‘For me, ramadan is not just abstaining from food and water, it is a complete detoxification of the body and mind,” says Tahseen Akhtar, 28.
Tahseen is one of the two billion Muslims around the world who are currently observing Ramadan.
In the next month, followers of Islam will devote time to reflection, increased worship, charity, fellowship and fasting.
It’s a time of self-evaluation and improvement – a chance to strengthen connection with faith, God and community.
And for many, this disciplined routine and focus on mindfulness is a huge boost to their mental health.
Tahseen, from Manchester, is terrified and says Ramadan is helpful in managing her condition. “Since Ramadan is a time for prayer and reflection, this helps me stay calm and grounded, which allows me to adapt better coping mechanisms if any anxiety symptoms arise.
“I definitely have the feeling that my symptoms such as restlessness, nervousness and overthinking are significantly reduced during Ramadan.
“It allows me to look within and reconnect with myself. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often lose sight of the essentials.”
However, due to the challenges the month can bring, she will also have to adjust some of her usual coping mechanisms.
“I find the gym to be really helpful for my mental wellbeing, but in Ramadan I can’t commit to intense workouts, so I’ll try to walk 10 minutes a day, which helps to refresh my mind and make sure I’m that I still get my body moving.’
Nubaid Haroon, 31, also says Ramadan reduces his anxiety. “For me, Ramadan is all about concentration,” he explains. “I’m fortunate to say I haven’t suffered from depression, but anxiety is a regular occurrence – during Ramadan I really focus on my inner beliefs that allow me to stay in the present moment, which we don’t can do our everyday life.
“During Ramadan you switch off from all the noise and become one with the idea of being here today and nowhere else.”
Bradford’s Nubaid also says he experiences more gratitude during the holy month. “Everything slows down during Ramadan, we appreciate everything around us and the tiny details that God has given us,” he says.
“This positive element helps to deal with emotions in everyday life. After Ramadan I feel a sense of warmth towards life and a strengthened gratitude.”
For Sebina Hussain, 31, Ramadan previously helped her cope with postpartum depression.
She says, “Last year I was struggling with postpartum depression and found that Ramadan pushed me to develop a routine that has helped me.”
New moms aren’t expected to fast during the month, but Sebina, from London, says skipping that part of the month has actually had a negative impact on her in the past. “I felt like I was missing something,” she says.
And Sebina says doing other exercises throughout the month also boosts her mental well-being.
“I find that taking time in my day-to-day routines to focus on reciting prayer is very healing.
“I also find that because others around me are also focusing on spirituality this month, the overall atmosphere is helping to improve my mental health.”
The positive effects last well beyond the holy month. “I see Ramadan as an annual detox,” she says. “It’s helping me improve my diet and time management, which in turn allows me to develop new habits that I hope to continue beyond Ramadan.
“This year, Ramadan coincides with the Easter break from school, so I’m happy to host my loved ones.”
Why Ramadan May Have Positive Mental Health Benefits
Cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist Humza Khan shares his thoughts.
“A crucial part of self-care during Ramadan is compassion – being kind to ourselves. That means listening to your body and respecting it. Ramadan is an opportunity to start building new and healthy habits or to strengthen existing practices. We can apply aspects of self-care and mindfulness from Ramadan to our daily lives, whether establishing a new routine or structure for what we choose to do each day.
“Ramadan is an opportunity to shift our focus away from worries that we cannot control or that are not happening now by working towards being present. As we pray we always work to be as present as possible while concentrating on our attitude, attitude, the verses recited and the actions we need to take.’
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