Episode 14: How Refining Your Thoughts Will Lead You to an Inevitable Inner Peace

Transcript

Assalamu Alaikum Warahmathullahi Wabarakathuhu, 

Welcome to the Best Versions Podcast, where I help you unlock your fullest potential to move from average to excellence in Worship, Energy, Love and Legacy.  

I’m your Host, Rushdhi Ismail. A computer engineer turned nutrition and life coach. I’m going to use my experience of over 25 years in the personal and spiritual development field to provide you with practical tools to move from average to excellence, bi’idnillah

Alhamdulillah, what a blessing to meet you again in another episode of the Best Versions Podcast. 

I pray to Allah subuhanawuta’la to grant me life and energy to be continuously beneficial to the entire humanity. Ameen!

In our last episode, we talked about an easy but powerful tool to enhance our relationships with others. 

I sincerely hope you tried some of the techniques I suggested in the episode. May Allah subuhanawuta’la help us put the theory into practice to achieve success in both worlds. 

Today, we will continue our chat from where we left last week. 

In the last episode, I talked about “catching the positive” and explained how it could truly benefit you and others to lead a better life. 

Today, we will talk about another similar tool that will improve your relationship with others and help you achieve inner peace in your life. 

Who doesn’t want inner peace, right? 

So I hope you are all in to learn this tool, and then insha Allah, try to practice to the best of your ability. 

The tool I’m going to talk about today is similar to the tool I spoke about last week, but it’s obviously not the same. 

The tool today is “husnul dhan“. It’s an Arabic term which roughly means “thinking good about others” or “having positive thoughts about others”. 

While catching the positive is an easy task, thinking good about others all the time is a challenging thing. 

Personally, I struggle a lot when implementing this tool. It doesn’t come easily for me. 

However, I believe, like many things in life, we can become better at it while continually practising it. 

Everything is hard until it becomes easy. The practice transforms the hard things into easy. 

Think about the first time you were on a bicycle. Wasn’t that hard? Or the first time you were behind the wheel? How did you feel? 

But after some practice, both cycling and driving became easy, right? You don’t find these things difficult now. Why? Because you have been practising! 

So practice enables us to leap from difficulty to ease.

Regardless of how difficult this tool is, you should know that you can become better at it by practising, bi’idnillah

One of our salaf as-saaliheen once said, “For 20 years, I tried to restrain my speech. I didn’t want to say something and then regret it afterwards. It took me 20 years of practice to achieve that status”. 

Subhanallah!

Let’s pray to Allah subuhanawuta’la to make our affairs easy and help us become the people of noblest Akhlaq, Ameen. 

Ok, now, what is husnul-dhan, and why do I say it’s similar to what we talked about last week? 

Husnul-dhan, in short, is thinking good about others. It’s having good thoughts about others. 

What does it mean to think good about others? 

First and foremost, it’s about thinking positively of others. 

You see someone misbehaving, and still, you try to avoid any suspicion or wrong assumptions about that person. 

Or, to be more accurate, you give others the benefit of the doubt.

So instead of thinking or judging bad about others, you proactively try to think good about others. 

Is that easy? not really. But is that important? Oh yeah, it’s one of the essential qualities of a believer. 

What did our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ tell about this? 

“Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not cut your relation with one another, and do not hate one another; and O Allah’s worshipers! Be brothers (as Allah has ordered you!”) (Sahih Bukhari)

There is so much benefit to derive from this short hadith; however, the most important thing we can learn from it is that every evil starts first as a thought. 

Once you are suspicious of someone, you start looking for their mistakes. You don’t see them in a good light. 

So if you can stop thinking bad in the first place, you can insha Allah stop the chain reaction of evil because it’s our thoughts that later become actions. 

Perhaps you have come across this famous saying.

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; 

watch your words, they become your actions; 

watch your actions, they become your habits; 

watch your habits, they become your character; 

watch your character, and it becomes your destiny.”

And it’s so true because it’s our thoughts that become action. 

For instance, if we are backbiting about others, first, the wrong thoughts we have about that particular person make us backbite about them. 

That’s why Allah subuhanawuta’la says to avoid negative assumptions in the first place! 

“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” (Al-Quran, 49:12)

The truth is, if you have absolutely no evil thoughts about others, you won’t talk wrong about others. 

So to catch the positives of others easily, you also need to work on your thoughts. Once you practice improving your thoughts about others, you can catch the positive faster and easier. 

Likewise, the more you practice catching the positives of others, the easier it will be to think optimistic about others. Because all you try to do is find the bright side of others, not the ugly side. 

So as you can see, “husnul-dhan” and “catching the positive” go hand in hand. 

One of the biggest advantages of thinking positive about others is that it helps you become a better person. It doesn’t change the person whom you think negatively. But it changes you. That’s the beauty of it. 

Let’s now switch gears and see how thinking good about others actually helps you become better at almost everything in life. 

First and foremost, as the title of the episode suggests, you achieve inner peace by thinking positive. 

Research shows that negative feelings and thoughts slow down the brain’s ability to function while impeding your cognition.

Now, what does it mean? 

Well, it means you find it difficult to process your thoughts or find suitable solutions for the problems at hand. 

But that’s not all. Your negative thoughts even affect your mood negatively.

What happens when your mood and cognition are affected? You lose your inner peace. 

Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware that there is a direct connection between our body and mind. So when our inner peace is affected, that has a direct consequence on our physical well-being as well. 

One way how this works is on a neurochemical level. Every thought releases some type of chemical. 

When you are happy and optimistic, your brain produces serotonin, also known as the “happy hormone”. When serotonin levels are normal, you feel happier, calmer, less anxious, more focused and more emotionally stable. 

When you are stressed and pessimistic, your cortisol level increases at an unwanted time during the day. And that has negative consequences such as finding it hard to fall asleep, reduced appetite etc. 

I’m mentioning it because your thoughts aren’t just thoughts. They have so much impact on your physiological and psychological health. 

So by avoiding pessimistic thoughts about others, you are helping yourself for your own well-being. 

Isn’t that cool? 

There is obviously much more to positive thinking than just inner peace. 

Let me mention another research study from one of my favourite scientists, Barbara Fredrickson. 

She is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina and one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of positive psychology. 

Her research reveals how emotions like joy, contentment, love and other forms of positivity nourish your health, wisdom, and longevity.

Her “Love 2.0” book is an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the positive emotion of love in an entirely new light. I highly recommend it. 

In one of her fascinating research studies, she shows what positive emotions actually do to our brain. 

She brought a group of people to her lab, divided them into five groups, and showed each group different film clips.

These film clips contained pictures that produced positive, neutral and negative emotions. 

Researchers showed the first two groups images that evoked positive emotions among the participants. 

Group one saw a film clip that created feelings of joy, and group two saw pictures that created feelings of contentment. 

Then, the last two groups were shown clips that created negative emotions. Group four saw a film clip that created feelings of fear, and group five saw pictures that created feelings of anger.

Now, if you have been paying attention to what I said, you may wonder what happened to group three? 

Well, group three was the control group, and they saw neutral images which evoked no significant emotions.

After watching the film clips, each participant was asked to imagine themselves in a situation where similar feelings would arise.

Then, they were then given a piece of paper with 20 lines that started with the phrase, “I would like to…” and were asked to write down what they would do.

Participants were free to write whatever they wanted to write.

Subjects who watched the film clips of fear and anger wrote down the fewest responses. 

However, the participants who saw pictures of joy and contentment wrote down a significantly higher number of actions that they would take, even when compared to the neutral group.

This research simply shows that experiencing positive emotions helps you see more possibilities in your life. Regardless of what happens, your brain sees more options to move forward in life. 

I mean, isn’t that fascinating? 

By being an optimist and having good thoughts, you are setting yourself up for success. Who doesn’t want that? 

Sign me up for that! 

All these and many other research studies of this nature show one thing. Positive emotions always lead you to happiness and your own success. Negative emotions destroy your inner peace and make your own life difficult. 

So it’s pretty clear that having good positive thoughts about ourselves and others is excellent for our health, inner peace and success in both worlds. 

Having said that, I’m fully aware that you can’t have good thoughts about every single person. 

You can’t think good about a dictator who is oppressing people, right? Well, you don’t need to think good about them. 

When I say thinking positively about others, then I mean the vast majority of the general public, most of whom are decent, good people. 

These are people you get in touch with in your daily life. They are your family, neighbours, colleagues, and people you meet during your commute or shopping.

These are the people we confront in our daily life, and most of our negative thoughts are directed at them. 

Instead of harbouring negative thoughts about them, we should practise thinking positively about them. 

I know it’s hard to harbour positive thoughts about others all the time. 

That’s why I would like to provide you with three Islamically and scientifically validated techniques to increase your positive thinking about others. 

Technique 1: Get a good night of sleep. 

When your sleep is screwed, your mind is the first thing that is affected. In fact, one of the fastest ways to get pessimistic about everything about life is to get a short night of sleep. 

That’s because your good night’s sleep is like a balm for your emotional health. Good sleep, particularly your REM sleep – during when you see your dreams – helps you process negative emotions and helps you feel more positive the next day. 

I’m sure you’ve experienced this in your life. You go to sleep after an argument with your spouse or child, and the next day you feel like nothing bad happened the previous night. 

Alhamdulillah, that’s nothing but a blessing of Allah subuhanawuta’la.

So prioritise getting a good night of sleep every day. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep, and you’ll be mentally and physically sound. 

Ok, let’s now briefly look at the second technique that our pious predecessors often practised. 

Technique 2: Find excuses 

Yes, learn to find excuses for others. 

You think negatively about the person in front of you because you hate something they do. Perhaps their behaviour is terrible, or you’ve some preconceived notion about them. 

In these cases, our pious predecessors would say, “If I hear something about my brother that I hate, then I make an effort to obtain an excuse for him. If I do not find an excuse, then I say to myself: Perhaps my brother has an excuse I do not know.

Umar radiyallahu anhu said something similar, “Do not think ill of a word that your believing brother utters as long as you can interpret it in a good way.

Subhanallah, isn’t it a better option than being suspicious about others? 

Now, here is the thing, I don’t claim any of these things to be easy. As I said before, I struggle to put these things into practice as well. 

But what I know for sure is that in that struggle, we become better. 

Life is nothing but a test. If we aren’t ready to face that test and pass it with flying colours, both our Dunya and Aakhira’s success is in trouble. 

So we keep on struggling and practising what needs to be practised until it becomes easy, insha Allah! 

Another incredible way to find excuses for others is my wife’s frequently used phrase. She often says, “they don’t know better“. I think it’s a beautiful excuse to make for others.

She says that pitifully, not arrogantly. Not in a tone, “I know everything, and they know nothing”

It sounds more like, “Oh, poor fellow, probably he doesn’t know better. We should excuse him for his mistake“. 

When we honestly find excuses for others, we get rid of these negative hate feelings and find our hearts filled with positive feelings of forgiveness. That’s an incredible way to find our own inner peace. 

Once, I saw a Muslim brother eating with his left hand.

Honestly, I hate to see people eating with their left hand. 

So I had so many different thoughts about this person for a few seconds until I saw his right hand with just one or two fingers. 

Later I came to know that he lost 3 or 4 of his fingers in an accident, and that’s why he cannot do anything with his right hand. 

I felt ashamed of myself for my initial thoughts. And that’s when I realised that there are so many reasons why people behave differently than you would like them to behave.

Not all these behaviours are justified, but when we try to find excuses for them and think optimistic about them, it’s good for us. It’s good for our inner peace, good for our relationship, and most importantly, good for our Aakhira. 

So despite the difficulty involved in thinking good about others, we should strive. In that striving, we have our own salvation! 

Before we call it a day today, I would like to give you another incredible technique from a world-renowned psychotherapist. 

I came across this technique in the excellent book “The Tools” by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels. They are one of the most sought-after psychotherapists in the USA. 

They talk about “Active Love”, and they say if you want to move from resentment to love immediately, that’s 

perhaps the fastest tool ever.

I try using this with my kids whenever I feel annoyed, and Alhamdulillah, it works every time!  

So how does it work? 

The basic technique is about beaming some love towards someone you feel currently annoyed with. It works like a charm when you repeatedly use it. 

There are five steps to this technique. 

#1. Notice that you are annoyed. This step is also the most crucial step. Once you notice, then say to yourself, “I’m annoyed right now”. 

#2. Take a deep breath. While taking a deep breath, imagine your energy is going from your head to your heart. I visualise something like a big light ball leaving my head and entering my heart. 

#3. Smile – yep, while that energy enters your heart, try smiling. Even a fake smile works. 

#4. Recall a positive incident – Think about an awesome thing about the person who is currently annoying you.

#5. Visualise beaming love towards them. How? Use the energy you visualised in the form of light. Shine that light out of your heart and into the world towards them. It’s all a visualisation thing. But it works. 

As always, don’t trust my word. Try it out yourself and see whether or not it works for you. If it works, that’s great. If not, you haven’t lost anything, right? 

Alhamdulillah, that’s all from me for today. 

I sincerely hope you enjoyed listening to this episode today. Please help us take this message to the world. You can do this by subscribing to our podcast and sharing it with as many people and organisations as you know. May Allah subuhanawuta’la bless you abundantly for that kind act. 

If you want to read the transcript of this podcast, you can find it at https://bestversions.me/podcasts/14. 

Thanks so very much for listening to my podcast. I sincerely pray that this episode helps you go from average to excellence in worship, energy, love and legacy. 

Until we meet in the next episode insha Allah next Friday, I pray that Allah subuhanawuta’la showers his choicest blessings on you and your family. 

Love you all! 

And let me end the podcast with the greetings of Jannah, Asssalamu Alaikum Warahmathullahi Wabarakathuhu.