The beginning of 2016 was anything but pleasant in my personal life. Had I let the start of that year affect me entirely, I probably would have fallen into a deep depression. I was dealing with one health scare after another, I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was going through, and I spent a large chunk of time just struggling on my own. But it was this past year that taught me the value of saying alhamdulillah (praise be to God) with conviction.
That is the beauty of moving through the unknown. From hardship, I was given a unique opportunity to make sincere supplication that better things would await me on the horizon. Throughout many ups and downs the rest of the year, doors of opportunity opened for me that I never thought possible. I’ve met some wonderful people who have changed my life for the better and I decided to share my passions with the world by writing about mental health from this platform — among many other opportunities, which helped keep me going when things were rough. Even when it felt like the worst of things would be the end of the line, I made the conscious choice to focus on the positive no matter what. That made all the difference.
I sincerely hope people don’t carry the sour attitudes they ended 2016 with into this new year – it wasn’t all bad. Coming into 2017 with a positive outlook, despite what may have gone down last year, can make all the difference in having an enjoyable year. We have all the reason in the world to look at the glass as half full.
Don’t measure your success or happiness on the low points of a single year. Time is a human-made limitation. Things can change day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. And so can you. You can choose to be better and live better at any given moment.
One of the best ways to do that is to start every day by acknowledging your blessings and setting an air of gratitude. Once you start counting all the good things happening in life you realize how much those things can outweigh the bad. Sure, lots of negative stuff happened in 2016, but for me, personally, it was a transformative year because I decided to put forth the effort everyday to rise above the chaos around me.
Change happens in two parts: you pray for it, then you work for it. If you’re not a person that prays – visualize what it is that you want. Put the energy out there and then work towards it. The following activities are what really helped me develop that air of gratitude and make it through a tough year with a smile on my face. Hopefully you can begin and end 2017 with a grin spreading from ear to ear.
Often. Always. Allah swt says, “If you are grateful, I will give you more” (Quran 14:7). Use that as motivation to continuously give thanks for your never-ending list of blessings. You can say alhamdulillah while you’re doing just about anything. Gratitude is also a mind-shifter. The more time you spend thinking of all you have to be thankful for, the less time you spend complaining, finding faults in others, or just being generally displeased.
Actively participate in all parts of your day
People remind us all the time about the importance of being present and being aware throughout your day. Take the steps to do that and push yourself even further by being productive as well. Plan out your day at night or plan out your whole week on Sunday. Maximize the waking hours that you have. This will help you find ways to incorporate extra or fun things for yourself or others to add joy, not only to your own life, but to the life of your significant other, your kids, your friends, etc.
Take your relationship with Allah (swt) to the next level
Early last year, I set out to become more connected to Allah swt and after reading Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed, I found myself on a spiritual journey that culminated in my eventual decision to dedicate myself to my faith with hijab alhamdulillah. Taking a few small steps towards Allah swt can make a bigger impact than we imagine.
Become a stakeholder in your community
Give back. Participate in community events. Some of the best times I had in 2016 included attending conferences, conventions, and community events. Use these opportunities to develop a stake in the progress of your community. Talk to vendors and organizers. Ask how you can contribute to their efforts using your own unique skill set. Build positive relationships with other attendees. You never know where it can lead.
Be happy for the happiness of others
One of the most joyous moments of my year was the day my lifelong friend gave birth to her beautiful baby boy. She sent me a photo and the next thing I knew, tears were coming down my face. I was absolutely elated for her. No matter what we might be going through, happiness is contagious. The joy she experienced and continues to experience from this beautiful baby boy spreads all around her and makes me smile whenever I see him.
Pray at your designated place of worship
I can’t even describe the feeling of serenity and peace I feel in my heart when I pray at the masjid. Because I work in a school, I can’t always attend Friday prayer, but I make it a point to attend on any Friday I happen to be off and despite the large crowds and double-parked cars in the lot that make it nearly impossible to leave afterward, it’s beyond worth it for the feeling of comfort it provides.
Be social again–not just using social media
Stop making small talk and start having conversations of depth and meaning with others. Sending each other memes or gifs is not an appropriate replacement for sincere conversation with a loved one. Go out and sit across a table from someone and share some coffee or tea. Share a cupcake; they’re delicious. While social media is great for meeting new people and brief catch ups – nothing tops person to person connection.
Choose to be productive this year and utilize your precious energy on things that will make you and the people and things around you a thousand times better. Don’t even make time for anything else!
This year, I hope you actively add joy, positivity, meaning, and gratitude to your life and rid yourself of viewing happiness as an unattainable goal. May this year bring you all the best!