As the pace of life hastens, many of us find it difficult to fit many tasks, duties and obligations in our everyday life. There are deadlines to meet, kids to drop off, and dry cleaning to pick up – so many things to do that we increasingly neglect the needs of our bodies and our souls. Many of us are sleep deprived, over-worked, chowing down junk food and not getting enough exercise. Just as our bodies need to be well-rested, well-fed and hydrated for maximum endurance, so too our souls need purification, refreshment and energizing. Daily prayers, meditation, reading and learning, attending study circles and spending quality time with the loved ones are definitely some of many activities that can contribute positively to our spiritual and mental health.
We need to create and maintain a delicate balance between the needs of the body and soul to establish mental well being and strengthen family and social relationships. Using the Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) as a guide, I would like to suggest some simple yet effective tips so that we can make the most of our waking hours.
- Become fully conscious Needless to say, more and more people today seem to hold the perception that it is almost impossible to appropriately fulfill religious or social duties while making a living – one, it seems, always has to come at the expense of the other. Everyone is in a continuous struggle to keep the balance between the two. Our financial success has unfortunately become the criterion of success in life thereby increasing our focus on ‘almighty dollar’. We need to refocus on what truly makes a successful life – strong relationships between us and our families, communities and God.
- Identify responsibilities and priorities in life Success comes to those who set proper priorities, ranked on their importance in both this life and the hereafter. For instance, in the Qur’an God Almighty decrees orders based on the things that matter, or should matter, the most to people of faith. The order of importance in the Qur’anic and Prophetic texts in regards to duties, rulings and regulations is as follows: faith, family, physical and mental health, society, education and employment. The first three elements should take precedence over the last three ones at all times. However the last three can be set (between themselves) in a different order based on different situations and circumstances. For example, earning a living is not a goal but a means to an end – achieving respite from poverty – however, it has become a priority in itself at the expense of others.
- Change attitudes Islam teaches us to balance between our faith (deen) and the material world (dunya). Musims repeat the supplication often: “O Allah! Do not make dunya our major worry and the end of our knowledge, but rather put it in our hands not in our hearts.” In fact, it is a well known story that during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the companions of the Prophet would only trade as much as they needed to, and once they had made enough for the day, they closed their shops so that other merchants may benefit.
- Manage time
- Make a "To Do" list every day and review it regularly
- Prioritize tasks using a planner and make calls first thing in the morning
- Divide your time into projects and tasks and estimate time required
- Check your email only three times a day, respond to queries and sort them into folders
- Review your checklist at the end of the day and move pending items to a fresh list
- Set spiritually motivated community goals every month e.g. volunteer your time towards the local community centre or mosque and support good causes with your time
- Manage energy
- Sleep well – seven hours is good for most people
- Learn to breathe properly. Don't take shallow breaths. Take full deep breaths so that the oxygen fills your lungs
- Stay hydrated – drink eight to twelve glasses of water depending on body weight
- Take power naps – the Prophet (PBUH) used to nap for a few minutes after lunch everyday
- Freshen up with ablution (wuduh) and turn your daily prayers into rest – the Prophet (PBUH) said “the coolness of my eyes lies in Salaah”
- Try to pray in congregation – it boosts community spirit
- Watch less TV and instead play sports or play with your children – watching television is a passive activity encouraging couch potato behavior while playing sports or with the children is pleasurable exercise!
Focusing on the above activities will help achieve and maintain a balance between our spiritual, physical and material goals and needs, ultimately helping us to achieve a well spent life.