Media intake, islamic diet and giving ourselves time and space to process it all.
Modern approaches to a healthy lifestyle often focus on good health through diet and exercise. This is excellent but what about the intellectual, emotional and spiritual aspects to our beings? How do we govern the emotional, spiritual and information diets within our lives?
In part 1 we delved into emotional muhasabah (self-accounting) and constantly reviewing our thoughts and actions to make sure they’re in line with our greater purpose.
Spiritually it’s important we stay connected to God through our actions and intentions. We strive to do more than just our obligatory good deeds; we aim to really live a life of excellence.
Affirmation and validation also play an important role spiritually. We should be comfortable in our own selves and at peace; making sure that we acknowledge our inherent self worth as beautiful souls that God created and chose to put on this earth. This encompasses accepting that we have value and dignity and then ensuring that we always treat ourselves and others with that dignity bestowed upon us.
In part 2 we looked at taking time to re-centre and disconnect from being online all the time. This involves making sure that we’re comfortable being alone with our selves and coupling that with taking time to acknowledge our emotional and spiritual needs. The result of this is making sure that our information diet complements our needs and is aligned with our values.
We tie together our spiritual and information diet through the Qur’an. The Qur’an is a purification for our souls and on top of recitation we should also endeavour to engage with its meanings and guidance.
ذَٰلِكَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ
This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those who are mindful of Allah — Quran 2:2
The Qur’an is the unaltered word of Allah and the message of Islam is a timeless guidance to all of mankind. A source of help and refuge:
ٱلْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِى وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ ٱلْإِسْلَـٰمَ دِينًا
Today, I have perfected your religion for you, and have completed My blessing upon you, and chosen Islam as Deen (religion and a way of life) for you — Qur’an 5:3
Complementing our information diet is considering our overtly “Islamic diet”. If we’re always engaged with media that glorifies detrimental, demerit behaviours, we’ll naturally become more desensitised and accepting of those behaviours. Activities such as drugs, alcohol, illicit relationships, violence and profanity are often implicitly proselytised through celebrities actions, popular films and music.
Something like violence is inherently disgusting to the soul, to see another person in pain or being exploited. Through such excessive and gratuitous violence that is often exhibited in films and video games, many of us are completely desensitised. People from remote countries without access to much media, are often shocked when they first see a Hollywood action movie.
For most of us violence, isn’t something that we’re going to inculcate into our daily lives simply because we saw it in a film, but what about the other negative actions that are slowly begin to pervade our culture and seep into our consciousness?
A simple question we can ask ourselves is “Does this help me to be the best version of myself that I aspire to be? Is this aligned with my values and aspirations? Does this help me to draw closer to God or does it distance me from Him?”
We can do ourselves a big favour by listening to any number of good talks and lectures that help enliven our souls. These spiritual or educational talks help us to grow in the direction that we desire in the long term. We learn beneficial new information and are reminded of things we may have previously known but forgot to act upon. We can take the time to listen to a myriad of talks or beneficial classes instead of just songs during our walks and daily commute.
وَذَكِّرْ فَإِنَّ ٱلذِّكْرَىٰ تَنفَعُ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
“˹Continue to˺ remind. For certainly reminders benefit the believers.”— Quran 51:55
If we’re used to listening to Islamic podcasts or talks, we should also try and listen to podcasts that help us in our field of work. Podcasts that, for example, provide background flavour to the industry or discuss news in the field.
Ultimately if the purpose of our job is to contribute back to society, and to serve God through our work, we should always endeavour to be the best we possible can within our work. It is a form of worship in itself.
After all this time honing our information diet it is also important to spend time processing it. While commuting, walking or exercising, sometimes it is good to sit in silence, and listen to our thoughts. Giving ourselves time to think through whatever may be on our mind.
Often the answers to some of our biggest problems will come when we’re just taking a stroll. At work we may be looking at a problem for hours without much progress, when we finally take a break to turn off and make dinner or go for a walk, we may find that’s when inspiration takes root and the solution comes to us.
It is important we give ourselves the mental space and time to allow our brains to ruminate and ensure that we have a chance to think through everything that may be on our mind. Through this we make sure we’re not always in information overload through talking to people, reading new information, watching videos and listening to podcasts!
Journalling and Structure
We can actively organise our thoughts and plan for the future through journalling. Spending a short amount of time, writing (or typing) can helps guide our thoughts and make sure we’ve asked ourselves the big important questions at least once a day.
I use the following questions to guide my journalling reflections each evening and the hope is that it becomes second nature to reflect on these questions throughout my day:
- Gratitude -- Did I have a good day today?
- Self Development -- Reflect on what i would want to improve from today?
- Processing feelings -- What was the saddest part of the day? Find the silver lining -- say alhumdullillah
- Accountability -- Did I achieve what I wanted to today?
- Preparation -- What do I want to achieve tomorrow?
An especially practical step, is the last step of laying out a very simple checklist for the coming day. I find it always helps me to have a lot more direction when I wake up just having journaled a very rough plan of what I want to achieve, along with my mindset towards any hurdles I anticipate.
For example if I foresee a tough situation or conversation, I can make a note of how I’d want to conduct myself and any pitfalls I want to avoid. This helps me to feel ready and prepared if and when something unsavoury happens. I find I am therefore more able to react appropriately, keeping the bigger picture in mind and I’m less likely to say or do something that I’ll regret later.
Journalling daily has been a great routine for me to settle into. Building positive habits and routine can be a great way to avoid negative tendencies.
I personally enjoy using apps such as Reminders (installed by default on iPhone) or Todoist (available on iPhone, Android and Windows phone). These apps allows us to setup regular reminders/todo’s/notifications throughout the day. We can set them to remind us at important junctures with words of affirmation or reminding us to do something beneficial. This can be something simple like reminding us to pray on time, or to eat a healthy lunch, encouraging us to go the gym, or read a book, listen to an enriching podcast or reminding us to say some small prayers.
Another trick is habit stacking, where you may take something you know you’re going to do each day, and attach something immediately before or afterwards. For example I know I’m going to get the train to work everyday, if I make it a rule that I always get my book out and read once I’m on the train, I’m much more likely to commit to reading daily, as opposed to playing on my phone!
Another interesting technique is to take whatever you’re intending to do and scale it down to just two minutes or even thirty seconds. This helps you to get into the routine; and later you can work on optimising and improving it. For example if I get into the habit of reading a book for 30 seconds when I get into bed, before long I’ll find myself reading for 5 minutes and then even going to bed early to read for longer!
There is a lot more that could be said about habits and habit forming but for now I’ll recap all we have looked at so far.
We are holistic beings and all of our aspects complement each other in their own ways. To recap, in the last three posts we explored:
- Emotional muhasabah (self-accounting) — constantly reviewing our thoughts and actions to make sure they’re aligned with our greater purpose.
- Spiritual soundness — staying connected to God through our actions and intentions, always.
- Affirmation and validation — acknowledging that we have value and dignity as beautiful souls that God created and continues to love and sustain.
- Disconnecting — pausing and being present with ourselves and our emotional and spiritual state to see what we need and how we’re really feeling.
- Re-centring — not always doing but “being”. Taking time to make sure our soul is comfortable and finding peace when we’re agitated.
- Information diet and media intake — moderating the information we consume as it affects our thoughts and actions. Structuring our information diet around beneficial topics we care about in the long-term.
- Balance and intention — being intentional with our media intake. Consuming what our body and soul needs most.
- The Qur’an and its meanings — Qur’anic recitation to help soothe our hearts. Along with seeking guidance from the Qur’an through exploring its meanings in our own language.
- Islamic Diet — in addition to the Qur’an we ensure we listen to enough positive talks to enliven us spiritually and remind us of what we aspire to be.
- Processing and Journalling — taking time to process, ruminate, recollect and finally think through everything that we’ve learnt and done.
I pray that everyone is able to better understand themselves, and to feed themselves in the best possible way that they need. Be that physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually.
فَكُلُوا۟ مِمَّا رَزَقَكُمُ ٱللَّهُ حَلَـٰلًۭا طَيِّبًۭا وَٱشْكُرُوا۟ نِعْمَتَ ٱللَّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ
“So eat from the good, lawful things which Allah has provided for you, and be grateful for God’s favours” —Quran 16:114
The rest in this series:
- https://www.tawfiq.co.uk/what-does-allah-ask-of-us/ - more about our purpose in life and what Allah asks of us.
- https://www.tawfiq.co.uk/gratitude-journalling/ - Daily mindfulness practices through journalling that can help settle our minds before bed and ensure we start our day off on the right foot