Monday, 23 September 2013

What Being Grateful Feels Like

A dear sister writes:

     When are we happy? When we are out with friends? When we have just won some award? When we’ve passed an exam? Must we be happy only when something exciting is happening in our lives? We’re graduating, we just got a job, or getting married etc. Must we be laughing, grinning from ear to ear or jumping in joy to be happy?
     What does happiness feel like? What does it look like? Do we think laughing friends, pictures of people grinning from ear to ear, or people jumping in joy capture the look of happiness? Usually that’s what we think of when we think “happiness” and usually, we are right to think they are happy. 
     But what about those calm, serene moments, are we not happy then? Are you happy now as you are on the internet reading this post? 
     Now how about if something bad is happening in our lives, can it be possible that we can still be happy then? Must everything be going well for us to be happy? I mean hey, maybe you’ve got two exams coming up, or your friends weren't really your friends at all, or you’ve got only ten dollars in the bank, or there’s a big fight in the family, you can’t possibly be happy!
     See you’ve probably heard people say things like, “if I just had [enter desire here], I would be happy” or “she’s so popular, smart and pretty, she must be so happy. I envy her” or “poor him, he [enter tough living description here] it must suck to be him”. But the thing is, why have we become so reliant on the situation of a person to predict their level of happiness? Why have you become so used to accessing your level of happiness by judging your situation in life.
     It’s easy to be happy. Just be grateful. If you are grateful in every situation, you are happy in every situation.
     Now then, how can you be grateful? It’s not something you can be overnight. You can’t just snap your fingers and BAM! You’re a grateful happy person now. So the reason I’m writing this post is to share with you some lessons I’ve learned and something I’ve done to help me stay grateful.

One: a friend once told me, there are two types of people: people who remember bad things about their past and people who remember good things.
What you remember about your past says a lot about you. Do you remember mainly bad things or good things? The thing is, if you remember the good things in your life regardless of how many horrible things have happened to you, you can rely on the fact that you will continue to always remember the good things. This means that, say you’re going through a rough time, if you’ve built the habit of remembering good things, then say, in a year from now, you will remember the good that happened. This is a good thing and it’s very helpful because it tells you that you can smile now about your past and in the future you can smile about your now. 
     Now bare with me for a second, because I’m about to get really dark here. Some of you might be thinking, well I’ve had unimaginably horrible things happen to me, it’s not my fault I remember the bad. Some of you might have been physically abused by someone you loved, some of you might have been sexually assaulted, some of you might have been bullied, some of you might have experience a lot of death in the family. You’re thinking, with such horrible events like these, how can I possibly remember more good than bad? 
     But I’m here to tell you, you can, because I can, which means so can you. At first it will be hard, you’ll try really hard to come up with some good memories because the bad ones have taken up a lot of “storage”. It’ll take weeks, but you can sit down and write a few good memories in a small journal (if you like that sort of thing) or simply just remember them. What’s even better to do is to remember good memories that happened during the bad ones, or even to remember all the good things that happened because of the bad thing.

Two: When you fantasize about something you wish to happen, don’t be so inflexible as to think that is the only way you want it to happen. You might land the job you’ve always wanted a completely different way than you expected, or you might get you never expected to have! You might get married much earlier or later than you expected, and it really doesn’t matter! Lower your expectations (that’s something you’ve heard before) and don’t imagine the details of how you want something to happen, just let them happen!

Three: You might find this thing very silly, but maybe that’s because I came up with this idea when I was in grade five. So here we go:
    My Mom once told me, if you are thankful about something, God will increase it. Now, to my ten year old mind, I considered that to be my ticket to everlasting good things. I took a bunch of lined paper and began with “101 things I’m grateful for”. Once I finished I gathered up the family and got them all to say “Alhamdu le Allah” for each and every thing on that list. We literally sat in a circle and said Alhamdu Le Allah each time I went over something on that list. 
    Now, if you try this, you’ll notice something, and that’re mind will go blank once you hit a number somewhere between 15-50. Of course God’s blessing to us are infinite but not to your simple mind trying to think of them. But this is a good thing. Eventually, if you’re like me, you’ll hit a stage where you’ll start naming your dish washer as a blessing, and you might think it’s funny but.... it really is a blessing. You’ll start brain storming things like eye sight or a warm bed every night, and that's the whole point! 
     Now as for me, I continued doing these lists every year or so and I still have them. Every once in a while I go back and read them over as a reminder and as a bit of encouragement. There are plenty of things on those lists that have improved more than double and it’s nice to think that I was once grateful for something that is now a fraction of what I now have. It’s also nice because you can see how God’s blessings have grown over time and encouraging to think of how they will inshaAllah continue to grow. 

     Four: Don’t wait until everything in your life lines up perfectly and for everything to go right. You can be happy now. You don’t have to wait for that promotion, or for that exam to pass. You can be happy as you are studying for it (don’t believe me, well at least give it a try).

PS. Another way to be happy is to write your own death note. Sounds creepy but perhaps it's not so crazy after all. Click here to read more on why you should write one.

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