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Ramadan - a Formula for Wellbeing

Updated: Apr 22, 2021 (originally posted on Mar 22, 2021) *Disclosure: This is a health and wellbeing article, not an Islamic Scholarly article. The views expressed are of the author only.

Ramadan is just around the corner and it is a good time to think about the full impact this beautiful month could have on our lives. For Muslims, fasting in this month means abstaining from food, water and ‘marital relations’ from dawn ‘til dusk for a period of 29-30 days. While the aim of Ramadan is to increase our spiritual connections, I thought it important to share the many other health and wellbeing effects that this month can provide.

But before I explain this, it is necessary to understand the basis of these recommendations. Many people view Islam as a ritualistic religion with a bunch of rules and laws that encourage you to ‘hear and obey’ but it is so much more than that. When Islam was introduced to the world it was meant as guidance or a way of living for all human beings, of all backgrounds until we humans no longer exist. We were also advised to contemplate these messages and seek knowledge throughout our lives. Therefore, if we dig deeper, the principles of Islam serve as a guide for all human beings, and it covers all aspects of wellbeing to ensure optimal functioning of individuals within any society. The gradual manner in which the Islamic holy book, the Quran, was revealed also reflects the understanding that lasting changes should be gradual and start with small, consistent efforts. Life is a journey, and we should all appreciate our different paths to success. Now, looking at the health and wellbeing effects of this holy month, I wanted to start with the benefits of the fast itself.

Intermitting fasting has scientific benefits on the body, but these are only seen when done along side periods of normal eating. Fortunately, this science-based concept is already built-in to this way of life, from the optional fasts throughout the year, to the obligatory fasts in Ramadan. Interestingly as well, research shows that Circadian Rhythm Fasts, where food intake is timed with our sleep/wake cycle, are more beneficial than other types of intermittent fasting for several reasons:

  1. It Improves metabolism

  2. Lowers blood sugars

  3. Lessens inflammation, which is associated with conditions from arthritis to asthma

  4. Helps with the removal of damaged cells and toxins from the body which can lower cancer risks

  5. Enhances brain function, and who doesn’t need that?!

Another recommendation in Ramadan is to increase our prayers, reading of the Qur’an and the remembrance of God. These aspects of enhancing spiritual growth are linked to our Psychological Wellbeing. Our wellbeing improves in the same way as with positive self-talk and affirmations while allowing us to have connections to a power greater than ourselves. These form aspects of positive psychology and have many health benefits. The key however is to engage in these spiritual acts with mindfulness. In Islam, MURAQABAH or the concept of mindfulness, is the practice of being in the present, in ‘your now’, without distractions or worry about situations external to your current state. So when we pray, read Qur’an or simply say our phrases of Remembrance of God (Zikr) we should engage mindfully. We should contemplate on the words we say, find the meanings and appreciate the blessings we have. By doing this daily, we train our brain to develop positive and healthier thought processing while creating more awareness and connectivity which benefits us spiritually and mentally.

The benefits of mindfulness include:

  1. Decreasing Stress and Emotional Reactivity (Emotional reactions)

  2. Decreasing Anxiety and Depression

  3. Improving Memory, Focus and Concentration

  4. Enhancing personal relationships while encouraging compassion and empathy

By using Ramadan as our training ground to become more mindful, we will recognise its impact on our Social Wellbeing. Our Social Wellbeing also has the potential to flourish in Ramadan. Social Wellbeing refers to our positive connections with people and within our world. As part of making sure our fast is accepted, we control our tempers and are more conscious of our words. These practices then have a positive effect on our relationships and encourage us to not waste time on unnecessary actions like gossip and creating conflict. We should also increase our acts of giving/charity this month. As the saying goes, ‘Charity begins at home’ and as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Smiling... is an act of charity’. We should also give more of our time and find purpose in helping out at home and in the wider community.

This month creates a spirit of betterment, and we should use it to work on our relationships. This will enhance our sense of belonging in our communities, which contributes to our sense of purpose and overall wellbeing. For those of us who constantly give too much of ourselves, it is a good time to work on our relationships with ourself and our Creator. Keeping with the concept of giving, we should also focus on our Financial Wellbeing, especially in this month. For Muslims blessed with money, there is a financial duty towards those who do not have. This is paid as a ‘poor’ tax (Zakat) of 2.5% of yearly earnings to people in need. But the responsibility regarding this money does not stop here. For those who receive this help, there is also a duty to use the money within reason and not waste it unnecessarily. The ripple effects of improving our Social and Financial Wellbeing through these practices are big enough to change your community for the better. In closing, there are many ways that Ramadan can help us improve our wellbeing. We should also appreciate that we all already have the tools within us to become better people and that Ramadan provides the perfect social framework to help us achieve all-round success. If you need more information on your preparation for Ramadan please reach out to us via email support@noorcorporatehealth.com or visit our website www.noorcorporatehealth.com.

May we all live to experience and gain all the benefits of this holy month. To learn more about Ramadan and Wellbeing please read '20 Tips on Improving your Wellbeing this Ramadan'.

References:

  1. Harvard Medical School - Harvard Health Blog - Intermittent Fasting: Surprising Update by Monique Tello

  2. Yaqueen Institute for Islamic Research - How to be a Mindful Muslim: An Exercise in Islamic Meditation by Justin Parrott

  3. Centre for Disease Control - Wellbeing Concepts








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