A healthy lifestyle is important for everyone. Islam not only provides practical guidance on how to develop spiritually, but also provides a comprehensive understanding on how to maintain our physical, mental, and social health. This is because each of these aspects of our health support and affect each other. Islam teaches healthy living, by providing a balanced and harmonious method to achieve optimal health. However, health is transient. We need to work on finding this balance regularly and constantly.
How to develop positive health habits
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not easy. However, by introducing positive habits and being consistent in developing them can lead to a healthier lifestyle. The definition of being healthy will be different for different people and alter throughout the different stages of our lives. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. Rather, we should focus on our personal physical, mental, and spiritual growth. It is also important to remember that developing these healthy habits and making a change can take time. By making small changes one at a time, changing negative habits into positive ones can become more achievable. And an achievable change is more likely to become a habit you keep.
When it comes to physical health, eating well, exercising, and sleeping well, all contribute to our physical health. All these aspects of our physical health require a balanced approach. Refraining from over-indulgence in foods, crash diets or strenuous exercise are all unsustainable long-term and lead to imbalance in maintaining our physical health. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) exemplified this by stating “fill the stomach one third with food, one third with water and leave one third empty.” This practice of maintaining balance prevents sickness and disease, now proven by science.
Moderation in eating, along with regular movement is fundamental to maintain a healthy physical lifestyle. Eating and drinking slowly and mindfully is also beneficial. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) practiced this method and science now also supports the many benefits of this practice. Eating that which is good for you, and not harmful to consume is another teaching of the Holy Quran that sustains your physical health. Modern-day practices such as intermittent fasting, only eating at certain times of the day, gentle, consistent movement throughout the day, and maintaining a good sleep schedule are all practices emphasised by the teachings of Islam to keep your body in a healthy state.
Cleanliness and hygiene
Practicing good hygiene and cleanliness is important for our physical health. This includes habits like bathing, dental hygiene and keeping ourselves and our surrounding environment clean. Poor hygiene and a lack of cleanliness not only affects us physically, but also affects our self-esteem. Maintaining good personal hygiene will also help prevent you from spreading diseases to other people. Cleanliness is an important part of Islam. Caring for one’s hygiene is not only deemed a good habit in Islam but also rendered into rituals that constitute part of the faith itself.
Embracing a positive mindset
Mental health plays a huge role in our general well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. Positive thoughts and a healthy mindset are key to our mental wellbeing. Positive thinking, or having an optimistic attitude, is the practice of focusing on the good in any given situation. It simply means you approach the good and the bad in life with the expectation that things will go well. When we focus on our strengths, we are also being grateful for all the good in our lives as well, which in turn also keeps us grounded and positive and thus keeping our mental health in check.
Keeping mentally active
Physical activity is a great way to keep you not only physically, but also improves your mental wellbeing. Research shows that doing exercise releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins in the brain. Even a short burst of 10 minutes of brisk walking can improve your mental alertness, energy, and mood. Whether you’re tending your garden or running a marathon, exercise can significantly improve your quality of life. However, keeping mentally active does require that we intentionally take steps to disconnect from stresses and worries on life, while we focus on our mental wellbeing.
Taking time out
When you relax, you give yourself permission to let go of worries for a while. It gives your mind and body time to recover from the stresses of everyday life. For some, this may include things like meditation or prayer. There are so many benefits of meditation and prayer, studies have proven that when well-practiced, these tools can put us on the path to understanding and breaking deep-rooted bad habits and even healing illnesses. Prayer helps your brain disconnect from old synapses and develop new ones, triggering the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain.
In Islam, the regimen of five daily prayers at their prescribed times enables the building of a good habit of remembering God multiple times a day. In an age where there is so much interest in meditation and finding ways to reduce the stress of modern life, the five daily prayers could not be more useful. Prayer is a means to tap ourselves out of those thoughts and pay attention to something greater and find our peace. That is why God says, “Aye! It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.”
Social and behavioural health
Nurturing relationships for better health
It is important to nurture our relationships and interactions with others for a healthy and functional life. Friends and family can make you feel included and cared for. They can help keep you active, keep you grounded and help you solve practical problems. Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. When you give your time or attention to other people in a personal, professional, or voluntary role, it can make you feel better about yourself as well as feel less isolated. Social connections can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, leading to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems. By neglecting our need to connect, we put our health at risk.
In addition, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, therefore, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true for those who lack social connectedness. Low levels of social connection are associated with declines in physical and psychological health as well as a higher likelihood for antisocial behavior that leads to further isolation.
Positive behaviour leads to healthy habits
When we look at behavioral health, this includes the ability to regulate our behavior and our habits. Our behavior plays a key role in disease development and control. Unhealthy behaviours could include things like smoking, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, inactivity, and poor diets. All these are important and adjustable risk factors for many chronic diseases and causes of death and disability. In the ideal, a person who practices a variety of behaviors in a health-enhancing manner can be described as living a healthy lifestyle.
True spiritual wellbeing
Spiritual health refers to our connection and relationship with God, our Creator. Our spiritual health refers to that core dimension of you – your innermost self – that provides you with a profound sense of who you are, your purpose in life. Spiritual wellness may mean different things to different people. For some, spirituality may be synonymous with traditional religion, while for others it relates primarily to the quality of personal relationships or love for nature. But, true spirituality or real spiritual wellbeing can be achieved through religion, when we are directly communicating, in a two-way method with a living, loving God.
Modern psychology has recognized that a core aspect of the human mind involves spirituality. Wellness is defined in the dimensions of mind, body, and spirit/soul. We cannot have total wellness if we ignore any one of these dimensions. The Prophet (peace be upon him) constantly preached the message of health, he knew that healthy bodies carry healthy souls. So, just like we focus on improving physical or mental health, we also need to pay attention to our spiritual health.
Spirituality according to Islam
Having spirituality is essentially the ability of a person to process the world around them and discover meaning and significance. In the Islamic tradition, this process involves contemplating the signs of God that exist in the world and extracting knowledge to inform us on how to act, think, and feel. For example, when a person witnesses the change in trees during spring, perhaps it reminds them of the temporary nature of this world, inspiring them to strive for loftier aims in life, that their life has a bigger purpose and meaning. Or perhaps the different colors inspire them to recognize the beauty of the diversity of humankind. When a person with high spiritual intelligence goes through life, their mind is constantly abstracting positive meaning and significance from the events that unfold around them. This fuels positive spiritual states such as inspiration, optimism, gratitude, and perseverance.
A further requirement for attaining spiritual health and happiness is self-purification in thought, word, and deed. It is true that no one is perfect, but one should strive and be ever watchful in maintaining one’s conduct and attitude towards everybody and everything free of blemish. One should eradicate all feelings of resentment, malice, jealousy, impatience, pride, revenge, envy, injustice, scorn, and all kinds of ill-feelings towards others. On the other hand, one should cultivate feelings of love, kindness, sympathy, forbearance, humility, patience, charity, justice, courtesy, helpfulness, understanding and other pleasing virtues.
A balanced, holistic approach
Having good spiritual health revolves around having insightful and nurturing relationships with your own self and others, a strong personal value system, and cultivation and fulfilment of purpose in life. These things are those that give us a sense of inner peace, comfort, strength, love and connection with a Higher Being. Islam presents the most comprehensive guidance on how to develop one’s spiritual health by establishing a connection with God. Until God affirms His existence through revelation it is not possible for us to establish a connection with Him. Ultimately, Islam’s holistic approach to health covers all aspects of the mind, body, and soul. A truly health-conscious person blends diet, nutrition, and exercise with the remembrance of God and an intention to fulfill all their obligations.