Words by Dr. Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director of The LightHouse Arabia
Most people know that Ramadan is a month of abstaining from food, drink, and other substances from sunrise to sunset. But what most people often neglect to see is that Ramadan is also a month that invites us to have an inner experience and deepen our connection with things that matter: our God, our family, our community and ourselves.
Here are a few things you can benefit from during the month of Ramadan, if you approach this month with consideration:
- Fasting helps you clear your head. Some might think that fasting makes them more tired and less focused, but this is not the case. The first week of detoxing from substances and food is the hardest. Most people feel exhausted and dehydrated as they adjust to a new diet and sleep plan. However, once you are beyond the first week you will find yourself with more energy, more clarity, and less in need of all the substances that fog your brain such as gluten and sugar.
- Fasting creates space for you to connect to your higher power. Whether it’s God or your higher self, fasting enables a deeper connection with the spirit. As we abstain from food and drink, we have less physical energy to expend, we are forced to sit still and create space to connect to our spiritual self
- Fasting cultivates values such as gratitude and generosity. When we are fasting, the values that are effortlessly present in people’s hearts and minds are generosity and gratitude. As we are struggling throughout the day without food or drink we are reminded of those who are less fortunate and live a life where they do not get enough sustenance in a day. When we finally take a sip of water at sunset, we are reminded of those for whom clean water is a luxury they cannot afford every day. These moments encourage and inspire us to give to those who are less fortunate.
- Fasting shows you that you already have discipline. Throughout the year we make resolutions and plans to limit or stop eating certain foods or break certain addictions but succumb to bad habits. During the month of Ramadan we are reminded that we already have what it takes to break certain habits and make new ones. We all ‘say no’ to cravings all day long, we all shift our thoughts from focusing on desires to more meaningful thoughts or focusing on our prayers, and we all have sudden willpower which we lacked just days before. The month of Ramadan shows us that when our ‘why’ is clear, we can do anything we set out to do.
- Fasting reminds you about what matters most: connections. Whether it is being connected to God, our family, our community or to our self, we are reminded how good it feels to be connected to others and ourselves. When we feel connected to the things that matter, we feel grounded, confident, and less lonely.
So as you abstain from food and drink for the Holy month, consider and be mindful of how it is impacting your mind, body and soul so that you reap the maximum benefits of Ramadan.
As a clinical psychologist for the past 13 years, Dr. Saliha Afridi has spent 12 years working in the UAE and founded The Lighthouse Arabia in 2011, a community mental health and wellness clinic providing quality psychological and psychiatric care to children, adults, couples, and families. Dr. Afridi has worked with prominent companies and ministries such as The Executive Council, The National Program for Happiness and Well-being from the Happiness Ministry, many professional service firms, and fortune 100 companies in her bid to dissolve mental health stigma and be at the forefront of the mental health movement within the UAE and the region. Dr. Afridi’s vision is to make mental health practices more accessible through licensing and insurance reforms, changes within the education system to teach about mental health and emotional and mental wellbeing from a young age, taking a preventative approach to mental health rather than a treatment-based approach. Seeing the need for increased mental health literacy, she took the initiative to bring the internationally acclaimed Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to the UAE in 2017, with The LightHouse Arabia becoming the only licensed provider for the evidence-based course which enables adults and teens to become accredited mental health first aiders. Dr. Afridi is committed to leading and being at the center of the continued positive mental health changes to be seen in the region.