Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Finding Keys (Bluer than You Think)

Source: Alamy
Everyone’s had that moment, the moment where you put your hand into your bag or on to the table... and your keys are not there. Oh how you are exasperated! You’re late and this is just not the time. “Where oh where are my keys?” you ask out loud to no one in particular. Are they in your pocket? No. Are they on the fireplace? No. Are they in the bottom of your bag, hiding? Better empty every single item out and check. Are they there? Nope, not there either. It’s a sad affair.

Eventually you find them (you nearly always find them) and move on with your day, slightly disgruntled at the memory. Maybe you take the occurrence personally (“Why am I always losing my keys?! I have a memory like a sieve! Keys now, marbles later...”) or maybe you’re just too awesome for it to be your fault (“I swear my keys don’t want to be found. In fact, not just my keys, all keys. They’re in it together, I can tell. I just feel it. Probably have their own club badge and everything. Wonder if their association’s on Facebook yet? Must remember to do a search when I get back home...”)

What’s interesting is, on a regular day, when our keys are where we thought they were, we don’t react in the opposite way. We rarely think “Why do I always find my keys?” or “I swear my keys just want to be found.” No one ever comes into work grinning saying “I found my keys without looking today! I’m so blessed to have the everyday things run so effortlessly in my life!” If you have heard this, chances are you questioned the person’s sanity. Why are we so unwilling to rejoice in the parts of our life that tend to go right and yet are so easily brought down by the rare times when they don’t?

Turns out it’s a widespread human phenomenon. Studies show time and time again that we react more strongly to bad than good. For example, the distress of losing $50 is greater than the joy of winning $50, even though the extent of the change in money is exactly the same. Studies in relationships show that it takes about five positive comments to make up for the harm of one negative one. Other research has shown that having a bad day affects your mood the next day too but having a good day doesn’t affect the day after at all! It’s as if we expect the positive so hardly notice it. Yet when the negative comes along, we give it all our attention and boy do we let it bring us down. We give one bad aspect, characteristic, event or memory power over several good ones. Isn’t that a little silly?

This human tendency to be more conscious of the bad than the good is bound to have consequences.  Firstly, it gives us a skewed perception of our lives. What we think about our experiences and the world around us is not even accurate! Secondly, we’re not acknowledging all the good things. It’s no wonder Allāh says:
“... And few of My servants are grateful.” (Saba’, 34:13)

Source: Show My IQ
Well let’s all just give up here then; throw in the towel and cry on our beds until it’s all over. We’re doomed to be ungrateful and consumed by the bad in our lives anyway, right? You can do that if you’d like... but I have other plans. See, that might be the tendency, that might be how the majority think, but that doesn’t have to be us. Why can’t we be among the few? I shared these findings with you because sometimes knowledge really is power. Knowing that the bad is psychologically stronger than the good means that we can be conscious of the process when it’s happening and stop it dead in its tracks. We can own it before it owns us.

When the bad stuff comes along, question it with a bit of objectivity. You now know it’s likely to make a bit too much of itself and nestle deep in your brain thoughts, so remind it how things really are. Remind yourself that this is just one bad occurrence among many good and that that is the real truth of it all. In this way, you can use every bad thing that happens to you as a reminder of the good that usually occurs in its place. Take it as an opportunity to thank Allāh.

How many days do you wake up headache free? How many of your family and friends didn’t lie to you today? How many exams have you passed? Whatever your grievance is, flip it on its head. Really assess the situation and you’ll realise that you’re protected from inconvenience, pain and discomfort repeatedly within every second of your life.

When the good stuff comes along, catch it quick and make an effort to give it the attention its worth. You now know it’s likely to get all shy and try to hide from your view so you need to chase it. Keep your mind focussed on the blessing you’ve been given by thanking Allāh for being the One who gave it to you.

You favourite chocolate is back in stock at the local supermarket? Alḥamdulillāh, couldn’t have been without Allāh. Had a good chat with your friend? All praise and thanks is due to Allāh for being the One who destined for you to meet.  Found your keys without looking this morning? Praise the Lord for saving you a few extra minutes! Do it when you’re saying ‘Alḥamdulillāh’ 33 times after prayer or before sleeping by contemplating specific things during the day you’ve been grateful for. Keep a notepad and pen by your bed and before going to sleep every night, write down three things that happened which you were happy about that day. By getting into the habit of doing this you’re training yourself to notice the good things and that will only invite more of them into your life.

Here’s a little experiment to show you how it works. I’m assuming you’re reading this in a place with which you’re familiar so, whilst looking at the screen, from memory name all the things around you that are blue.


How many can you remember? Maybe three, four or five? Now look around you and see how many you can find.


The blue just shines out, doesn’t it? It’s everywhere! My guess is you’re even seeing the blue in the turquoise and the blue in the dark purple. In the same way, looking out for the positive in your life will surround you in it.

It may be a human trait to let the negative aspects of our lives overpower the positives, but we don’t have to be victims of it. By giving ourselves a more accurate perception of our experiences and focusing on the good, we can work towards being amongst the few. Adopt the Gratitude Attitude and you’ll only get more of the good stuff. True story, Allāh told you so. Oh how the tables can turn.
“If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour].” (Ibrāhīm, 14:7)
Source: Jadydangel

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  1. Very nice post and very insightful indeed. I love it on how it focuses on highlighting what is positive and on avoiding highlighting what is negative. Negative energy drains us. I like this line "Studies in relationships show that it takes about five positive comments to make up for the harm of one negative one" and this: " Yet when the negative comes along, we give it all our attention and boy do we let it bring us down. We give one bad aspect, characteristic, event or memory power over several good ones. Isn’t that a little silly?"

    1. Jazak Allahu khairan for your comment! I really appreciate you taking the time to say a few kind words.

  2. So, I read this properly now, and had a minute or two to notice lots of nice things, and unnotice some bad things --> happier me:

    It’s my last night walhamdulillah
    I haven’t run out of blackcurrant juice yet and it’s already 4 am
    My peach is bruised after being at the bottom of my bag for 3 days, but there are still nice unbruised bits on it (I ate both bits, and I know it doesn’t help the starving children in Africa if I eat bruised peach, but it reduces the cognitive dissonance in my head)
    I don’t have to deal with the horribly rude med reg from yesterday
    I haven’t lost my steth for ages - it has some left over stickers from paeds and the little penguin which says Well Done is cute and made me smile
    I have easy access to tea-making facilities which make my life bearable
    I have a bagel with utterly butterly and honey on to look forward to for work-breakfast, then I’ll have coco-pops at home and tea again (inshaAllah)
    I don’t have a headache (I considered whether to put ‘yet’, but decided that it would be against the spirit of the article to do so :))
    The nurses tonight in general weren’t utterly useless and incompetent
    I read a funny article in the Independent which made me laugh for ages (If you’re a fat wannabe GP, in order to pass exams, you should "project an image of Santa Claus. Put your hands on top of your protuberant abdomen, with your fingers interlocking but open." )
    I like the word protuberant
    My muhajirah friend from qasim sent me a text and is going to be my friend on twitter (finally!)
    I’ve got a nice swivelly chair to sit on
    My bleep hasn’t gone off in the time it took to write this

    … and soooooo many more things that would completely bore you to death. Alhamdulillah. I never thought noticing un-bad things could be so enlightening. But here I am, enlightened by the un-badness of the world. Thank you samo xxx

    Fave line: Adopt the Gratitude Attitude and you’ll only get more of the good stuff.

    1. Your comments and reflections never fail to make me smile! Jazaki Allahu khairan for sharing all the good stuff with me. Turns out you're pretty awesome at it. Feel free to message me with a list of them whenever you catch yourself getting drowned in the bad and maybe I'll do the same with you!

  3. very insightful post.I love all the psychology in it ;-)
    keep up the good work!

    Asma (Mother's Notebook)

    1. Jazaki Allahu khairan for your kind comment! I love the psychology in it too!