The first thing that will come to your mind after reading the headline is: “What is “PACES”? Well, before I share what each letter stands for, let us first define “happiness”, discuss what being a happier Muslim involves and also explain the importance of the word “PACES”.
First off, happiness could be defined as “contentment, inner peace, and inner strength.” From my personal experience as well as my education as a counselor, I believe that the real source of our happiness is having a positive relationship with Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى. I also believe that a secondary source of happiness is our ability to use coping skills to cope with life’s difficulties.
Example: You wake up for Fajr prayer and you are really tired, but you get up because you know it’s your duty as a Muslim. Though nobody is there to see you except Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى and the angels, you still have that faith in your heart and you are praying to Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى just for His sake, and not to be seen by others. This is where your real happiness comes from.
Now, becoming a happier Muslim means that you learn to recognize your negative feelings and then find ways to shift those negative feelings back to inner peace. When you can train yourself to return to inner peace, you are on your way to experiencing higher levels of happiness.
Example: When someone says something that bothers me or hurts my feelings, I have trained myself to pause, act like I am thinking about what they have just said (when I am actually calming down and returning to inner peace), and then I decide how to respond (such as by saying, “I will need some time to think about that.”)
The word “PACES” is important because it means “single steps.” We must take “single steps” in order to reach any goal, especially the goal of being a happier Muslim. “PACES” is also a verb that means “to walk back and forth.” This is important because your journey to being a happier Muslim will go back and forth. You will feel like you have improved yourself (progressed), and then you will feel like you have regressed or moved backwards. This is totally normal. Going back and forth is part of the journey to becoming the best ‘YOU’ possible. The phrase “pace yourself” is also important. “Pace yourself” means to slow down and to accomplish your goals in steps.
What “P” Stands For
The “P” in “PACES” stands for: 1. Praying, 2. Patience, 3. Problem-Solving, and 4. Positivity.
Calling on Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى, asking Him for what you want, is a form of worship. In the verses and hadith quoted below, for example, Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى urges us to call on Him. What a relief and honor it is to hear our Lord encourage us to call on Him. This shows His care and love for us.
“And your Lord said, “Call on Me, I will respond to you.” [Qur’an: Chapter 40, Verse 60]
“It is You we worship, and You we ask for help.” [Qur’an: Chapter 1, Verse 5]
“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah].” [Quran: Chapter 2, Verse 45]
Abu Huraira narrated that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said:
“When it is the last third of the night, our Lord, the Blessed, the Superior, descends every night to the heaven of the world and says, ‘Is there anyone who invokes Me (demand anything from Me), that I may respond to his invocation; Is there anyone who asks Me for something that I may give (it to) him; Is there anyone who asks My forgiveness that I may forgive him?’” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Action Tip: If you are ever feeling unhappy or facing any problem, please do the obvious thing that we often forget to do! Make dua to Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى! Admit that only He can truly help you! This article has a lot of ideas, but in the end, none of these ideas will be of help unless Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى allows them to help you!
2. Be Patient
“…and be patient over what befalls you. Indeed, [all] that is of the matters [requiring] determination.” [Qur’an: Chapter 31, Verse 17]
Be patient when life is not perfect. Be patient with yourself when you are in a bad mood or you’ve made a mistake. Be patient with your negative feelings, accept that they are there, and patiently find ways to move past them at your own pace.
Action Tip: Pay attention to when you are starting to feel impatient or angry about a situation. Then tell yourself to be patient, for the sake of Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى.
“…and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” [Qur’an: Chapter 3, Verse 159]
Focus on finding solutions to your problems instead of just focusing on your problems. Consulting other people is a great way to generate ideas.
Action Tip: The next time you are facing a problem that is affecting your inner peace, start brainstorming possible solutions/ideas. Perhaps write them down and consult with others.
4. Be Positive
Abu Yahya Suhaib bin Sinan رضي الله عنه reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him.” [Muslim]
Train yourself to focus on the positive in every situation. Everything is good for the believer.
Example: You are a teacher working with a difficult student. Look for positive aspects/resources. Perhaps the student’s parents are willing to do whatever they can to help. Perhaps the student likes certain subjects and behaves better when learning those subjects. Perhaps the student has a classmate who works well with the student. Use these resources! When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
What “A” Stands For
The “A” stands for: 1. Appreciate and 2. Accept.
“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor].” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]
Abu Hurairah رضي الله عنه narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Whoever is not grateful to the people, he is not grateful to Allah.” [Jami` at-Tirmidhi]
Focus on what you appreciate in life and in others. Appreciate as much as possible. Express this appreciation to Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى and to people you appreciate. When you are feeling down, shift your energy and focus to what you genuinely appreciate in your life.
Action Tip: Every night, think of at least three things that you are feeling grateful to Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى for. It could be things specific to that day or general things, but it should be GENUINE. One thing that I am always grateful for is the health of my children. It could be anything that you really feel. (I originally read this simple activity in the book “Happy for No Reason” by Marcy Shimoff). Gratitude is an incredible way to feel connected with Allah because you know that He gave you those things. Remember, all help is from Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى. Every good thing you have is from Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى.
“So be patient with gracious patience.” [Qur’an: Chapter 70, Verse 5]
Accept that life is challenging and that it is normal to face hardships and to feel down sometimes. To accept does not mean to approve, it means to understand that we are only human, we are not perfect, and that this world is not always easy.
What “C” Stands For
The “C” stands for: Coping and being Calm.
Cope and Be Calm
“Surely Allah does not change the conditions that a people are in until they change that which is within themselves.” [Qur’an: Chapter 13, Verse 11]
Find ways to cope with stress. Find ways that help you to remain calm. The calm that I am referring to is a strong sense of inner peace.
Examples of coping ideas are: writing, visiting a neighbor, playing sports, taking deep breaths, drinking a glass of water, reading inspirational quotes or poetry, talking to a caring person, sipping hot tea, etc.
Action Tip: Write a list of coping activities that help you cope with stress. Train yourself to use these ideas the next time you are feeling stressed.
What “E” Stands For
The “E” stands for: Exercise.
Exercise is an excellent way to cope with stress. Exercise is not an option but a must in order to have good health. Daily exercise is best. Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins that actually cause you to feel happier.
Action Tip: Schedule time each day for exercise. Find an “exercise buddy” if you can.
What “S” Stands For
The “S” stands for: Self-Strength, Self-Awareness and Self-Study
Trust yourself. Value yourself. Know yourself. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to know everything, but you have positive qualities and strengths. Use them! Develop your self-confidence by learning from your life’s experiences—both the good and the bad.
Action Tip: Write a list of your personal strengths and review them regularly.
Self-awareness means that you remember yourself in all situations. It means that you become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. This is extremely important, because many counseling experts believe that your thoughts cause your feelings, and your feelings cause your actions. Be aware of your inner feelings and learn to control them. If you can learn to control your feelings, then this skill will lead to better actions that lead to a happier life.
Also, learn to put your happiness first (without contradicting the teachings of Islam, of course). Putting your happiness first means that you make decisions that promote your happiness, rather than living life passively. Don’t “lose yourself” in the outer world, in other people’s problems, or in things that bother you. If you have a negative feeling, accept that feeling, be patient with yourself, and find ways to get over that hurdle. Sometimes if you just say out loud, “I feel angry (sad, hurt, etc.),” that can take the power of out of your negative feeling, and then you can resolve the situation more effectively.
Action Tip: Fully acknowledge and state your negative feelings to yourself. This will help you face them more honestly and to overcome them more effectively.
Self-study means that you need to observe yourself and discover methods that bring you happiness. Observe what foods make you feel happy, what habits promote your happiness, etc. Understand that you know yourself better than other people know you; therefore, other people may not understand your choices, because they are not you! Do what is right for you, as long as it is not displeasing to Allah الله سُبْحَانَهُ وتَعَالَى.