When we feel down, a bit “meh” and a little “ugh” about ourselves and our lives, what do we do? Some may turn to food, movies, Quran, friends, or exercise for comfort, however what if there was a “5 a day” for wellbeing to reduce these “eh” days? Not just from latest research, but from a man who loved us like his own and understood us way before modern psychology does today.
The New Economics Foundation assessed the latest scientific evidence and created a set of simple actions to improve wellbeing in everyday life. They are:
- Connect with others
- Be active
- Take notice
The amazing thing is that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ made these steps as basic building blocks to every Muslims life and Allah even made some obligatory in our lives. We just did not know about it, or perhaps because it was not stated to improve our wellbeing explicitly and that is the beautiful thing about Islam and its natural occurring remedies to all sorts issues we may face. Allah knows our nature and better than anyone else, thus He put the steps in place to prevent dark days and help with happiness! So, what is it that the Sunnah promotes that is almost identical to the steps noted above?
Connect with others
Humans are social creatures, and interactions with people are almost at the centre of our lives, (it is okay introverts, your traits are coming). There are ample narrations of the Prophet ﷺ talking about the importance of having good friends and how they influence our imaan (faith) greatly, and how they make an impact on our behaviour when he likened friends to either a blacksmith or a perfume seller (one leaves behind dirty marks, and the other leaves behind a nice scent or sells you perfume so there is benefit in meeting them). There are criteria of what a good friend should be like, one which remembers Allah and reminds you of Him when you have forgotten and picks you up when you slip. Therefore connecting in order to make friends or with existing friends is so important in Islam that guidelines have been in order to make companionship in this life easy as well as productive for us.
However, connecting is much broader than just friends in Islam. To state the obvious, let’s remember the Ummah is like one body and the strength of brotherhood and sisterhood is always correlated to the success of Islam. Now let’s swiftly move onto the importance of dawah (invitation/calling to Islam), if that does not scream “connecting” then what does? As Muslims, we are ambassadors of this religion and we represent its teachings in every way, from the way we behave, talk and conduct our duties, whether in education, employment or as parents. Dawah is a fard kifayaah (communal obligation) upon the ummah and a fard ayn (individual obligation) according to ones level of ability and knowledge. This can be as subtle or direct as you want (we are not promoting haram police here), but the important thing is you make that connection with people, for a higher connection to Allah.
“Convey from me, even if it is only a verse” [Bukhari]
How can you connect? Hit 2 birds with 1 stone. Connect for a purpose greater than your wellbeing, for the sake of Allah which will in turn achieve your original intention.
- At a time where Islam is seen as violent and society’s enemy, be like “A flower that gives its fragrance even to the hand that crushed it” [Ali RA]. Leave your Muslim goodness behind you! Speak to people at work/school you would not usually speak to, of course you do not have to go in guns blazing (pun intended) about Islam, connect with your good nature first.
- Spark up a conversation with someone new, on the bus, in the shop, or your teacher – and do not be defeated when they do not reply, it is about radiating your goodness and bouncing your positive vibes off them onto someone else nearby.
- Put your phone away. We cannot encourage this enough, we have become consumed by technology and use it as a vehicle to communicate with people who live down the road. Talk to people, listen to them fully, ask them how their weekend was, go and give someone a surprise visit, ask someone to come round rather than whatsapping for 2 hours. Skype is a better option for those who are international.
- Introverts, push yourselves but don’t think we don’t appreciate the connection one can make between themselves and a book, a piece of art, or some good old fashioned time alone. However, you can make that connection wider. Why not share it online? Invite a friend to read the same book, share notes, share your company with someone else, another fellow introvert if you have to, but make that connection somewhere within your comfort zone.
Regular physical activity is not only good for your physical health but is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Do we need a better example than the Prophet ﷺ who was physically fit with a simple diet and plenty of physical exercise? He used to walk to places where he could have easily ridden a donkey, and in Tirmidhi his walk is described as almost a jogging pace where the strongest of his companions could not keep up with him. In Abu Dawud it is reported he even defeated a man called Rukaanaah who was well known for his strength and harshness by slamming him down 2-3 times whilst wrestling, (bonus, he accepted Islam after this!) *Wrestling in that time is not known for what it is today, wrestling was identified as grappling movements which are now seen in martial arts. There are also many ahadith that encourage swimming, archery, and horseback riding and the benefits of each exercise are worth looking into! They range from strengthening muscles, posture stability, refining accuracy, concentration skills, promoting mental focus, and breathe control.
“Take benefit of five before five:
your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free-time before your preoccupation, and your life before your death” [Hakim]
Get fit for the sake of Allah. How?
- We all know how difficult it is to get a solid hour of exercise in our busy schedules, but simple things like taking the stairs instead of a lift, parking a little further away from your destination, or power walking can make huge differences.
- Find a local MMA group/gym to join, even if it is just once a week, or start the basic training at home.
- Sisters, we know how difficult it is to find an all ladies swimming group (for others it is not, so take advantage!), or even a gym where you feel difficult, so start at home with YouTube or workout DVD.
- Find a friend to do it with, it is always so much more fun and motivating with a buddy to keep you company. Find something that works for you and stay consistent.
Of what? Of everything. Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in current moment can help with reaffirm your life priorities, self-understanding and with making positive choices. Be curious. Be a stranger in this unknown world of beauty. Capture the unusual and consume the wonders around you. Reflect on what is going on, and what is around you. Look at the bounties that Allah has bestowed upon us, use your Aql (intellect/reason) to take in the miracles and marvels, because which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?
Just taking a moment every day, whether after fajr, on the train, or over a coffee to breathe and absorb your surroundings. People watching, leaf inspecting, sky observing, whatever it maybe – it is a blessing, and a moment of significance. You are chosen creation of Allah to have been placed on this earth amongst His other amazing creations for you to look at and ponder about Him and how His creations epitomise His Mercy, His Power, His Beauty. It was you that was chosen in that moment to let your mind rest whilst your heart is busy in the remembrance of Allah.
“Have they not looked at the heaven above them – how we structured it and adorned it and how it has no rifts?” [Qur’an 50:6]
It may be difficult to take any interest in anything around you if you are suffering from depression, or even calm yourself down enough to do this if you have anxiety, but be patient with yourself and start off gradually. Here are a few suggestions:
- Step outside and make dua (invocation). Busy or quiet, let your senses be awoken by the bitter cold.
- Go for walks whilst listening to Quran by your favourite reciter, specifically those that talk about the unimaginable gems waiting for us in Jannah that are described to be incomparable to the treasures we see every day. Ar-Rahman is a perfect example.
- Take different routes to work/school if possible in order to take in new things. If you live near big hills or large buildings, go to a point where you can see over these things to humble your existence but also to realise how special you are.
- Remember that we should not be among those who can see, but are blind, and those who can reason, but do not reflect.
“So have they not travelled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts” [Qur’an 22:46]
Educating yourself is empowering and what is life without knowledge? Abu Bakr (RA) described knowledge to be the life of the mind. It is a lifelong science that Islam promotes from young until old age. Not only does it enhance self-esteem, and encourages positive social interactions, it is also a means to obtain rewards and achieve closeness to Allah. It is obligatory to seek knowledge about the pillars of Islam and Imaan, and additional seeking of Islamic knowledge is encouraged, however knowledge does not have to be just about Islam. Keeping the mind and brain thirsty for anything that is beneficial and productive which can be applied to the Ummah is promised to be successful. We have to take advantage of the avenues that Allah has made it easy for us to learn, our eyes, ears and hands.
It is also important to remember that whilst learning can do wonders for ourselves, we cannot restrict this knowledge to our own bubble as in many ahadith The Prophet ﷺ said without action, knowledge is nothing, and we will be held accountable for the knowledge we have hidden. Why would we want to hide it anyway?
“Whoever teaches some knowledge will have the reward of the one who acts upon it, without that detracting from his reward in the slightest.” [Ibn Majah]
Now imagine that one piece of information you passed onto one person, who then passed it onto someone else and so on and so on – how many rewards would you be reaping?
The world of Islamic knowledge can seem big and overwhelming with all sorts of things stopping you such as, where would you start and where do you fit it into your schedule? Here are a few suggestions:
- Focus on the basics of Islam first, is there something you do not know about the pillars? (Hajj is usually one left ignored!) Do you know the pillars of Imaan in detail? Remember there is nothing to be embarrassed about; it is noble of you to even take the first step.
- Remember that seeking knowledge has been granted the same status as Jihad, especially in current times where bi’idah (innovation) is rife, islamophobia is becoming a norm causing Muslims to feel as if though holding onto their faith is like holding on to hot coals. [Tirmidhi] Therefore take comfort that you are already making small changes to the world, and taking giant steps for your own status with Allah.
- We have passed the traditional ways of seeking knowledge where you sit down with a book and paper with a pen, you now have e-books, ample YouTube videos, webinars, and study circles are becoming more and more popular at local masaajid (mosques).
- If you are an artist, poet, writer, or designer, why not try something different by tapping into your religious history and arts? You won’t be disappointed, creativity is present too!
Whatever you choose to learn, in whatever you choose to obtain it, as long as you do it for the sake of Allah and His religion, the outcome may be more successful than what you imagine.
“Allah makes the way to Jannah easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge” [Muslim]
This part could be a post of its own because of the sheer amount Islam had always and always will encourage to give, whether that be in charity, kindness, or even a smile. We have Zakat (a payment made annually for charity), a pillar in Islam and an obligation for every Muslim, to acts of Sadaqah (voluntary charity) which are out of compassion, love and kindness. For example, good words are classed as charity [Bukhari] so simply saying something nice comes under giving, moving something out of the way to prevent harm befalling someone else classes as giving, telling someone you love them or spending time with lonely people – all classes as giving. What is even better is that whether we give money or attention, it does not decrease our wealth or time, but actually increases in many ways.
“The likeness of those who spend for Allah’s sake is as the likeness of a grain of corn, it grows seven ears every single ear has a hundred grains, and Allah multiplies (increases the reward of) for whom He wills, and Allah is sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower).” [Qur’an 2:261]
Finally, how do you increase in your giving?
- Let’s remember that giving in any way is a means of purification for us, with everything we give, we cleanse ourselves and give away something bad simultaneously. Imagine your sins and bad deeds lifting from your shoulders with simple acts, this can only motivate you to do more and feel better about yourself. (Perhaps it is this part of giving that promotes better wellbeing)
- You do not need to empty your bank account and more importantly we must not take part in ar-riya (showing off). Allah loves the deeds that are consistent and those who give so secretly that their left hand is unaware of what the right hand gives will be amongst the 7 shaded on the day of resurrection. [Bukhari]
- Almost anything can be classed as giving, so be creative and original! Write a poem for someone, giveaway your artwork, feed the homeless, organise a fun and educational trip, but that does not mean you can forget traditional ways of giving either. Do extra deeds for your parents, give food to your neighbours, buy a coffee for a homeless person, or give away old clothes.
“To smile in the company of your brother is charity. To command to do good deeds and to prevent others from doing evil is charity. To guide a person in a place where he cannot get astray is charity. To remove troublesome things like thorns and bones from the road is charity. To pour water from your jug into the jug of your brother is charity. To guide a person with defective vision is charity for you.” [Bukhari]
There have been a lot of different ways to promote better wellbeing, and although the 5 different steps stand as independent, in Islam they almost intertwine. There are acts that you can do that combine all 5! Just like a power shake in the mornings. However, do not treat this like a strict diet that you are going to start on Monday, start now.
Although there is a lot of information to take in, just remember that if you are even feeling a little inspired after reading this, you are ready to take the first small step. It will not happen overnight, it will need dedication and patience, and a lot of self-pushing, but know that at Inspirited Minds, we believe in you.
If you have any ideas that people could do to maintain/progress in their wellbeing, leave them in the comments below.
May Allah make the path to wellbeing easy for everyone and grant us all a happy and healthy life in which we can please our Creator to guarantee our promised places in Jannah. Ameen.