We’ve all felt it.
A feeling of uncertainty, anxiousness and sometimes hopelessness.
Many people may find themselves having difficulty being motivated to keep moving forward with excitement and a positive outlook, at different times throughout their lives. These days, we all live in a time filled with stress and anxiety due to the rising effects of materialism. A world where we are in a constant state of a pursuit of happiness, but don’t know how to find it.
So, how do we find positivity?
Islam establishes a simple, logical approach to positivity.
Positive thinking, or having an optimistic attitude, is the practice of focusing on the good in any given situation. It simply means you approach the good and the bad in life with the expectation that things will go well. Sometimes, it’s not easy. We can naturally tend to expect the worst and be pessimistic. But research has shown that there are many benefits of being positive.
Many studies have looked at the role of optimism and positive thinking, and how it benefits us not only psychologically or emotionally, but also how it affects our physical health. In one experiment, adults who meditated daily on positive thoughts started feeling more positive emotions each day. Other studies have shown that positive thinking helps people manage illness and eases depression, regardless of whether they are naturally optimistic or pessimistic.
Islam describes positive thinking as a skill you can learn and benefit from, rather than a personality trait. It describes optimism as something we can develop, something we can nurture and gradually implement in our lives.
Whatever energy we give our attention to is what we will ultimately experience. When we focus on the abundance of good things in our lives, we will automatically attract more positive things into our lives. But if we center ourselves on negative thoughts and only focus on what we lack in life, then we will ultimately attract negativity into our lives and what we want most will continue to elude us.
With every thought, either consciously or subconsciously, we are creating our future. And when we understand how to harness this power in our lives, we can direct our thoughts and actions in a way that allows us to effortlessly think and act how we want. So, when we notice a negative thought, we can try to shift our focus to the positive. We can think rationally about the situation. Our negative thoughts won’t go away overnight. But with practice, we can train ourselves to have a more positive outlook.
Above all, it’s about increasing our control over our own attitude in the face of whatever comes our way. We cannot always control the thoughts that pop into our head, but we can choose how we handle them. When we choose to give in to the negativity, pessimism, and doom-and-gloom view of the world, we are not only submitting to a loss of control and potentially wallowing in unhappiness, we are also missing out on an important opportunity for growth and development. An optimistic vision will make you feel better. You’ll grab all the opportunities that the world provides. On the other hand, a negative attitude will never let you work towards progress.
There are so many ways we can start to be more positive. It’s not a linear journey, and it is definitely easier said than done. We will always experience ups and downs in life, but it is important to be mindful that when we do have a negative thought, we learn ways to cope with it. We need to understand and acknowledge that these negative thoughts are just that – they’re thoughts, and any subsequent action you take can be a positive one instead of a negative one.
Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow if we choose to accept reality and make the best of it.
One way we can do this is by reframing our situation. When something bad happens that’s out of our control, instead of getting upset, we can try to appreciate the good parts of the situation. For example, instead of stressing about being stuck in a traffic jam, consider how convenient it is to have a car. Use the time that you’re stuck behind the wheel to listen to a podcast you enjoy! It’s something you can’t change, so make the most of the situation. A positive attitude will give you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you.
Our decisions, our actions are completely in our control. Sometimes, it is difficult to be positive in a bad situation or when something negative happens. Our minds naturally focus on the reality of the situation and try to figure out a way to get out of it, but we can train our analytical mind to stop focusing on the negative. You can consciously train your mind to focus on the positive and disconnect from negative thoughts. Islam describes how to do this, by explaining that we should spend moments during the day to focus our mind on the unlimited source of potential and positive energy which is God.
That is why right from the beginning of the Islamic formal prayer we state: I turn my attention to the supreme being who is responsible for the beginning of all creation. And then we remind ourselves that all praise is due to Allah. Everything in creation is due to Him. All reasons to be grateful are also because of him. We push ourselves to look at the bigger picture. We focus on the unlimited rather than the limited.
Over time we disconnect our mind from all our material stressors which drain our energy and focus them on Allah.
In Islam this is not limited to just prayer. We are told to actively live mindfully throughout the day through the concept of Taqwa, i.e. to be conscious of Allah in all our actions to be aware of the positive and negative impacts of our actions that have been decreed by Allah. This is why the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet categorically state that a true believer is always positive.
Ultimately, overtime, we can learn to realise that there are limitless possibilities in the universe by repeatedly remembering that the Creator of the universe Himself is Unlimited.