Thinking about mental health

There’s been a rapid increase in talking about mental health these days. It’s always been such an important topic to me, especially to try and remove the stigma around mental health problems and assisting those who experience them.

The personal aspect about this is that I’ve never really struggled with severe mental health issues myself. It’s something that I’m incredibly grateful for. The issue with that is because I had no real awareness of the topic, I found it difficult to empathize with people who did struggle with mental health in my early adolescence.

Since then, I’ve had several friends and family members who battled with it on a regular basis, and who were kind enough to educate me on the topic. That’s not to say that it wasn’t my responsibility to go out there and learn about it for myself; it was just an advantage that I received.

In today’s post, I’d like to look at ways to understand mental health from an emotional intelligence lens, how to try and look after your own mental health, how we can support those in our life who do struggle with mental health (by removing stigma), and why to stop spitting out solutions (a problem I struggle quite a lot with as an engineer/consultant).

Understanding mental health

The difficult thing about understanding mental health is that we each have our own version of ‘normal’. What we’ve experienced internally from the time we were kids up until now forms the basis of our reality. A lot of the time, it takes quite a lot of experience or reflection to start noticing/understanding your own mental health.

A great place to start is by being a little more conscious of your thoughts and moods. Are they sometimes erratic? Uncomfortable? Inconsistent? Unbearable? Bizarre? Wild? Scary?

One of the best ways to structure your thoughts and understand yourself better is by journalling. A lot of people tell me that what they write down can sometimes feel uncomfortable. This is already an indicator of your mental processes and overall mental health (you obviously develop the skill of writing down your thoughts, I’m talking more about the nature of the thoughts themselves).

Once you have better awareness of what goes on in the processor, you can start working towards maintaining a healthy performance. Find habits and routines that allow you to feel challenged and fulfilled.

If you really struggle here to identify and act on what you can do to improve your mental health, it might be a good option to seek out therapy. It’s just a great way for you to make sense of the chaos and find a comfortable space to unravel your mysteries (speaking from experience).

Looking after our own mental health

This is the tough part. This is the part that requires effort, discipline and consistency. If we don’t look after our own mental health and keep in check on a regular basis, we could then start struggling to perform optimally.

I just want to make it clear that I’m not saying we should do this purely for performance. I’m just using that word to help us understand how it inevitably affects our performance, which affects our overall ambitions, mood and aspirations.

When it comes to looking after our own mental health, we need to start with awareness as I’ve discussed in the previous section. That awareness and acceptance then allows us to formulate an action plan to keep ourselves in check.

A few habits that tend to work well (for me personally) include staying active (even if it’s just a 15 min walk), getting sunlight on a regular basis (kill 2 birds with 1 stone by going on that walk), spending time in nature (now the walk is proving to be remarkable), eating fruits and veggies as often as possible, taking time off from work/studies to recover, socializing with people who genuinely care about me, reading an entertaining book and writing in a journal.

It sounds obvious and possibly boring, but don’t underestimate the cumulative effect of consistently doing these little habits on a daily basis. You’ll be astonished at the impact it’ll have on your life. Find what works best for you and keep at it. Once you’ve managed to keep yourself in check, you’ll be able to support those around you.

Supporting those who suffer with mental disorders

The main thing about awareness campaigns is that it aims to educate people as well as ensure that stigma is dealt with. We’ve seen incredible progress over the past decade in terms of a global acceptance of mental health disorders. This is important because it allows for diversity, equity and inclusion.

When it comes to supporting people who may suffer from certain mental health issues, it’s important that we come from a nonjudgemental standpoint. Additionally, we need to avoid having a superiority complex if we considered ourselves to be mentally healthy.

What I’ve noticed from my own limited experience is that people appreciate being heard and acknowledged. It can oftentimes be difficult to emphasize, especially if you’re not entirely sure what it feels like. But just being there, showing that you care, putting in the effort to comfort them and accepting that they’re more than just their struggle, can go a long way.

Artist Creates Heartwarming Comics To Raise Mental Health ...

What I’ve also learned is that you don’t want to jump into finding solutions (which can sometimes go against my instincts, so I have to be very conscious of this).

Stop looking for solutions

This applies to helping people deal with their mental health issues as much as it does to helping people with their problems in general. Giving unsolicited advice and pointing out solutions to other people’s problems is something many of us struggle with. The reason why we do this is obviously subconscious. It’s easier than sitting in the discomfort of empathy or listening attentively.

As much as we think we’re helping other people by throwing out suggestions to their seemingly simple problems, it can actually distance them and make them less comfortable opening up to us. It makes the them feel unworthy of being able to solve it themselves.

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People love autonomy. We love to feel like we’re in control. Like we’re capable. Like we got this. The minute someone else comes and tells you how to do it (even if it’s a perfectly viable solution that can make your life a 100x better), you’re likely to resist it and try to ignore it.

The same logic applies when you’re trying to help someone who is feeling anxious or depressed. Instead of jumping to a solution and telling them to go drink water/ meditate / sleep / exercise, try and engage more meaningfully in discussion and allow them to do more of the talking.

I’m still trying to find the right balance here myself, but what I’ve noticed about giving advice is that you should either wait for it to be asked, or prompt them first and check whether they’re in a receptive space to hear you out.

It’s always going to be complicated to try and understand mental health, even your own. The point is to try your best each and every day, whatever that means to you. Your best may differ from time to time and that’s okay. You’re going to get through this. You’re strong and capable enough. Don’t ever give up. You got this.

#LiftAsYouRise

Automation or Mindfulness?

We’re bringing back another episode of Mindful Monday! The reason I thought about this topic was because I’ve been personally been feeling a little disconnected lately. Sure, my habits are still in check. Still waking up before dawn, meditating, praying and journalling. But there’s an aspect of being robotic that I’m still struggling with, specifically when I’m eating, driving or speaking to someone.

I’d like to use today’s post to discuss aspects of our nature that we need to be a little more mindful of, striking a balance between automation and conscious thinking, breathing more deeply and ways of working from home.

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When we should focus being mindful of
Things are that are closest to nature.

When we’re praying, when we’re cooking food, when we’re eating the food, when we’re watching the sunrise, when we’re in the shower, when we’re brushing our teeth, when we’re working out, when we’re spending time with family, when we’re out with friends, when we’re about to fall asleep or just after we wake up.

It’s incredible how often we tend to be on our devices when we’re doing any of those things. It seems like we are starting to lose the essence of our senses. We no longer pay attention to what we look at with our eyes, what we listen to through our ears, what we eat in order to taste, the way we look after our body, and what we talk about with other people.

When we aren’t being mindful of those aspects of our nature, we stop living in the present moment. We forget to be grateful. We forget to be thoughtful or appreciative.

What we need to do is be stricter with ourselves when it comes to our focus. We should start making the most of the time we have right now. We need a balance between doing things on auto-pilot and consciously living.

The balance between manual thinking and automation

It’s something I’ve thought about and discussed here before… How do we find the right balance between doing things on auto-pilot vs. using conscious energy. There’s definitely an efficiency trade-off to think about, specifically looking at what actions are worth putting in genuine effort.

We’re lazy beings. We always try to find the shortest way to get something done, which typically makes sense. That’s why our brains do the same when it comes to consistently repeated habits. We eventually end up training our subconscious to ignore being present.

We should probably look for what we find valuable and spend more of our energy being attentive to it. The last thing we want to do is allow ourselves to get complacent.

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Breathing deeply

I know I know, I talk a lot about breathing. But you need to understand how fundamentally important it is. It affects every aspect of your life. From your ability to deal with anxiety, stress, fear, joy, happiness, to when you’re preparing for an interview, working out, walking up the stairs, and even having a cold shower.

All these activities require us to have a consistent influx and outflux of air. Well tbh, you need it all the time. But your ability to manage your breathing in those situations will allow you to perform much better than uncontrolled breath. It’s interesting how we often ‘run out of breath’ not because we need to inhale oxygen, but because we need to exhale carbon dioxide.

That’s besides the point. My point is, focus on your breathing more often. It’s easy to forget this little habit, because the body does it automatically. But it will truly make an impact on your health and ability to deal with challenges. I’m not saying that you should consciously breathe every second of the day, but when it’s necessary and when you can remember to.

Another consideration is how to stay mindful when we’re (working) chilling at home all day.

Working mindfully from home

Whether it’s studying, working or anything else that relates to being at home for most of the day, we tend to lose our touch with the present moment. In a way, we are less exposed to usual array of stimuli from being outside. That being said, we can often ‘forget’ to be as mindful when we’re working from home. Not that being in an office/classroom all day is any better, but the moving around is what makes all the difference.

When go outside for a quick walk, stare out the window for a bit or just decide to chill in the garden, it allows us to get some exposure to the natural world. I repeatedly talk about the benefits of spending time in nature, and it’s because of the way it forces you to be mindful. Even if you can’t go outside, find ways to focus on nature within your home (this could even include being more attentive when you eat or speak to friends).

Authors share their mindfulness tips for working from home
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What we should try and do if we can leave the house, is focus more on the leaves of trees and how their colours change, the clouds and the way they dance across the sky, the birds and how they sing to each other, the lil insects and bugs that are always flying around, or even the way the earth feels on our feet.

Giving our senses that stimulation will snap us back into the present moment; which will make us feel grounded, grateful and more energetic. If we take short 10 min breaks from our work and do this regularly, it will have such a significant impact on our ability to push forward. Go outside right now and try it out if you can. The world is yours for the taking.

Ramadan Coming To An End

It’s a rather dismal part of the year, where the beautiful and blessed month of Ramadan is coming to an end. On the bright side though, Eid is approaching, which is always a wonderful celebration after all sacrifices made.

I’d like to link this post to the one I wrote a few weeks ago on Making the Most of Ramadan. Many of us have established some incredible habits and managed to forego several of our terrible habits. Let’s look at ways for us to reflect over the past month, to keep our habits in check comfortably after Ramadan, the blessings associated with Eid, and giving!

Reflecting

When it comes to any experience in life, we often flesh out the most value after we’ve given it some thought. The same apply after experiencing the spiritual month such of Ramadan. In subtle and perhaps significant ways, we’ve applied ourselves differently. Our behaviours, our attitudes, our temperament, our habits, everything changed to accommodate the season of fasting.

One of the key takeaways for me is realizing how capable I am of actually praying more consistently, giving more, being kinder, being less vulgar, and appreciating the shortness of life. The greatest element is always realizing how short-lived we are.

I’m sure you have your own unique reflections to learn and gain wisdom from, here are some questions to provoke those thoughts:

  • What have I learnt about my own capacity to be spiritual?
  • What is something that was easier for me to do during this month?
  • What is something that was harder for me to during this month?
  • How did I spend my time differently?
  • How much more do I still need to learn?
  • What habits do I still need to work on letting go?
  • What habits do I need to maintain after this month?

It’ just food for thought. Ponder over them next time you go for a walk or when you’re laying in bed.

Keeping habits in check

After you’ve done a bit of reflecting, it’s time to see how we can keep those epic habits in check. Things like fasting, waking up before sunrise to pray Fajr, praying in the Masjid, reading Quran regularly, giving out lots of charity, inviting people to your house to eat with you, and so much more.

I’m speaking to myself here as it is something I struggle with every year – keeping consistent once Ramadan is over. The point is to have an awareness of the fact that consistency is the key to mastery. If we slip up once it becomes easy, we stand the chance of losing that habit for another year.

Better awareness –> Better choices –> Better results

To make this actionable, let’s try and write down a list of all the incredibly habits that we managed to pick up. Circle 2 or 3 of the highest priority items (in your opinion), and find ways to keep them in check. Maybe you can speak to a friend or family member to join you, or have someone hold you accountable for getting them done consistently.

Once you manage to keep those initial habits in place, look back at your list and start with another one. You keep going down the list until you fortify your toolkit of great habits, that will hopefully last you a lifetime, Insha’Allah!

It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress.

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Blessed day of Eid

Eid-ul-Fitr, which is day after Ramadan is completed, can be considered like the ‘Christmas’ for Mulsims. It’s a day where we celebrate the month of sacrifice and commemorate the end of Ramadan with family members and friends.

It’s typically a day where we dress up in our best outfits, prepare the most delicious meals, and share as much as possible. A key theme in Eid is giving. There’s a lot of gifts that are shared, money given to children and charity given to those in need. I’ve written about it last year as well, on my post on Eid.

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Considering we have a couple of days to go, I urge you to try and make the most of it. It’s the last push. We won’t get this kind of spiritual energy for another month. It’s okay if you’ve made mistakes up until now. It’s okay if you weren’t doing as best as you possible could. Try now. There’s always enough time to make amends and score some goods deeds.

You got this, Insha’Allah.

A Century of Posts

This blog officially marks my 100th post! I’m so grateful for how far we’ve come since my first post in 2014. If I’m being honest, I still can’t believe I started that long ago. To truly show you why I’m surprised, have a look at my very first post:

Here’s another one (showing this as inspiration tbh):

And here’s the comment I got in response to my ‘Diary?’ post. Grateful for the people who believed in me before I believed in myself…

I’d like to use this post to show my appreciation to each and every one of you, to go through the overall blogging journey, my intentions and moving forward with this platform.

Grateful for you!

First thing’s first, a big shoutout to my parents who have been my #1 fans throughout the journey. I can’t emphasize enough how much they are responsible for where I am today and all that I’ve managed to achieve (it’s not a lot but it’s worth celebrating!).

Also grateful for my siblings, family members and friends, for contributing to incredible discussions, inspiring me to keep pushing and helping me grow as an individual.

What I’ve realized over the past few years is that the relationships you form are probably going to be your most valuable asset. The best way to continuously develop these relationships is by regularly showing gratitude. Making people feel appreciated. Giving more. Being kind and compassionate.

The more you give, the more you get.

More than just that, being grateful for where you are in your life and all that you have. I say this over and over again, but I promise you it will completely change your life. When you focus on what you have, your blessings start appreciating.

I know that it’s not easy and there are moments where we just want to give up. It gets tiring. It requires conscious effort. It requires consistency. It requires discipline. But remember:

Better awareness –> Better choices –> Better results

Let’s look at how this blogging thing started and how we got to where we are today.

How we started

As you have my have seen, I started in 2014 (when I was like 16 years old). I’m pretty sure it was just for banter, although I was philosophically inclined at the time. I would always engage my friends in incredibly interesting conversations and we learned a lot from each other.

The main reason why I actually decided to start posting my thoughts online were to share the insights I was gaining, and to also use it as a platform to vent; kind of like a diary.

I wasn’t consistent at all and I only posted once in a while, probably like 3-4 posts a year from 2014-2016. After that, it kind of stopped altogether when I started uni. I got back into things in 2018 when I started reading again and learning more about myself. You can read more on the details of that journey in my 50th blog post.

Since then, I’ve developed a little mission statement for myself that helps me find purpose in everything that I do:

“Aspire to Inspire. To help each and every one of us live life to the fullest and reach our greatest potential.”

A fraction of my growing ‘library’

What my intentions are

The purpose behind my writing is to try and help people develop. To provide a pathway for growth. To shed light on difficult topics. To help each and every one of us aim to achieve our full potential. To genuinely live a life that is worth inspiring. To make a difference and motivate people. To incorporate a growth mindset and move from thinking that it’s impossible to ‘not yet’.

What I’ve noticed is that despite how different and unique we all are, we share a common humanity. We struggle in similar ways. We have similar goals and objectives. We have similar roles and responsibilities. We all get anxious, stressed, happy, joyful, upset and excited.

Utilizing our common life experience has been incredibly valuable to me. It’s the way I connect with people. It’s what allows me to be vulnerable and connect through honesty and authenticity. When we are able to feel connected and have a sense of belonging, it empowers us to be our true selves.

I’d like to use this platform to help us find a common ground. To help us all connect and find a sense of belonging.

Where I’m going with this

In alignment to my intentions, I’d like to keep the momentum going with this blog and keep trying to share valuable information. It’s never been about getting an insane following or viewership, but just about making a difference in people’s lives. Even if a single person learns something from one of my posts, I’d reckon mission accomplished.

Little by little, a little becomes a lot.

I’d like to encourage all of you who are reading this, to share the posts you find relevant with people who you think could find value in it. Whether it’s about developing habits, seeking discomfort, learning new skills, meditating, emotional intelligence, book summaries or incorporating a growth mindset, there’s always something for us to expand our knowledge on.

If you ever have a specific topic that you’d like me to talk about or if there any topics that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed over the past few years, please let me know in the comments. I always appreciate the engagement and support.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you again for everything.

Memento Mori; remember that you will pass away at some point.

#LiftAsYouRise

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What You Appreciate, Appreciates

We’re now entering the final few weeks of 2020. Despite the innumerable challenges that have come our way, we’ve managed to find a way through. People have constantly complained and found reasons to focus on what they don’t have, instead of focusing more on what they do have.

I want to talk about gratitude again. It’s a recurring theme here on Memento Mori, for valid reasons. We all need reminders, constantly. Starting with myself tbh. So let’s focus on our blessings and see how that helps us finish off the year with a bang.

First thing in the morning

Here’s a reflection point: What’s the first thing you do as soon as you wake up in the morning?

I know that each and every one of you will have a completely different answer, so I just want you to think about it for yourself. Does that habit help you kick-start the day? Is it aligned with your values? Does it energize you? Does it make you feel good?

Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. But try this out for at least 1 week. Focus on how blessed you are first thing in the morning.

  • The roof above your head
  • The comfortable bed you slept in
  • The fresh air that you’re breathing
  • Your body and all your functioning organs
  • The opportunities that are coming your way

Most importantly, that you’re blessed to have another day. Use the chance you’ve been given to do better than you did the previous day. Keep up this mindset and you’ll start feeling a lot more content and grounded.

Throughout the day

It’s easy to start the day with a win. It’s hard to maintain that win throughout the day. Things don’t go according to plan. People frustrate us. Work starts to get stressful. Errands get annoying. There’s a lot that we can find to complain about.

An important aspect of mindfulness is being able to monitor your thoughts without attachment or judgement. When you do start to notice those thoughts creeping up, observe them, write them down, let them go.

Energy follows focus.

Change the thought pattern into something a little more beneficial. Instead of being impatient or frustrated with others, focus on how you’re benefiting them. Your sustenance could be due to your assistance to others. Thank other people as often as you can, even for the simplest of favours.

Last thing before you go to bed

To complete this wonderful cycle, focus on being grateful just before you go to bed. It’ll really ease you into sleep, especially if you struggle with falling asleep quickly. Recap the best aspects of your day and clear all the negative energy. Here are a few things to focus on:

  • The meals you ate throughout the day.
  • The wonderful people you interacted with.
  • Your education, as well as opportunities to learn, grow and expand.
  • The lessons you learned.
  • Your legs for allowing you to move around. Your hands for assisting you in getting tasks done. Your eyes for helping you see the world. Your ears for helping you listen and your mouth for allowing you to communicate.

Blessed

It’s easy to focus on things that aren’t working out. It’s easy to play victim. It’s easy to lose your focus on and complain. Like I’ve always mentioned, doing what’s easy is not going to help you grow. You need to push yourself a little, each and everyday. Even if it’s just pushing limiting beliefs and negative self-talk.

The more you give the more you get.

Practice gratitude not only by focusing on what you have, but by giving what you have. You’ll notice the way that feeling spreads and ripples across everyone you encounter. We genuinely don’t have much longer. It’s time to shift our focus and stop complaining; there’s so much more to be thankful for.

In light of this topic, I’d like to thank you all for everything. For your time, for your energy, for your support. It’s thanks to you that I feel inspired to write every week and share the little knowledge that I have with the world. It truly is appreciated.

Give thanks. Spread love. Inspire joy. Stay present.

Find Reasons To Say Thank You

Today’s post is going to be a gentle reminder to be grateful. To focus on all your blessings. To give more. To find reasons to say thank you.

I’ll speak about some mindfulness, focusing on what you have, giving more and why we should stop complaining.

Mindfulness

How do we always end up back here? It’s quite incredible really, mindfulness plays an integral role in every aspect of your life. When you’re focusing on the smell of your coffee in the morning, you’re appreciating it more. When you stare out at the sky and enjoy the way the clouds slither, you appreciate it more.

When you live consciously, you’re in the present moment. When you’re in the present, you appreciate life more. When you’re able to appreciate life, you can find reasons to say thank you.

Focus on what you have

Energy follows focus. Think deeply about that. The quality of your thoughts and what you pay attention to, ultimately guide your objectives. When you focus on what you have and all that you’re blessed with, you live in a state of contentment.

Being content is a mindset more than anything. It’s accepting the present moment for what it truly is, instead of wishing to be somewhere else.

The more you give, the more you get

I’ve mentioned this philosophy before. It’s quite an evident aspect of life. When you’re a giver, you receive more in return. I learned this from my parents at a very young age, which I’m very grateful for.

Giving is the ultimate form of being thankful. Whether it’s your time, energy or money. It’s ultimately about service, sacrificing a piece of who you are to uplift those around you.

It’s an integral part of Islam too. It reminds me of this famous quote from the Quran:

Alhamdulillah

The opposite of complaining

When you complain, you’re essentially devaluing what you’ve been blessed with. There’s a big difference between criticism and complaining. One is a form of feedback to make improvements, the other just attracts negative energy.

It’s definitely difficult and requires a lot of conscious effort. It’s something I struggle with quite a lot. Complaining at every inconvenience is a form of ingratitude and it’s important for us to try and avoid it as much as possible.

The point I’m trying to make here is that there’s always a reason to say thank you. When you look at your body and the marvelous ways it functions, when you notice the roof above your head, the food on your table, the loving people in your life.

It’s noticing these little things each and every single day that makes life truly worth it. It’s not easy, it was never meant to be. It’s part of the journey. But let’s make this journey one hell of a joy ride.

My request to you now, is to get a piece of paper (or open the notepad on your phone) and write down 3 things you’re grateful for. Do this on a regular basis and notice how your life will change.

Hold On

Are you also feeling really tired with everything that’s going on? We’ve reached that point in the year where everything just feels exhausting. I know those who are studying will feel this particularly relevant. It’s as if we’re meant to ignore the chaos in the world and carry on like everything is fine. The pandemic just doesn’t seem to be going away.

This is going to be more of a rant so that you know you’re not alone in how you feel. The past few months have been incredibly taxing for me, especially since I’m in my final year at UCT; virtually. I want to talk about what has kept me going and how to stay motivated moving forward.

Purpose

What has always grounded me was finding a sense of purpose. Looking at why I do the things that I do. I think now more than ever when it feels like every day is the same, we need to look deeper and find meaning in our situation.

Living with purpose is essentially being intentional in your daily activities. It’s inevitable that things will seem monotonous and boring after a while. We need to refresh those intentions daily to keep the fire within us burning.

Acceptance

I know it doesn’t make sense a lot of the time. I know it’s difficult to comprehend and understand. That’s okay, we need to learn to be kinder to ourselves. Being kind to others can often feel more natural than being kind to ourselves.

We need to start showing up for ourselves and work on acceptance. Don’t resist the sadness, the tiredness, the frustration, the impatience. Accept them and understand that they’re temporary.

Emotions are like waves, they come and go.

Remember not to identify with your feelings. For example, you are not sad. You are experiencing sadness. Making that mental shift will allow you to detach much more easily.

Service and Gratitude

Do more for others and you’ll feel immensely content. When you’re able to help others and act from a place of service, you will feel more connected and alive. We’ve been neurologically wired for just that.

Whenever you’re having a bad day, as odd as it sounds, find someone to help. It will help you find a sense of purpose amidst the chaos.

The more you give, the more you get.

Count your blessings. I say this over and over again because I truly want you to realize how important it is. Wake up every morning and focus on what you have. It will massively improve the quality of your life, even if the situation itself remains the same.

Habits

I’ve talked extensively about how to form habits in my previous post. This has helped me form structure in my day. Forming a routine might sound monotonous, but it’s quite a paradox. When things are in place and you know what to do each day, it gives you the freedom to utilize your free time.

You won’t feel aimless or lost during the day. You’ll have a sense of direction. That is incredibly important when we’re spending so much time at home.

Emotional Outlets

Find somewhere to release your thoughts and emotions. This can be in the form of venting to the people you trust or writing in a journal. Alternatively, you could even send voice notes to yourself just to keep track of what’s going on with you.

A tempting response that I often get from people is that they use exercise as their outlet. As incredible as exercise is for mental health, it doesn’t serve the same purpose as a journal for example.

Actively dealing with your thoughts instead of being distracted will play a massive role in your interactions with others, and more importantly with yourself.

I know it’s tough, I know you’re tired and I know you just want to give up. But that’s the easy option. You don’t grow when the conditions are ideal or when you’re comfortable. You’re exactly where you’re meant to be, to become the best version of yourself.

Always ask yourself: “What is this teaching me? How can I learn from this?”

The world will carry on with indifference. It’s quite humbling to realize how tiny we are in the grander scheme of things. Follow your nature and keep trying. Rest well and take breaks if you need to.

Hold on, don’t ever give up.

What is Eid all about?

What a time to be alive! We’re celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr at home amidst the global lockdown. I’m sure some of you are a little curious as to what Eid is actually about. As a follow-up to my previous post on the importance of Ramadan, I’d like briefly talk about why we celebrate Eid.

When is Eid?

There are two Eids that Muslims celebrate every lunar year, namely: Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. The former is a celebration of the end of Ramadan, whilst the latter is a sacrificial celebration during the period of Hajj (pilgrimage).

Considering the month of Ramadan has just passed, we’re now experiencing Eid-ul-Fitr. This begins with the sighting of the crescent moon, indicating the start of a new month (in the Hijri calendar).

That is why we’re often unsure of when Eid is exactly, having to wait till the evening to determine whether the moon can be sighted. If the moon isn’t spotted, then there’s usually 1 more day of fasting during Ramadan.

Why do we celebrate is Eid?

The Eid we’re celebrating today is known as the ‘The festival of breaking the fast’. After fasting for the entire month of Ramadan, the day of Eid is commemorated to celebrate the hard work, dedication and consistency of our spiritual practices.

It’s marking the end of a blessed month. It’s common for Eid to be celebrated for up to 3 days in Arab cultures and certain traditions.

How do we celebrate Eid?

Eid starts with a congregational prayer immediately after the sunrise. This is often accompanied by an Eid khutbah (sermon). We are encouraged to wear the best clothes we have and dress up for the occasion.

It is also a day of giving. We give gifts and money to each other. Congratulate one another and spread love and kindness. We also spend on charity and ensure that those who are less fortunate than us are also taken care off.

With the current lock down and restrictions in place, it’s difficult for us to experience the usual spirit of Eid. However, it shows that we ultimately have to live through our values and strive to adapt to our circumstances.

We have found new ways to be affectionate and caring. We have found new ways to contact and celebrate with our families and friends. We have so much to appreciate and to be thankful for. Alhamdulillah.

I know it must be difficult and heart-sore for many of you who are unable to experience this beautiful occasion with others. It’s all part of our journey and we need to stay and strong and patient.

“لا تحزن , ان الله معنا ”

I hope you all have a blessed day, even if it’s just at home. Eid Mubarak, may Allah accept from us and from you all of our good deeds.

عيد مبارك , تقبل الله منا و منكم صالح الاْعمال

Why is Ramadan so important?

Have you ever wondered why Ramadan was such an important aspect of Islam? This post will focus on shedding some light to those who are curious about this blessed month. It will also serve as a reminder to those of you who are familiar with Islamic knowledge.

I’ll briefly discuss the 5 pillars of Islam, the revelation of the Quran, the reason why Muslims fast, how this month coincides with a crisis and why we try our best to revive our spirituality.

[This is based on my understanding and the research that I have done. Please consult literature or a scholar for more detailed and authentic interpretations.]

Ramadan is the 4th Pillar of Islam

Islam is constructed on the 5 pillars shown below. Each have a significant contribution to one’s faith and need to be consistently adhered to. The 1st pillar is the Shahadah, which is professing that there’s ‘No God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger’. It’s considered the foundation of Islam, because everything builds upon that testimony.

The 2nd pillar is Salaah (prayer), which is expected to be performed 5 times a day. This consistency in prayer has always been remarkable to me, as it truly keeps the 1st pillar in place and reminds me of my true purpose in life. It forms a beautiful structure to the day and allows us to frequently remember God.

The 3rd pillar is Zakaat, which is a form of giving charity. This needs to be performed annually, where we’re expected to give 2.5% of our monetary wealth to those who are less fortunate (There are more specifications to this, I’m merely giving an overview). This is such a beautiful pillar because it indicates that giving to others and being considerate is part of the religion.

The 4th pillar will be my focus today; fasting the month of Ramadan. It is the 9th month of the Hijri calendar, where we’re expected to abstain from food and drink for 29 or 30 days every year (depending on the sighting of the new moon). There’s more to it than just the abstinence of food and drink however, which I’ll also discuss.

The final pillar is Hajj; the pilgrimage to Makkah. There are roughly 2 million pilgrims on average who embark on this journey every year. This year will be the first time in history where the pilgrimage would be extremely restricted, possibly even cancelled.

The Revelation of the Quran

One of the most interesting aspects of Ramadan is that it’s the month in which the Quran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He was 40 years old when he was blessed with prophet-hood and when the angel Jibreel first revealed to him the Holy text sent by Allah. It was a constant stream of verses that spanned 23 years, which started around the year 609 CE.

The Quran contains timeless wisdom and is memorized by Muslims all over the world. It is what we recite during prayer and it has remain unscathed since it was revealed (Nothing has been edited). It’s as relevant to us today as it was when it was sent over 1400 years ago.

There’s a lot of emphasis for us to recite the Quran during Ramadan. It’s the one time of the year where everyone is a lot more focused and dedicated to their spirituality, making it a lot easier and enjoyable. Rewards for performing good deeds are multiplied by over 10 fold, which is motivating and encouraging.

Allah’s Prophet said, “Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.”

Why do Muslims fast during this month?

You may have encountered the buzzword ‘Intermittent fasting’ over the past few years. I’m proud to say that Muslims have been doing that consistently over the past 1400 years. Let’s discuss what fasting in Islam entails, whilst looking at the scientific benefits behind it.

The infographic above shows a number of health benefits associated with fasting. From an Islamic point of view however, there’s much more to it than that. The fasting starts at the Fajr prayer and ends at the Maghrib prayer. Essentially from dawn till dusk.

The fasting includes abstaining from food and drink, keeping the stimulation of senses to a minimum and staying away from sexual activity. It’s a time to practice self-control, not to indulge in the usual luxuries of life and to focus on your blessings.

The reason behind fasting is for us to become empathetic with those who are less fortunate than us. Many people live without sufficient food or water their entire lives. For those of us who are blessed with a variety of food choices every day, it gives us time to reflect on that and understand how circumstances are for others.

We often complain about the most trivial aspects of our luxurious lives, without realizing that others would be extremely grateful for a mere fraction of what we have.

Spiritual rejuvenation

We’re without a doubt, living through one of the most unique Ramadans in history. It’s no coincidence that this blessed month coincides with a global pandemic. People have the opportunity to focus more on their spirituality, to reflect, to grow and to become compassionate.

The lock down restrictions have forced us to gain a few realizations. We need to understand that everything happens for a reason. Whether you see it as a blessing or a curse, entirely depends on your perception.

I say this again and again, but it’s an important reminder. Life is short and we are all temporary. Look at how quickly time is passing. Before you know it, your time will be up and you’ll spend the rest of your days in the grave (until Resurrection). Keep that in mind often. It’s not something to be bleak about, it’s part of the circle of life.

You should try and feel motivated by how fleeting this all is. You’re not here for nothing. This isn’t a coincidence. It’s all part of the plan.

The reason I wrote this post was to remind myself of why I focus so much during Ramadan. I also hope to have inspired you in some way, or to have helped you understand it a little better. I really enjoyed writing about this, if you’d like me to discuss the 4 other pillars of Islam, please let me know!

I hope the rest of your month and days ahead are blessed InshaAllah. Stay strong, stay thankful, stay present. Everything happens for a reason, don’t forget that. The more struggle you have to endure, the more you are rewarded. Alhamdulillah for everything.

Mindful Monday #3

Another beautiful day to be mindful. Before we get going, smile, look at the world around you and take in 3 deep breaths. Now let’s talk about food, auto-pilot, gratitude and habits.

Food

We definitely have work to do when it comes to eating mindfully. How exactly?

By focusing on your food more. Paying more attention to the texture, the smell and the taste of it. Did you know that 80% of the flavour we taste is acquired through smelling? (Google it haha)

Technology has become quite an ingrained aspect of our lives. Separating it from food however, will definitely help us enhance our life experience.

I can’t be the only one who has conditioned myself to eat while watching series, sports or YouTube videos. Let’s try to be aware of that and change our habits accordingly.

When you eat mindfully and are truly grateful for what you have, there’s so much blessing in it.

Auto-Pilot

We’re quite algorithmic. There’s so much that we do without a conscious thought. Brushing your teeth, getting into the car, scrolling on your phone, making food, changing into your outfit.

Are robots becoming more like us, or are we becoming more like them?

We could try paying a little more attention to the way the water feels when we’re washing the dishes, the way the milk tastes in our tea or the feeling of the wind stroking our hair.

This trains the mind to be present, which allows us to focus on what truly matters. Mindfulness is a practice which aligns our thoughts with our feelings, allowing us to actually experience the world.

Habits

Don’t get me wrong here, operating on auto-pilot makes us highly efficient. It saves our brain a lot of time and energy, by following routine without needing to think.

The only problem with that is that we don’t fully appreciate all that we have. We subconsciously take certain aspects of our life for granted, because we don’t spend enough time thinking about it.

By incorporating mindfulness into our habits, we can start feeling truly grateful for our blessings. Considering we can only be grateful in the present, why not focus on what we have a little more?

Spend more time focusing on your food. Consciously take in the scents and aromas of what you’re indulging. Focus a little more during your routine, to train your brain to be present. Think about how blessed you are as often as you can, it’ll truly change your life.