Don’t take your health for granted

When was the last time you were sick? Isn’t it usually a rather stressful or depressing feeling? Why do we only start appreciating our health when it’s under threat?

This will be a post as part of the Thinking Out Loud series. I fell ill over my trip to Turkey and I just want to share some of the insights I’ve gained from it.

By now, you may be familiar with one of my core values: Gratitude. This will definitely be a gentle reminder to help us appreciate one of the greatest assets we have; our health.

What can you control?

Think about the last time you were sick. How quickly did you fall into prayer, kindness and hope of recovery? Something to always keep in mind is that we can control our perception, not our circumstances.

Physical illness is largely a mental battle. You have to fight off the constant stress, the constant negative thoughts and the constant regret. We’re often extremely unproductive when we’re ill, which definitely has its advantages.

Our body uses up most of its energy to fight off the bad guys (usually viruses & harmful bacteria) and for healing. This is what generally tends to make us feel despondent (apart from the actual feeling of being sick). We feel bad for being stuck in bed & not carrying on with our lives as usual.

But this is where I started appreciating something. We don’t often realize it, but when our body forces us to slow down, its for our own good. We have a lot more time to contemplate & be grateful. It’s vital to stay optimistic and still see the world through adventurous eyes.

Why should you be grateful?

For the perspective that being sick has to offer. For the skills that it teaches you. For the values you acquire; patience, perseverance, humility. No amount of wealth will ever compensate for losing your health. That’s something to be extremely aware of.

If you start imagining what life is like for those who have chronic illnesses, you’d have a lot to be thankful for. The fact that you can see, the fact that you can hear, the fact that you can walk, taste, smell, feel. I could go on and on and on. These are invaluable blessings that we oversee.

The point I’m trying to make is that we need to spend a little more time each day contemplating how fortunate we really are. For if any of these blessings were to disappear, our life would be completely different.

Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him)

What could be the benefits of falling ill?

It brings you closer to God. It brings you closer to your family and friends. It helps you stay humble and understand how temporary life truly is. It also helps your body reset and strengthens part of your immune system.

Memento Mori: Remember that you will die. Falling sick is probably the greatest reminder of death. So it makes sense for us to be terribly afraid of it.

This was just a short post that I wanted to use as a reminder. We need to be more loving, more kind, more gentle, more patient & more grateful. For what truly matters when we pass on isn’t our status, wealth or success. But rather the impact we make on the world and those around us.

Let’s strive to live each day with utmost contentment & full of life. Don’t make decisions that don’t align with your values. Focus on your blessings and remember: You Only Die Once.

Is there any Hope?

In an era where we seem to be the most advanced and prosperous humans, everything seems to be going to sh*t. So what keeps us going?

I’ll discuss the different aspects required for hope, the 2 different ‘brains’ that we have, and a whole bunch of values! I’ll speak into certain parts of our life that seem daunting or hopeless and how to turn that around. A little bit of an Islamic perspective will also be discussed.

Through evaluating our perceptions and pain, I aim to make you feel more hopeful (or not) & better equipped to deal with life’s constant curve balls.

Inspired by: Everything Is F*cked by Mark Manson.

Let’s breakdown what hope actually is, in order to build and maintain it. There are 3 critical components:

  • Control
  • Values
  • Community

We should have a sense of control over our life, to determine our own fate. We need to understand our core values, considering it’s our driving force & what we strive for. These enable us to build a sense of community with other individuals, which is ultimately feeling like we’re part of something greater than ourselves.

If we lose any of those 3 components, we lose hope.

Having control over our own life is a critical aspect of hope. How do we gain a sense of control? We first need to acknowledge and accept that there are parts of our life that we cannot control, and that’s okay. Speaking into the parts that we can control, my idea would be to form structure and discipline. Setting out specific tasks and goals, are the easiest way to feel like we’re accomplishing something and moving forward.

Start small, stay consistent, work smart.

Build on and repeat.

Values, values, values. I can’t emphasize how essential it is, to have a solid understanding of our values. We need to know what we stand for, what we believe in, and more importantly: why. When we have a clearer idea of what our values are, we can effectively live them out. Actions speak louder than words, so we need to hold ourselves accountable to ensure we’re truly carrying out our values.

A tip for this: read the different type of values shown in the pic below, choose 2 or 3 that you truly believe in. Write them down and keep them clearly in front of your desk or wall.

Serve a cause greater than yourself. This is where community plays the biggest role in my opinion. I mention over and over again, how important it is to contribute to those around you. When things seem hopeless, what can we do? Strive to make a difference within your community. Understand that community can mean anyone you see on a regular basis. The people in your work / school environment, your neighbours and especially those who are less fortunate than you.

We're all made of the same soil, from the same planet. We're all leaders, first to ourselves then to those around us. 

Another really cool concept discussed in the book, were the 2 different types of brains that we have; Thinking & Feeling brains. These are vital to understand, because of how relevant they are in dealing with our decision making and motivation.

Why do we do things we know are bad for us?

That’s where understanding the 2 different brains come into play. The Thinking brain is what represents rational, logical & conscious thoughts. The Feeling brain represents emotions, impulses and intuition.

We do things that are bad for us because they feel good.

The Thinking brain is objective and factual. It requires a lot of energy and effort to make rational decisions. The Feeling brain however, is more subjective, highly sensitive and unreasonable. For us to be able to develop self-acceptance and a healthy mindset, we need to unify both brains. An integrated, unified and coordinated whole; where both brains interact in balance with each other.

Ultimately, we all succumb to feelings. We do things that feel good (pleasure). We avoid things that feel bad (pain). As I mentioned in Thinking Out Loud 3, our own classification of what is good or bad, is what controls our feelings. It’s empirical then, to dissociate from and accept those feelings, rather than act on them.

Here’s an incredible question that I found really difficult to answer:

When do we know whether to consciously think things through vs trusting our gut decisions?

I don’t actually have an answer for that, but it’s just something to ponder over. Think of the events that have led you to making certain decisions, and how you went about it. How does our idea of pain play a role here?

When we avoid pain, we induce stress and tragedy; which makes us fragile. Something important to realize, is that you can’t get rid of pain. It’s the universal constant of the human condition. It’s always there, the only thing that changes is our perception of it.

So how can we develop a better relationship with pain? By becoming anti-fragile. To develop a system which gains from stressors and external pressures. Not to numb the pain and constantly avoid it. But to become self-limiting and choosing what we are willing to give up. The question to then ask is:

What pain we are willing to endure?

Here’s a little Islamic perspective on hope. As Muslims, we believe that everything happens for a reason; that we’re ultimately here on a temporary journey. The hopeful aspect regarding this, is that no matter what happens to us, we believe it’s destined. That this world is a trial to the Hereafter.

“Islam encourages a person to be optimistic and plant a seed even in the last minute of his or her life, irrespective of the fact that the person who planted the seed, may not yield its fruit.”

So if we’re trying to stay hopeful amidst all this chaos, what can we do?

Ensure that we have a foundation in the 3 components discussed earlier; Control, Values & Community. We can develop a sense of control by forming structure. Live through our values by first understanding them. Become part of the community by serving those around us.

Understand that we have two different “brains” and the importance of integrating them both. To be accepting of our pain and learn to become anti-fragile.

So the point of all this is essentially not to have hope. To be hopeful, you need to believe that things are going to sh*t. Instead, just Be. Don’t hope to become better, BE BETTER. Live for now, and give each moment your best shot. Your perception of the world is evolving each and every day, nothing is meant to be static.

“The only thing that is constant, is change.”

Heraclitus