire the Hereafter. Then he turned you back from them [defeated] that He might test you. And He has already forgiven you, and Allah is the possessor of bounty for the believers” [Al-Quran, 3:152].

    Like the archers who were told to protect the Believers by staying where the Prophet (SAW) had told them to stay, our willpower can sometimes be tested by what seems like a reasonable and obvious choice. That’s because, as many researchers have, unsurprisingly, found, willpower is the managing of two competing inner selves.[1]

    Like the archer’s who were told to stand guard, willpower can…

    • be overburdened by having too many things that require its use;
    • shift as you focus on different priorities.

    Willpower Can Be Overburdened by Everyday Choices

    According to health psychologist, Dr Kelly McGonigal in her book The Willpower Instinct, a lot of things in life require willpower: controlling your anger when someone cuts you off while your driving; your child throwing a tantrum in the middle of a grocery store; your desire to use the phone while talking to your spouse.

    These examples are major ones, but there are minor things that we do that require willpower. For example:

    • Running some errands although you’d like to be at home.
    • Choosing to wait in line.
    • Having Stevia rather than table sugar with your coffee.

    What this means is that willpower is always present in your life as you constantly have to make choices. You’re also making these choices while having a goal in mind. And yep, each choice also has consequences.

    So, every time you use willpower, it depletes. That’s why after a long, stressful day at work, it’s much easier to choose to have a piece of cake than a fruit salad.

    But as Dr McGonigal points out, you can strengthen willpower in many different ways. Here are three scientifically proven ways to do so:

    #1. Strengthen Willpower by Focusing on Your Reasons  

    In Dr Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr Frankl, a pioneering psychologist, talks about his experiences in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. He argues that one of the reasons that survivors of the Holocaust were able to survive was due to having strong willpower. This strong, consistent willpower stemmed from having and finding meaning in life. These survivors also found meaning in the suffering that they had experienced[2].

    When it comes to weight loss, processes that help you find your deeper reason for wanting to lose weight will help you strengthen your willpower. Here’s an example of a procedure that will help you find your real reasons for wanting a lean and healthy life.

    It’s important that you find your reasons because of the other points that I’ll talk about later in this article.

     #2. Strengthen Willpower by Practicing Mindfulness

    One of the best ways to strengthen willpower is by practicing mindfulness[3]. Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment with curiosity. For example, after a frustrating incident at work, you might pause and think about your surroundings, how you feel at that moment, and why you feel that way.

    According to Dr McGonigal, there are different ways to practice mindfulness in tests of willpower. For example, she talks about “surfing the urge”, craving, or impulse that could sabotage your goals (233). What this means is allowing yourself to feel the urge to do something that you shouldn’t while being conscious of the thoughts that you have and how your body reacts to these thoughts. Does your heart beat faster? Do you feel more agitated?

    By practicing mindfulness and allowing these thoughts to surface, you won’t have the “rebound” effect. The “rebound effect” is when unwanted thoughts becomes stronger due to attempts to suppress them.  

    In her book, Dr McGonigal gives the example of a study conducted by researchers on a group of people who were told to not think of white bears. Guess what that group couldn’t stop thinking about? White bears! 

    Allowing the thoughts or emotions that you would rather suppress or block out to surface and have their turn will help them soften up as you remind yourself that they’re just thoughts and feelings that you don’t need to act on.

    For example, think about having the urge to have doughnut while you’re on a diet. An approach that would encourage the “rebound effect” would go like this:

    “I’m trying to lose weight but I really want that doughnut. It’s just so annoying that it’s when I’m on a diet that I want this. Why can’t I ever have self-control like other people?”

    But, with mindfulness, you’d explore your desire to have a doughnut:

    “Yeah, I really want a doughnut right now. I wonder why? It might be because it’s midmorning and I’m starting to feel stressed out about my workload today. I seem really agitated because my body’s tense.”  

    As you practice mindfulness, here are some things that you can do:

    • Ask yourself about the time, location, and events taking place during a craving or desire
    • Do NOT label or judge your thoughts: For example, “I really lack self-control because I keep having the desire to eat whenever I feel stressed.”
    • Remember that you don’t need to respond to a thought just because you have it. This idea is important because it’s totally ok to have these thoughts. Thoughts, however, don’t become actions until we make choices.

    With mindfulness, you’ll “ride” the temporary feeling of discomfort in order to reach your goal. You’re doing this by not trying to suppress or avoid an unwanted thought.

    #3. Strengthen Willpower by Accepting Discomfort Today (and Not Tomorrow!) 

    Another way to strengthen willpower is by accepting discomfort today, rather than tomorrow.

    According to Dr McGonigal, one of the ways that people sabotage their goals is by thinking that they’ll tolerate the discomfort needed to reach that goal tomorrow. For example, many people will tell themselves that they’ll skip eating healthy today because they feel like they can always count on tomorrow.

    You can accept discomfort by

    • practicing mindfulness;
    • telling yourself that every action you fail to do today because it’s too difficult or burdensome, is also an action that will continue to be difficult tomorrow. So, for example, if I tell myself that I’ll have the piece of cake today because I won’t have it tomorrow, I need to remember that I don’t always have tomorrow. The difficulties associated with this action will also continue to be there tomorrow.
    • incorporating minor changes first rather than focusing on major ones. For example, instead of promising to run for an hour tomorrow, focus on going for a walk today.

    As the famous blogger Mark Manson says in his book:

    Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or squash it, or silence it, only backfires.”[4]

    So, accept the challenges associated with reaching your goal today!

    What You Can Do

    • Strengthen your goals by writing them down, and
    • Practice mindfulness, and
    • Acknowledge the negatives associated with reaching your goals by accepting discomfort.

    About the Author: Takwa Sharif is a freelance writer and editor from Salt Lake City, Utah. She holds a Master of Arts in English and also has minors in comparative literature and literacy. She’s a runner and loves cooking.

    [1] McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. Avery, 2013.

    [2]  Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press, 2006.

    [3] McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. Avery, 2013.

    [4] Manson, M. The subtle art of not giving a f*ck” New York City: Harper. 2016

  • How to Cultivate a Lasting Change in Ramadan

    Another year, another Ramadan. It’s Allah’s greatest blessings that He made the month of Ramadan as the greatest of months and a catalyst for our spiritual change. In this article, we discuss how scientifically proven steps can help us cultivate a lasting change that continues even long after Ramadan.

    Allah subuhanawuta’ala’s Mercy and Magnanimity are beyond any measures. He didn’t just make Ramadan the greatest and the most magnificent Month of the year for us to achieve Eternal Success, but He also chains up all the whispering troublemakers (i.e., shayateen – devils) so that we can fully focus and successfully graduate from this yearly training camp.

    “When the first night of the month of Ramadan comes, the devils and rebellious Jinn are chained up and the gates of Hell are closed, and not one gate of it is opened. The gates of Paradise are opened and not one gate of it is closed. A caller cries out, ‘O seeker of good, proceed; O seeker of evil, desist.’ Allah saves some people from Hell – and that happens every night.” (Saheeh, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Maajah)

    So, Ramadan becomes an ideal month for any who aspires to change his spiritual condition and to become a better person. Without the whispering troublemakers, Allah subuhanawuta’ala makes change easier for us.

    Being a slave of Allah and a lover of science, I want to combine the best of both worlds to help you get rid of those bad qualities you’ve always been wanting to shed off. Whether that is gossip, jealousy, anger or any other heart-related sins that you want to get rid of for good, this piece of article may be a great help, bi’idnillah!

    As a Nutrition and Exercise coach, I work with 100s of clients to help them change their lifestyle. However, getting rid of our own sins and replacing them with good qualities isn’t as easy as changing our lifestyle.

    Before we discuss the 6 scientifically proven steps, you need to understand that this change is hard and requires 100% commitment from you. If you aren’t serious, you won’t see any changes. But if you are serious, this will be Insha Allah truly a game changer. Besides commitment, here are the two most important ingredients you need to succeed!

    1. Du’a– It’s the month of du’a, so make sure you make as many du’as as possible for the desired change. With Allah’s help, even the hardest thing becomes super easy!
    2. Consistency – While traversing on this journey of change, you’ll inevitably fail. But that shouldn’t be an excuse to give up. For every attempt you make after failure, you’ll be rewarded by Allah if you are doing it for His Sake.

    There’s an old Japanese saying that explains the concept of commitment and consistency in just four words: “Fall seven, rise eight,” i.e. no matter how many times you get knocked down, you get up again. Even if you should fall one thousand times, you must keep getting up and trying again.

    If you want to achieve anything meaningful and of real worth, you need to struggle and persevere. There aren’t any shortcuts or quick fixes for real success.

    #1. Set a Goal

    What is the change you aspire to make? What is it exactly? Most of us want to change something, but we are vague about its details. That which you wish to change should be clearly defined with easy to execute steps.

    Let’s say you’ve decided to give up the evil habit of gossiping. Now, writing “no gossip” on a piece of paper as your Ramadan goal isn’t going to help you much.

    First and foremost, “no gossip” is a negative goal and it’s hard to implement. It’s like me asking you NOT to think of a white elephant. The first thing that will come to your mind will definitely be a white elephant!

    Our brain can’t understand such “negative goals,” hence it becomes very difficult to implement. So, if you’ve got a negative goal, make sure you replace it with a positive and actionable goal.

    And you can do this by examining the root cause of that “negative goal.” Sticking to our previous example, we mostly gossip, because we think bad about others. So, making it positive would be something like this: “Always think and talk good about others.”

    Now, this new positive goal is actionable. Whenever a bad thought comes, you know that you are supposed to think and talk good about others or just be silent.

    Before we go to the next step, take some time and define the change you want in a positive light. So “no gossip” becomes “always think and talk good about others!”

    #2. Define your Why

    You’ve set a goal and defined the change you want to achieve in your life. Now the question is, “Why do you want to achieve it?”

    The intention, i.e. the why behind what you want to do, is very important if you are serious about a lasting change.

    The stronger your why, the easier becomes the way.

    In the famous hadith, “Deeds are based on intention…,” Prophet (SAW) clearly says, “Everyone will get that what was indented,” regardless of what that intention is. So, if your intention is strong, you’ll get what you want.

    So, set your why, and the how becomes easy!

    There is a beautiful quotation attributed to Niche that basically sums up what I want to say: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

    If you want to learn more about setting your why, read this article.

    #3. Define your How

    Okay, great, you’ve now your goal and defined why you want to do it.

    As a third step, define your how, i.e. write down every possible way through which you can achieve this goal. Going back to our “no gossip” example, brainstorm when and where and how you gossip. Write down everything on a piece of paper.

    For instance, talking to a certain person leads you to gossip. What can you do to avoid it?

    So, it’s time to create your roadmap. When will you do what? Break it down. Map it out. It is crazy how simple plans increase performance by a ton!

    And most importantly use the IF… THEN principle. At its basic, the principle is this: You identify the potential obstacle and plan in advance how you’ll tackle that obstacle.

    “IF x happens, THEN I will do y”. So, “IF I open my mouth to gossip, THEN I’ll say something good about that person or remain silent.

    Or, “IF I’m in a situation where I hear people gossip, THEN I’ll change the topic or warn them of the consequences of the gossip.”

    IF… THEN principle is a very powerful tool that is designed by the famous psychologist Peter Gollwitzer. Use it and you’ll see how simple, yet powerful, it is!

    #4. Create an Environment to Flourish

    You are a product of your environment. So, if you want to leave a sin or create a change in your life, it’s always worth looking at your environment first. Most probably, your environment is conducive to the sin you currently commit. Unless you change the environment, any lasting change is very difficult.

    You may recall the hadith about the man who killed 99 people. What was the fatwa given to him? To change his environment and to go to a far place, as he was living in an evil place.

    When you want a plant to grow and flourish, you know that it needs the right environment to do so. Likewise, if you want to grow and flourish, you need an environment that is supporting and helping.

    Part of your environment is to create such supportive people.

    So, whatever change you are longing to undertake, make sure you’ve got the right people around you who are supportive of what you do.

    When you try alone, you’ll most probably not come far in your goal. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

    #5. Track your Progress

    Here is a little secret. If you want to improve anything in your life, start tracking your progress. As Peter Drucker, a famous management consultant says, “What gets measured gets improved.”

    So, decide what you want to track and then track how well you do on a daily basis. Especially for Ramadan, I’ve created a simple tracking sheet you and your family can use. Here is the link to download!

    The tracking is pretty straightforward and simple. Every time you gossip (despite your attempt NOT to do it), put an X on the sheet. The more X you’ve on the cell, the worse the day is.

    The goal is obviously to have as fewer “X” as possible. Doing this on a daily basis, you can compare whether you are improving or not.

    #6. Reward Yourself

    Now, it’s time to reward yourself for the progress you make. Small rewards can go a long way towards a lasting change.

    The reward can be anything that pleases you. It can be a positive word, money, experience, or a just a material thing. But make sure that you define the reward before you start to track your progress.  For instance, you can say, “If I take less than 10 X on the progress chart after a month, I’ll reward myself with $100 (or a trip to somewhere, or whatever that is enticing to you).

    Here are two ways through which you can make reward work for you:

    Immediate reward: When you catch yourself talking only good about others (and avoiding gossip at any cost), say to yourself silently, “That’s like me!” This way you are creating a positive self-image of yourself. The more you feed your brain with “that’s like me” experience, the better your self-image becomes. This ultimately leads you to the change you want, bi’idnillah!

    Short term reward: Every week (or in this case just after Ramadan), see how well you’ve progressed and reward yourself accordingly.

    Take Action

    I’ve listed and simplified the six big steps you need to take to make a viable change. Now it’s your turn to follow them.

    In his famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie said this: “Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. So, if you desire to master the principles you are studying in this book, do something about them. Apply these rules at every opportunity. If you don’t, you will forget them quickly. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.”

    So, please go ahead and take action!

  • How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You a Better Person

    In part one, we discussed the five undeniable rewards of being a thankful servant of Allah. In this part, we’ll explore what the latest science has to say about gratitude and how practising this noble act can make you a better person.

    Practicing gratitude is one of the utmost fundamentals of Islam. In our previous article, we discussed the importance of it and also the rewards we get from Allah subuhanawuta’ala.

    In this article, I would like to explore the latest research about gratitude and show you how practising gratitude on a daily basis can make you a better person.

    Enter Thanks!

    Dr Robert Emmons is a professor at the University of California, and he’s one of the world’s leading experts on the science of gratitude.

    In his outstanding book Thanks!, he deciphers why gratitude can literally be one of the few things that measurably change peoples’ lives.

    Based on scientific research, this book validates what the Quran and Sunnah teach us about gratitude.

    Here are five things from this book I’ve learned and implemented in my life:

    #1. Gratitude Boosts Happiness

    From a scientific angle, Emmons argues that gratitude is a key to happiness. And as human beings, we all want to be happy, don’t we?

    And there are lots of benefits of being happy and here are some based on recent researches:

    • Research shows that happy people have a higher income, a greater productivity and have a higher quality of work
    • Happy people also have larger social rewards (such as more satisfying and longer marriages, more friends, stronger social support, and richer social interactions)
    • Happiness also improves your immune system, lowers stress levels and improves your overall physical health
    • Happy individuals are also more creative, helpful, charitable, have better self-control, self-confidence and show greater self-regulatory and coping abilities.

    Wow! So much goodness in just being happy! You can boost your happiness just by practising gratitude to Allah subuhanawuta’ala and the people around you. Now, isn’t that awesome?

    #2. Gratitude Wards Off Your Negative Feelings

    Gratitude not only boosts your happiness, but it can also ward off your negative feelings when you are clouded with them.

    Psychologists refer this fact to emotional incompatibility. In simple language, this is what they mean: You can’t experience both positive emotions and negative emotions at the same time, i.e. you can’t be happy and sad at the same time.

    By practising a positive emotion such as gratitude during a difficult time, you are in fact warding off negative emotions instantly.

    #3. Practice Gratitude When Things Go Hard and Challenging

    This point is something similar to #2, but it’s not the same. In #2 we discussed negative feelings, and here we are going to discuss situations that are hard and challenging.

    You see, it’s fairly easy to feel grateful when everything’s going well, but it’s not easy to be grateful for our blessings when we face challenging times.

    But here is a little secret: It’s during our challenging times we grow the most! Prophet (SAW) hints on this in the following hadith:

    “Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affairs are good, and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him, he is grateful, and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him, he is patient, and that is good for him” (Saheeh Muslim)

    So how can you practice gratitude when things go hard?

    Here is a simple way to implement:

    Whenever you are faced with a hard and challenging time, think about just one positive outcome in that hard time. The truth is, regardless of how worse the situation is, there is always a positive outcome.

    That’s one of our fundamental beliefs as Muslims. Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) embodied this behaviour while reacting to calamities. He said,

    “If Allah strikes me with calamity I will thank Allah for four things:

    1. that the test was not in my deen (my religion)
    2. the calamity could have been worse
    3. it is an expiation for my sins
    4. any loss after losing the Prophet (PBUH) is nothing.”

    #4. Practicing Gratitude Towards Your Spouse Improves Your Relationship

    Leading psychologist John Gottman is an expert in marital relations. In his two decades of observational research, he concludes that unless a couple is able to maintain a high ratio of positive to negative affect (5:1 or greater), it is likely that their marriage will end (or at least the marriage won’t be a satisfying one).

    So, according to Gottman, the ratio of love is 5:1, i.e. you got to have at least five positive interactions with your spouse for every negative interaction.

    Gottman has become so good at spotting the strengths and weaknesses of a marriage, he can predict with 90 percent accuracy whether the marriage will end in divorce or not, often after just three minutes of observation in his marriage lab.

    Guess what; there is a way to boost your positive to negative ratio instantly: Practicing gratitude in your marriage.  

    Here are few ways how I practice gratitude in my marriage:

    • I thank my wife for EVERY meal she prepares for me
    • I always look for opportunities to say “Thank you” even for the little things she does for me
    • I take few minutes every day (sometimes just before I go to sleep) to share at least three things I appreciate about her

    Simple practices such as these can transform your marriage. Don’t trust my words?  Implement them in your life and see how your marriage life transforms instantly, bi’idnillah!

    Now, what one thing you can do to practice gratitude in your marriage or your relationship with others?

    #5. Writing a Gratitude Journal Before Bed Improves Sleep Quality

    Emmons says:

    “It may sound simplistic, but the evidence cannot be ignored: if you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep.”

    He says, people who jotted the blessing before bed, slept more time, spending less time awake before falling asleep, and feeling more refreshed upon awakening.

    And I can testify to this. Since I’ve read this book, I’ve been writing “Alhamdulillah Journal” just before I go to sleep and feeling a difference in my sleep.

    I keep a simple notebook next to my bed and scribble five simple things I’m grateful for on that day. It looks something like this

    • Alhamdulillah for the cool, clean water
    • Alhamdulillah for the nice warm bed
    • Alhamdulillah for the healthy meals
    • Alhamdulillah for my three little princesses
    • Alhamdulillah for the beautiful view from my balcony

    As you notice, I mention both the small and big blessings. That’s because I want to be a thankful servant of Allah and thank Him for every little blessing and don’t want to take things for granted.

    I also write different blessings every day, as I want to avoid “gratitude fatigue” by counting fresh new blessings every day. This way you train your brain to look for new blessings, instead of focusing on new problems.

    Few Other Ways to Practice Gratitude

    Part of being a thankful servant of Allah, we should increase our good deeds as much as we can and avoid the bad deeds to the best of our ability. That’s the most fundamental part of being thankful to our Creator.

    Apart from that, here are few more ways how we can show gratitude to Him and the people around us:

    • Each of us has been blessed with the different type of blessings. We got to practice mentioning them verbally. Al-Hassan said, “constantly mention these favours, for mentioning them is giving thanks”. We can mention these blessing to our close family members in order to remind all of us about Allah’s countless blessings.
    • While reciting the frequent supplications such as after eating, drinking, dressing etc., be extra mindful of the meaning. When you praise Allah, feel it from your heart. Don’t just parrot the words, feel the thankfulness in your heart.
    • Practicing gratitude from your heart is a noble act. Remember this hadith very often: Allah is pleased with a man who eats food and praises Him for it, and takes a drink and praises Him for it. (Sahih Muslim, No. 6932)
    • Part of showing gratitude to Allah is showing gratitude to people. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), said, “He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi) Perhaps, we should start this from our own homes. Are we thankful to our parents, spouses, siblings for all their help? How often we thank our spouse for the daily chore they do?
  • How to Commit Yourself to a Lifelong Commitment

    Whether you want to get into the best shape of your life, be the greatest spouse, raise amazing kids or even just achieve financial freedom, you need to commit to making it happen. So success in any field requires you to commit yourselves to a set of commitments. In this article, I’ll reveal the science of commitments and give you simple strategies to succeed in every area of your life.

    You’ll most probably agree with me when I say that without consistent commitments, you won’t achieve anything meaningful in your life.

    The successful person in any field stands out because he/she is committed to what they do.

    Now as a Muslim, you know the importance of commitment more than anyone else. The Ultimate Success, i.e., Jannathul Firdous, is only attainable if you’re committed to becoming a good, God-conscious Muslim who stays away from prohibited things and constantly strives to do good deeds.

    So, your true success in both worlds very much depends on the consistent commitments you make daily. It’s not something that you choose to do on a yearly or monthly basis; rather it’s something that you commit to do on a daily basis!

    In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah (ra), the Prophet (PBUH) says, “Take on only as much as you can do of good deeds, for the best deeds is that which is done consistently, even if it is little” (Sunan ibn Majah).

    Well, if you’re wondering what the ingredients of consistent commitment are, here they are!

    The Commitment Equation

    Here’s the equation for real success: (Desire + Action) x Consistency = Commitment

    Ok, let me explain this with a simple example: as a reader of my blog, you are most probably looking for ways to improve your health and increase your energy. You might also be looking to achieve the best shape of your life.

    Let’s say that you’re ready to commit yourself to achieving the best shape of your life so that you can be the best in what you do with increased confidence.

    You have the desire to achieve that lean & healthy body that you’ve always wanted. Now, needless to say, just with this desire, you’ll never achieve the body you want. You also need to put the right efforts to make it happen. And you need to work on it on a consistent basis.

    So, commitment means, you are willing to put the work consistently to achieve the desired outcome.

    Ok, let’s jump into the details of each component!

    Desire: Do You REALLY Want It?

    Now, before you commit yourself to anything, the question you should ask yourself is this: “Do I REALLY want it? Do I have a burning desire to achieve this outcome?”

    Here’s the thing, if you want your commitment to be strong, you need a strong desire too. Your level of desire matches your level of commitment.

    Here are two steps you can take to increase your desire to commit:

    1. Find the true purpose of your commitment. Going back to the previous example, what is the purpose of getting into the best shape of your life? In a previous article, I explained how you could find out your true purpose using a 5-why system. Please read part 1 and part 2 of this system to understand it well.
    2. Ask yourself the following question: What’s the immediate gratification that I get when I commit to ……. (fill in the blanks)?
      For instance, I’m very committed to working out every day. Coupled with my strong purpose and the immediate gratification of “feeling good” and “more energy” drives me to exercise regardless of where I am!

    Now, you can apply this to any area of your life. Let’s talk about raising kids. My real purpose of raising obedient, God-fearing kids is to make them role models for others. So, my kids become an ideal investment for my Aakhira.

    All that sounds good, but what’s the immediate gratification I get by raising obedient, God-fearing kids? I have a peaceful, serene home! And that’s priceless for any parent!

    Here’s a little comparison for you to understand this more deeply. True purpose can be compared to a “long-term” goal. The immediate gratification is a tiny reward you get to pursue your “long-term” goal. It’s the fuel you need to drive to reach your real purpose.

    Great, now that you’ve set a “burning desire”, let’s move on to the action part; that’s where the magic happens!

    Action: One Bite at a Time

    How do you eat an elephant? (ok, I get it… it’s haram to eat elephants. But what about a huge whale? Have you got any appetite for that? :-))

    You probably know the answer. One bite at a time. While this wisdom is prevalent, we are stuck when it comes to implementation.

    We have grandiose goals, and they stay grandiose forever because we are too afraid to take the first “bite”!

    So, at first, any goal or commitment might look huge and most probably impossible to achieve. But, if you were to break down these goals or commitments into smaller, doable chunks, it becomes much easier to achieve them. (Here’s a secret: This is how I coach my clients to achieve astounding results through my six months Online Coaching Programme)

    Let me give you an example: in the 1950s, Roger Bannister had an “impossible” goal. He wanted to run a mile under 4 minutes. This may sound simple now, but until 1954, no one in the history of humankind ever achieved it. Every smart person before 1950 said that it’s ‘humanly impossible’ to run a mile in less than four minutes because many had tried it before, but no one ever even got close to achieving this goal.

    However, Roger Bannister did break through this seemingly impossible task. And how did he do it?

    He broke his goal into small bite-size, doable pieces and honed his practice by committing to do it almost on a daily basis.

    • First, he trained until he could run a quarter mile under a minute.
    • Next, he trained until he could run half a mile in two minutes.
    • Then, he trained until he could run three-quarters of a mile in three minutes.
    • Lastly, he trained until he thought he could run the full mile in less than four minutes.

    So, regardless of how big your goal or the commitment is, you can break it into smaller, doable chunks to overcome the barrier of inaction.

    Let’s say; you want to exercise daily for 30 minutes. If you’ve never exercised before, this may be very daunting. What if you break this goal into small chunks, that you’ve no excuse not to do it? Starting with “2 pushups a day”, “2 minutes of exercise a day” or anything small enough to get started.

    Just Do It

    In the great book, A Mind for Numbers, Barbara Oakley talks about procrastination and shares an interesting study.

    The researchers took students who hated doing math and scanned their brains. The researchers saw that the students’ pain centres would light up as they contemplated having to do math.

    But here’s the deal.

    Those pain centres turned off the moment when the students actually started doing the math.

    It was the anticipation that was painful. And doing the math? Not so much.

    So the “pain” of doing something is much lesser than the pain of waiting (or anticipating). It’s the anticipation of doing something that’s getting you stressed out. So, don’t wait long, just jump in and do it as Nike suggests :-)!

    Consistency: The Foundation of Success

    The last but the most important component of commitment is consistency. I call this step the foundation of success.

    Just having a burning desire and working on that commitment won’t bring any success if you aren’t consistent.

    If all you can do is just 5 minutes of exercise a day, and you do it daily, that’s certainly better than an hour workout once a week.

    The best human being (PBUH), who ever worked on the earth said, “The most beloved of deeds to Allah are those that are most consistent, even if it is small (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

    So, whether you are committing to do something for the success of this Dunya or the Aakhira, the most important component is consistency!

    Implement the Good Because You Deserve the Best

    Remember the Hadith of the Beloved (PBUH) as you set your goals and work towards them because everything good must become part of your routine in order for it to really “stick” with you forever. And once it sticks…, well then you’re that much closer to your goal!

  • 4 Weight Loss Secrets No One Talks About!

    When you think about weight loss, the two primary factors that come to mind are nutrition and exercise. Sure, they play a major role in weight loss, but there’s more to sustainable weight loss than just nutrition and exercise.

    Many people tend to oversimplify weight loss: “Eat less and workout more.” This is also what most crash diets promote.

    However, eating less and exercising more doesn’t necessarily lead to sustainable weight loss. With crash diets, you’ll lose some weight, but you’ll soon regain most of the lost weight within a couple of months or years.

    If you are serious about losing weight and keeping it off, then you need to tackle the issue holistically.

    With this post, I would like to present you with four less well-known strategies to losing weight and improving your overall health. These strategies are, perhaps, as crucial as nutrition and exercise.

    Secret 1: Reduce stress

    One of the easiest things you can do to lose weight is to be happy. Sweet, huh?

    This is because chronic stress and anxiety inhibit weight loss. When you are stressed out, your cortisol hormone levels spike. Research suggests that high cortisol level makes the loss of extra fat difficult and that this increase in cortisol can lead to weight gain too.

    Cortisol also messes up with your hunger hormones. This usually leads to overeating and cravings. Needless to say that this is definitely not an ideal scenario if you want to lose weight.

    So, aim to reduce stress in your life. Methods such as the remembrance of Allah, meditation and exercise can help you reduce stress in your life. However, one of the best things you can do to reduce stress is to send salawath to our beloved Prophet Muhammed (PBUH).

    “Whoever supplicates to Allah by exalting my mention (i.e., sending salawath), Allah will exalt his mention (i.e., send salawath) ten times and remove from him ten sins and raise him ten degrees.” (Sahih Muslim)

    I mean, just imagine, Allah, who is As-Salam (the source of Peace, Safety and Perfection) sends peace upon you! What would be the effect? Subhanallah!

    Secret 2: Sleep better

    I’ve discussed this in an earlier blog post, but if you aren’t sleeping well, then you are probably not doing enough for your health.

    A study published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes found that those who slept circa 8 hours a night lost 56 percent more body fat compared to those who just got around 5 hours of sleep a night. What’s interesting is that in this study, both groups followed the same diet.

    So the simple truth you should know about sleep is this: less sleep leads to more body fat. If you really want to lose weight and want to know what might be preventing weight loss, then monitor your sleep patterns and remember to sleep well. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep daily!

    Secret 3: Eat mindfully

    What do I mean by eating mindfully? By this, I mean being engaged in what you eat. Savour, observe the texture of, and most importantly, thank Allah subuhanawuta’alafor each and every morsel of your food!

    So, mindfulness in eating means no TV, Internet or reading while you eat. Eating while watching TV is shown to increase one’s food intake by almost 30%! Therefore, how you eat is as important as what you eat.

    Mindfulness is an important Islamic concept. The success of this dunya and the Aakhira depends very much on it!

    Secret 4: Change your mindset

    “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” ― Henry Ford

    This quote basically summarises the importance of our mindsets.

    If you believe that you can lose weight and you are confident about it, then these positive thoughts can lead to constructive behaviours, increased motivation and energy levels.

    On the other hand, negative thoughts such as, “I’ll never be able to lose weight”, will discourage you from taking any appropriate measures to improve your health and to become lean.

    Question: Which of these “secrets” will you implement today to achieve a lean and healthy body?

  • Three Steps to a Positive Mind-Set

    As you may have probably read in a previous blog post ‘you are what you think’, we talked about the importance of positive thinking. So today, I am to tackle developing positive thinking in ways that are more practical.

    A disclaimer: I won’t claim these three steps to be super easy to follow. But if you are committed and consistent with these three steps, you will see magical results soon enough, insha Allah.

    “Positive mind-set” is certainly not a one-time action, instead it is a lifestyle. And for any kind of positive changes in life needs commitment and consistency.

    First Step: Purify Your Thoughts

    What you think and what you feel have a huge impact on your actions and choices in life. There is a saying that ‘your outer world is a reflection of your inner world’. And it couldn’t be more true.

    Since your thoughts become words, and your words become actions, it is important to purify your thoughts first.

    So, how can you purify your thoughts?

    1. Increase your repentance. Ask Allah sincerely to forgive you and do it often. Our Beloved Prophet used to do at least 100 times a day.
    2. Moist your tongue with Allah’s remembrance. Increase your adhkar and send salawath on our beloved Prophet (SAW)
    3. Know that what ever happens to a mu’min is good for him/her. “Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affair is good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him” (Saheeh Muslim)
    4. Think good about others. “If you come to know that a brother has harmed you with either a word or a deed, you should make an excuse for him; if you did not find one, you should say, ‘There may be an excuse that I do not know of.’” – Ibn Seereen

    Second Step: Always Speak Good and Positive Words

    Like anything in life, the more often you do something the easier it gets. So, the more you work on the first step, the easier it will become for you to use good and positive words, insha Allah.

    Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was a true optimist. He (SAW) was always encouraged the use of positive and inspiring words. In a beautiful hadith, he (SAW) said;

    “There is no ‘adwa (transmission of infectious disease without the permission of Allah) and no tiyarah (superstitious belief in bad omens), but I like optimism.” They (sahaba) said, “What is optimism?” He said, “A good word.”  (Sahih Bukhari & Muslim)

    So next time when you converse with someone, focus on using positive and encouraging words. And the words you choose to say have an impact on your state of mind. Try one of these replies, when someone asks you how you are doing:

    • “Alhamdulillah, I’m ok”
    • “Alhamaduillah, I’m great”

    The word “great” has greater effect on your mind. Thus, you’ll feel better using this word vs. just ‘ok’.

    Always remember to use positive and encouraging words. By repeating such words in all areas of your life, you will be able to consciously elbow out any negative and discouraging words.

    Third Step: Act Like a Positive Person

    Usually, you can’t really fake an action. We all know the difference between a genuine smile and fake one. So, when you work on the first two steps, the third step will automatically come as a direct result of  your positive thoughts and words.

    So, next time whenever you feel positive, use the moment to do something positive. Smile, give hope or speak a beautiful word. Do something to uplift someone else’s life through a positive action. This will have an incredible effect on your positive thinking, insha Allah.

    Know, that you are a collection of your thoughts, words and actions. That’s what really defines you. So next time when you have a bad thought be careful not to let it get to you.

  • You Are What You Think

    I can still precisely remember the time, place and event that truly changed the course of my life.

    It was a cold day in December. I slipped on the winter ice and broke my left hand – I was 17 at the time. Recovering, I spent three weeks in hospital.

    Being holed up in the hospital, those three weeks became a true blessing for me.With nothing to keep me company but some great books, my life literally changed forever. And, I am not exaggerating. It was during this time that I became acquainted with ‘You are what you think you are’.

    A couple of years after this, I happened to come across a beautiful explanation of the famous hadith: ‘deeds are based on intentions’ (Bukhari and Muslim). This newfound knowledge sealed by belief in the words: ‘You are what you think you are’. It is a bit of a mouthful but from that point onwards, I have always strived hard to practice positive thinking. After all, I know that I am, what I think I am.

    And I must say, Alhamdullilah, ever since I have started practicing this, my performance in everything I do has doubled. In fact, I have been positive about life, regardless of what happens around me and as a result, my confidence has gone up too.

    However, life, as we know it, is not all that perfect. So, on the occasion where negativity takes over, I have noticed how badly it affects my levels of energy and how bad I feel. I find it hard to move forward.

    But, those days of positive thinking are truly magical and I feel bad keeping this life-enhancing strategy all to myself. Especially as I have told you about the life-draining side effects of thinking negatively.

    So,these are some important lessons I have learned from positive thinking:

    1. Thinking positively is like charging your brain. You feel better and your energy level goes up rapidly. When you think negatively, your energy is sucked out and you aren’t capable of doing anything productively.
    2. Your confidence level is very high. Therefore your can-do attitude doesn’t set limits to what you can do. I’ve personally never put any limitations to what I can do. Alhamdulillah.
    3. Every failure is regarded as a testing ground. So, you learn why certain things don’t work out as you imagined it would. And next time you know how to make it better.
    4. Nothing is impossible. Don’t think of what you can do – think of what Allah can do for you! Have the deep conviction that your du’as will be answered. Positive thinking helps you to think bigger and thus you end up asking Allah for things that are mostly impossible for human minds to grasp!

    This is what I hope to convey in my post today, insha Allah. Quit thinking like a failure. As Muslims, we might be going through a super difficult position, but that is not really an excuse to think negatively.

    So, listen up! We all know the story of our Beloved (PBUH) and his visit to Ta’if. He (PBUH) was pelted with stones, to the extent that his entire body was covered in cuts that were bleeding and his shoes were clogged to his feet.

    When the Angel of Mountains offered to crush the people of Ta’if by bringing together the two mountains around Ta’if, our Prophet (PBUH) said:

    “Even if these people do not accept Islam, I do hope from Allah that there will be persons from among their progeny who would worship Allah and serve His cause.”

    SubuhanAllah, I am sure you would agree that this is the ultimatum of positive thinking. The Prophet (PBUH), as we are now, was at the most difficult time of his life and yet he was being super hopeful. He could not return to Makkah without any pledges of support, but he ultimately placed his trust in the One and Only.

    This kind of positive thinking is what we should aim for. If you are thinking it is easier said than done, I agree. It takes hard work but first you need vision. I sincerely hope that the example of our Beloved (PBUH) gives you perspective to work hard to achieve a positive outlook on life. Ameen.

    In order to win in life, positive thinking is important in all aspects of our life, including in becoming lean and healthy. The Prophet (PBUH) was positive in all aspects of his beautiful life– during the happy times as well as the harshest ones. That’s why I include this psychological aspect in our coaching.

    In part two, we shall discuss how to practice positive thinking to become a winner in all aspects of our life, insha Allah.