In the month of Ramadan and in particular these last 10 nights, Muslims spend a lot of time reflecting on their lives. It is our time for introspection, when we both take stock of things past and plan ahead to our futures. Fasting in the month of Ramadan is recommended in the Quran as it develops self-awareness and consciousness and one can discover a multitude of meanings in thinking as to what that self-awareness and consciousness is for and why it is so important for all of us all to take time to examine our lives in such ways.
Meditation and Mindfulness
In many ways this is what mindfulness, one of the most effective models of psychological therapy, recommends. The therapy of Ramadan is found in developing that mindfulness and recognising what matters the most to us in our daily lives. This helps us to focus for the rest of the year so that the self-awareness and consciousness is not limited merely to the month of Ramadan and this improves our mental health, particularly when dealing with problems like stress, depression and anxiety.
It’s really just the little things that matter the most in making changes to our lives. It is by taking the easy steps in the form of developing healthier reflective habits that then allow us to become more introspective and to learn to contemplate and wonder at the deeper meanings of our lives. This, is just such a simple philosophical idea – and it is certainly not impossible for anyone of us to do. Actually, putting 10 minutes aside each day, for reflection or meditation, or 10 minutes aside for physical exercise or even 10 minutes for anything relaxing that one fancies doing would go a long way to making us all more healthy psychologically. It could be just listening to music, reading a book, walking around the park – or anything else that one really enjoys doing. These small but consistent steps that we can all take would go a long way in making significant changes to our inner lives.
For us Muslims, Ramadan is all about taking these small steps but of course you do not have to be a Muslim to take small steps in the month of Ramadan. Actually, I’d say that being part of the blessed month of Ramadan and benefiting from this great month of healing and reflection can help us all live our lives in a better way. So, for my Muslim and non-Muslim friends who do not fast my advice as a psychiatrist is to join us and develop a list of those easy things you can do consistently to help yourself be more mindful in the long term. Nothing too big – nothing too hard – and nothing that takes too much of your day.
So please do come and join me in taking a resolution to do something for 10 minutes every day where you can appreciate the great gift of life that we all share. This is a way that we can all better cope with our stresses, our anxieties, our depression or whatever else it is that afflicts our sense of wellbeing, and stops us from being better to ourselves and to others.
Dr Younus Saleem is a Psychiatrist with Psychiatry UK.