Ramadan is a treasured month that is perhaps the most anticipated month of the Hijri calendar for Muslims all across the world. Everyone has their own way of honoring and celebrating this month. During this holy month, Muslims focus on forgiveness, worship, and redemption. This article, however, will explain how different aspects of spirituality, religion, and Ramadan can positively affect your mental health!
Religion and spirituality are generally linked to better mental health and a higher level of certainty in one’s belief system are also linked to enhanced psychological health. Furthermore, research indicates that people with a positive and accepting image of God show less anxiety and depressive symptoms, and the belief in a benevolent God is linked to less social anxiety, paranoia, compulsion, and obsession. This is due to various aspects related to religion, which include:
It has been indicated to be one of the factors that foster better mental health as it aids in promoting one’s level of adaptability. This might be due to numerous reasons, one of which is that religious beliefs offer a sense of meaning and purpose during times of suffering and difficult life circumstances. This is in line with Victor Frankl’s treatment modality, Logotherapy, which highlights the importance of finding meaning from challenging life events during the process of healing. Frankl believed that meaning can be found in all situations by connecting with something beyond and greater than oneself. Religious coping also includes reframing or reinterpreting events that seem uncontrollable in a way that reduces distress or makes them more meaningful. This relates to Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which encourages cognitive reframing for a more positive mindset.
The provision of a community and social support:
This protects individuals from social isolation and provides them with a sense of belonging with like-minded people who share a similar set of values and worldviews. Attending religious services regularly has been linked to less likelihood of development of depression and is linked with reduced suicide attempts. It has also been associated with fewer distress experiences following negative life events.
Religious/spiritual role models:
A lot of individuals tend to learn from religious or spiritual role models valuable qualities and practices. Certain behaviors, including positive behaviors, can be acquired by observing models and reinforcing the behavior according to Albert Bandura’s social learning theory. What makes the application of this theory in this context unique is those spiritual role models (e.g. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or Jesus Christ) cannot be directly observed, however, the same learning process can occur through listening to the stories of their lives. Such qualities include having a more positive worldview that is characterized by optimism and hope in addition to having acceptance regarding suffering in life. Moreover, it encourages certain emotions such as hope, contentment, love, and forgiveness, which reflect positively on the individual’s endocrine and immune systems. Also, it enhances one’s self-regulation, patience, and discipline, which eventually leads to mental maturity.
Prayer and meditation:
Findings from research suggest that people who pray (salah) regularly in a mindful manner have better mental health than those who don’t. Also, this has been indicated to lessen norepinephrine and cortisol levels, which decreases stress and mental health issues associated with it. This might be due to prayer reinforcing a personal relationship with a perceived divine other, promoting a sense of meaning and purpose, encouraging a more positive self-concept as well as offering a temporary break where negative emotions diminish.
Other aspects related to Ramadan that benefit mental health:
Another quality that religion promotes is a sense of altruism and selflessness. Various health benefits are linked to giving, which include increased self-esteem, lower stress levels, less depression, reduction in social anxiety, greater happiness and satisfaction, and even lower blood pressure and longer life.
Have you ever noticed a warm, nice feeling after doing a charitable activity? There’s actually science behind this phenomenon! There is evidence that suggests that after engaging in such behaviors, there are “feel good” chemicals that get secreted in our brains such as serotonin (which regulates our mood), dopamine (the feel-good chemical), and oxytocin (a chemical that brings about compassion and bonding). Also, endorphins are released, which create what is commonly known as “helper’s high,” which refers to the positive emotions one experiences after participating in selfless service to other people.
While acts of kindness could include fundraising for charity, organizing Ma’edat Al Rahman, or distributing meals to those in need, this favorable result is not dependent on high levels of investment whether of someone’s time, effort or finances. In fact, just a small gesture of kindness might result in this outcome. An example in Ramadan could be accepting dates or a cup of water from people who are distributing them in the streets with a smile or even just saying to someone “Ramadan Kareem” with a smile.
This is one of the key pillars of Islam. Research has suggested that fasting can reduce stress levels. How, you might ask? The primary stress hormone, cortisol, is maintained and stabilized by organizing our eating schedule. This is because the production of hormones is associated with protein absorption. So, when we regulate our protein intake, hormones will also be more organized. This will not only foster better mental health, but it will also boost our immunity by reducing stress hormone levels.
Most importantly, however, unlike other coping resources, religion is accessible to everyone regardless of time, financial, social, or physical restrictions.
- Please follow your doctor’s instructions if they advise you not to fast.
- If you feel that your mental health is declining, please seek help from a mental health professional.
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